by Kirsten M. Lagatree
Note to The Write Group Blog Readers:
This may well become the foreword to my memoir, which is now very much “in progress.” Because it’s my answer to “Why am I writing a memoir?” I hope it will be of interest to other memoir writers.
A friend startled me the other day when she pointed out the obvious. I’d somehow never made the connection between my four published books and my own life. Each book, in its own way, is about creating order. And, with two alcoholic parents, I’d grown up amid chaos and disorder.
Had I been making my living as a writer by trying to fix the past? Tidy it up in retrospect? If only I could. My chaotic past creeps up on me, piercing otherwise serene moments, injecting their venom.
On bad days, I am besieged by feelings that come, unbidden, straight from my memory banks, but feel as if they’ve surged up from my gut. These memories aren’t necessarily full-blown scenes of terror or abandonment. There are those, of course. One that shot from brain to gut the other day, for example, was of my grandmother, aged approximately 95, asking my father (who she would outlive, by the way) to cut her toenails. Dad told her he’d have to start by soaking her feet to soften her nails. Then he turned to me and winked, whispering “That should get them clean enough to touch.” I grinned back and only decades later felt the sorrow for my grandmother who couldn’t even bend to reach her own toes and had to ask a man she neither liked nor respected, to help her with this ignominious task.
That moment between my father and grandmother took place more than 50 years ago in the cramped Redondo Beach house my three siblings, my grandmother and I lived in – without my father. I recall those days now from a larger home, serene, beautiful, and lived in by only me. But even now, I get a lump in my throat as I write that brief scene. What do other people do with this particular kind of pain? Don’t others suffer anguish over their past?
How does one purge deeply painful memories and their attendant feelings? I will keep writing in an effort to find out if such banishment can be accomplished. Maybe writing will exorcise these demons. If it doesn’t, at least I will have recorded some of them for posterity, kept a promise I made to my optimistic, 6-year old self that I would tell the world what it felt like to be me.