My short memoir “A Safe Place” has been published in the Fall issue of The Write Place at the Write Time:
http://thewriteplaceatthewritetime.org/ourstoriesnonfiction.html (Mine is the third entry down.)
My memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened originally evolved after the fact from a series of short pieces, some reworked into fiction and some written as straight nonfiction. “A Safe Place” was the earliest of the latter.
The short-story structure suits my memoir because so many of my recollections of that time are themselves splintered into fragments, into individual episodes rather than one long continuous tale. I couldn’t tell you, for example, what happened in the hours leading up to the events of “A Safe Place,” nor could I describe with any accuracy what transpired the morning after. Why are those memories missing from my mind while others have remained?
There are times when I should like to know. I should like to know, for instance, what happened when my mother finally decided to let me out of my step-grandmother’s coat closet, in which we had been sitting for hours. I should like to know where we went then, and how we got home, and I’d like to have a firmer timeline etched into my mind of exactly when that incident occurred in relation to the many others. Instead I have a series of loosely connected pieces, and at times I wonder about the nature of the connections. Did I forget them because they weren’t noteworthy in the grand scheme of that period in time? Or were there points at which my brain simply refused to continue recording?
Perhaps I am better off not knowing, yet, still, I wish I did. But there is no one to ask; no one to tell me. No second party to whom I can turn for clarification or confirmation – no, not even my mother. Especially not my mother.
But I do wonder – what did she remember after it was over? How were the events of “A Safe Place” or “Poisoned” or “Hide and Seek” framed in her recollection? Did they even exist in her memory, or were they instead replaced by stories and segments that are now missing from mine?
It’s even possible that those events that are the most memorable and disturbing to me didn’t register with her at all.
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If you enjoyed “A Safe Place,” you can download “Detention,” another FREE eBook excerpt from my memoir on Amazon.com:
To learn more about On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness, scheduled for release in paperback, eBook, and audiobook on November 7, 2014, please visit the book’s webpage or its listing on Amazon.com, where it is now available for Kindle pre-order.
Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.
“…which my brain simply refused to continue recording.” Beautiful line, and so true how our minds can alter or even erase an experience to protect us, though the memory is still buried somewhere deep.
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Great topic, Lori. I also wonder about a lot of my memories—the ones that are disjointed, yes, and I also don’t know which ones are just plain wrong. Funny how the mind works, what we shut out, what we alter to make more palatable. I see that in myself, and I see it in my mom and her siblings (well, one sibling left now) as they argue about what “really” happened in their youth. Each one always had a different version of each story—none of them ever agreed.
I actually read a study a while back that suggested that memories are actually not fixed, but flexible. It appears that our brains can and do literally re-work our pasts in order to fit our current needs. Our “memories” aren’t just a matter of perspective – they can change over time. Freaky, huh?
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It’s such an honor to have you on the Hump Day Blog Hop, Lori. I’m a huge fan of your writing and am so excited to hear about your November 7th pub date.
I wish I knew why certain fragments of memory remain – do they stick because they’re like tattoos whereas other memories wash off? One permanent, one fleeting? And what makes them permanent? Because they were difficult? Maybe. But I think a lot of memories wash off and are forgotten because they are too difficult to carry with us. Although, maybe all the “forgotten” memories are actually still there, we just can’t access them at will. Hhmmm… Need to think about that one…
Yes, memory is really strange. I get that I’m not going to recall every detail of everything that happened when I was a teenager as if it were one nonstop narrative – and thank goodness for that! But sometimes the cutoff points seem odd. Why doesn’t my brain at least let me get to what I think should be the “end” of the story? Or is that just the writer in me seeking a well-defined conclusion that may not even exist?
I wonder, too about why memories are fragmented. Or how smells or colors can bring them back so vividly, yet others are lost for all time.
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Looking forward to the book; just sorted out the pre-order.
Oh, thank you, Geoff – that’s very sweet! I can’t wait to hear what you think :)