While we are sleeping — or where memories meet

The human brain is an incredible organ. We notice how fantastic it is most easily when we witness it in dysfunction. So many things we take for granted like the ability to use our fingers to type letters onto a computer screen expressing our thoughts. I do it every day without thought. Or at least without conscious thought.

I hear noises behind me, or in another part of the house, and can often imagine what is going on there.

When the human brain is fully functional we can stand up, sit down, turn in a circle, chew and swallow our food . . .speak. All without apparent effort.

We take it for granted.

I’ve been working, slowly, on two new writing projects. They are both in the very early stages of interviews and research. One is about two or three women I know who gave up babies for adoption in the 70s. The other is about my dad.

Several years ago my dad asked me when I was going to write his story. I don’t know where he got the idea that I was going to, perhaps from the family genealogy books I had researched and written a while back. I don’t remember my response. Maybe I said, “Whenever you want me to,” or something equally ambiguous.

A little time passed. I graduated with a degree in English. Took a job as an assistant communications director. Quit the job as an assistant communications director. And began wondering how to fill my hours and days now that our children were grown and in college or beyond.

Dad asked me a second time when I was going to write his story.

I had started trying to make the hour-long trip to Dayton to see my parents at least once a week. They were in their 70s and still taking care of my disabled sister Annie at home. I thought I might be able to assist them in some way if I started visiting them once a week. I decided to bring a notebook and tape recorder when I went. Beginning in August of 2008, Dad and I spent hours at the kitchen table, or outside on his bench,  talking about his early childhood, teenage years, and into young adulthood. I recorded every word.

Then Annie got sick and the interviews stopped in June of 2009. I didn’t resume the interviews until almost eight months after Annie’s death in April of 2010. By then Dad’s memory was beginning to fail. Eventually he wasn’t able to make meaningful responses to my questions.

While I was sleeping this morning, or in the early minutes of waking, my brain figured out a solution to how I might tell Dad’s story: His story beginning when he was born and moving forward. My story beginning now and moving backwards. Our stories ending where memories meet.

The human brain is an incredible thing.

April 2010

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29 Comments on “While we are sleeping — or where memories meet”

  1. I love your idea of how to tell the story, Christine…. and believe it or not, it’s eerie because it’s a very similar treatment to one of my WIPs!! (mine’s not parent/child) It’ll be interesting to share notes at some point!

    • CMSmith says:

      We’ll see if it pans out. Since I haven’t actually written word-one, things could and likely will shift. But at least I have a vision now to start with. I’ve been struggling about what to do or how to tell his story.

      I might have to book a trip to Maine for a creative consultation. When does it stop snowing there?

  2. This sounds fabulous. I can’t wait to read your father’s story told in your incredible words. And hey, if you head out to meet Julia in Maine, I might have to take a little road trip up North!

  3. This is a brilliant solution! I can’t wait to read what you write, Christine! Blessings to you in these current projects–and happy Easter, my friend!
    Hugs,
    Kathy

  4. suzicate says:

    LOVE this idea. Weaving the smaller pieces to flow into the big picture is hardest part of memoir. I have close to 200 pages of stories, but have NO IDEA how I will ever manage to weave it together!

  5. MindMindful says:

    wow ………. his life forward, yours backward & meeting–what a solution!

  6. Sallyann says:

    I love your idea, and your way of approaching it … good luck. :-)

  7. it’s a marvelous idea – a gift of creativity to you in the wee hours of the morning. Oh that we captured those thoughts more often.

    • CMSmith says:

      Isn’t that amazing? I’m always amazed when something is settled nicely in my brain when I wake in the morning. I think the brain working on its own while I sleep is the most amazing thing about it.

  8. skipper12383 says:

    (The human brain is an incredible thing.) You said it! It is a something no computer will ever out do or match….. Good luck on the writing, I do hope you make it as far as you can. Thanks for sharing such a personal story about your DaD!
    Ed
    PS…… Happy Easter!

    • CMSmith says:

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Ed. And thanks for the luck. I’m probably going to need it. I need to hunker down and get going on this.

  9. I look forward to reading a book about your dad. Again, I’ll hear about Annie, but from his special point of reference. Blessings to you, Christine…

    • CMSmith says:

      You probably won’t hear about Annie from his point of reference, or at least not much. I still have transcripts from the interview I did with my parents in ’06, but this time around my Dad and I ran out of time before we got that far along in his life. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle writing about the years we didn’t get to.

  10. It sounds like a worthy endeavour!

    The human brain is indeed a marvellous thing.

  11. JoDee Luna says:

    This is a precious post. I’ve felt the need to record my parents’ story while they can still share it with me. Your post makes me want to start.

  12. pattisj says:

    That sounds like a great idea, Christine! Write on!

  13. Robin says:

    That sounds like an extremely interesting idea, and quite a creative way to approach it. Good luck with both projects. :)

  14. timkeen40 says:

    Looking forward to it for sure. Sounds like a great way to let the world know your father.

    Tim


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