Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Leave A Paper Trail

My mother keeps telling me I should write my memoirs. I'm not even sure what that means. I guess I consider everything I write a chapter in what one might call my "memoirs". But I'm not an extraordinary person; I have not done extraordinary things. Why should I document my everyday life? Why should I leave a paper trail?

The obvious reason is for my children. Generations of kids are on this earth today with no real knowledge of their parents' childhood, their grandparents' struggles, or their own ancestry. It's really too bad. I've been blessed by a family of writers. My grandmother on my mother's side was an associate editor for Shell Oil Company newsletter in St. Louis in the mid-1940's. My mother, the editor of the local newspaper in her community of Oak Run, IL. In addition, in the early 1990's, she decided to chronicle my other grandmother's life and spent months interviewing her and writing "Roses in December: Reminiscences of Gladys Blackburn Talcott". What a gift to her grandchildren! Later, she published her own memoir of sorts in "Growing Up On Wren Avenue", and had copies made for everyone in the family. These books are priceless additions to my collection, and make me think that perhaps I should get started on my own.

For writers and non-writers alike, the thought is daunting. But you don't have to write a book to chronicle your life. Something I have done since both my boys were born is write a letter to them once a year around their birthday. It's always hand-written, and ends up usually being around 8 to 10 pages long, once I get going. In that letter, I summarize their year, the good and the bad, what went on with our family, what stage in life they were in, our struggles, and their accomplishments. I always end with a paragraph about how much I love them, and how they are truly my world. Then I tuck them away. No, they don't read these letters yet, but someday they will.

You don't have to be a great writer to leave a paper trail, or even a writer at all. But you do need to chronicle these days, because they will soon be forgotten, and they are important. Even though your kids may say they don't care about "how things were when I was growing up", it's interesting to read nonetheless, and can give them a better insight into you, and into themselves as well.

And even if you don't have kids, do it for yourself. I have to say I do enjoy reading things I have written a year ago, or five, or even 25. It gives me a sense of how far I have come as well as where I have come from. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of that to keep us grounded.

So leave a paper trail. You may be surprised that it actually does help you find your way and lead you home.

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