Writing Down a Life

I got off the phone a little while ago with my Mom. We called to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. She sounded tired but excited, even glad, to talk to everyone for a little bit.

“I love you,” I said.
“I love you, too,” she said. Then she hung up.

A few days ago I bought one of those thin notebook-sized Moleskine tablets and sent it to her. On the first page I wrote a note. It went something like this:

Dear Mom: Happy Mother’s Day! The reason I’m sending you this notebook is because I want you to write down as much as you can remember about your life. Start at the beginning. Tell me everything you can about your family and friends, where you lived, your schools, favorite subjects, fun events you went to, good times, not so good times. I’d really like to know so much more about your life. Nothing you write in this notebook has to be grammatically correct or punctuated perfectly. That part doesn’t matter to me at all. Even if it’s just a sentence or two a day, try and write something about your life. Feel free to draw or add pictures, if you’d like. 

I know the basics of her life: her three sisters, her mother and father (my grandparents). That she spent most of her growing up days in San Antonio, away to college for a while, back to work in her father’s clothing store, a move to Houston with my father after they were married, raising my sister and me, working at the church for many years.

She doesn’t talk much, especially about her past. Sometimes curiosity gets the best of me and I ask questions. I try and get more out of her, but she doesn’t always go into much detail. I want my children to know more about the lives of my parents, what they went through, what they loved, what they remembered, what the world was like when their generation was carrying the torch.

“Did you get the notebook I sent you?” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to write much down for you. I just don’t know…”
“Don’t make it a big deal, Mom. Just write when you can and what you can remember. That’s all.”

Lately, her memory is fading more and more. We’ll see what happens with the notebook. I’ll hope for the best.

Maybe this blog post is a reminder to devote more time to my own notebooks. Journal more frequently. Pay attention to the signs and write them down, go into detail about the events of every day, whether they’re mundane and ordinary or amazing and eventful.

One day in the future, it all goes away. Pictures and words save moments and memories. We need to remember. We need to write it down in order to pass it on.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Thanks for reading.

George

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2 Responses to “Writing Down a Life”

  1. Elizabeth Krouse Says:

    I wish I’d done the same with my Mom. Even though it’s too late for her, I’m really working with my Dad on identifying family photos and writing memories of family history down. I’m terrible at journaling. The good news is, my daughter loves it and has filled several spiral notebooks already at her tender age. Thanks for your thoughts George!

  2. Holly Says:

    A good read, George – and an excellent reminder. Thanks!

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