A memoir-in-objects is on the drawing board
In 1989, my dad came to visit and brought with him a 9×12 manila envelope full of photos from his father’s estate. I chose only one to keep. The one Grandpa snapped while he was in France, Dad explained.
It’s of an artist painting en plein air. Her canvas appears complete, but is she finished? Is that grandpa’s coat, because it looks masculine. Was she a lover or a stranger? Why this moment and what was Grandpa’s motivation?
Mystery unsolved, I tucked the photo away where it remained for 33 years. It slipped out of its stack the other day and, once again, the unanswered questions surfaced.
I’ll never know the story behind this photo. But what if Grandpa had left behind a written account? What if he had written short stories about the things he kept? The objects that were important to him, for whatever reason.
This is the spark that ignited the idea for my 100 day project.
Online, I discovered the Portland Art Museum has hosted Object Stories since 2010, a personal storytelling project and exhibition. I found and read “The Secret Life of Objects” by Dawn Raffel and other similar books.
The stories are poignant and honest. Objects we keep may seem ordinary to others, but can have deep and meaningful connections. This fascinates and resonates to my core. I hear a whisper and feel a nudge to pursue this.
I recently wrote “If only [what hangs on] these walls could talk” which describes the history behind some objects I cherish. I really enjoyed the process. Looking back to older pieces, I found many instances of memory writing where my voice was authentic.
I’ve wanted to write a memoir since 2014. I’ve taken classes and workshops, and written over 20K words and it’s gone nowhere. But this—this format, makes sense. The flip side of this coin contains a bonus: for the day I suspect my daughters may have questions, here will be some answers.
So far, I’ve gathered about 60 objects. I’ve filled out index cards for each, with brief descriptions of the memories, events, and people connected. It’s not all sorted yet, but that’s part of the fun, the plans and prep work. The project launches on February 13th and between now and then, I’ll keep at it and share what I learn as I go.
Until next time, xox.
Our lives are the sum of our memories.”—Joshua Foer