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wundayatta's avatar

If you were going to write a memoire, what would one of the more interesting vignettes be?

Asked by wundayatta (58377 points ) February 23rd, 2009

I was talking to a memoirist today, and she said that she wrote about four times more than appeared in her book. She also talked a little about the process of choosing which events to include, and which she left on the editing room floor.

This made me wonder what other people would choose as a kind of central story for their memoire—some event that helps us make sense of everything else. In a paragragh or two, could you tell that story?

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7 Answers

chelseababyy's avatar

It was winter in Jersey. The wind was cold and wet, all a little bone-chilling. I was nine. The prime of my childhood. I had love for everything, love for the world, and even those who hurt me the most. I had just found out the man who had been raising me, was not my real father, and that my mother was cheating on him. Too much for my developing mind to handle. I wasn’t sure how to react. So I didn’t. I was silent. It was New Years Eve, my younger siblings slept, and I sad quiet in the living room, with my “parents” awaiting for the ball to drop.
The phone rings. They both scurry to answer, as if it was life and death. The funny thing now, is it kind of was. It was the woman that he was seeing on the side. The sister of the man my mom was seeing. She picks it up, curses the woman off, laughs, and slams the phone down. Just about as hard as he slams her against the fridge. I cried, I locked the siblings bedroom door, they didn’t need to see this. I walk into the kitchen and as the light shines off the half-crushed beer cans, I yell. I tell them to stop. I walk in the middle of them, and get pushed to the wall. I get hit a few times, so does she, and him as well. He chokes her, has her up against that fridge. And then. He lets go. I grab my mothers hand, sit her down on the couch, I do the same for him, on the opposite side of the room. All is quiet, and the ball drops. It’s silent.
The next morning my whole family shows up, we leave. I don’t see him for a while. Except in my dreams.
I was nine. In the prime of my childhood, when I saw what I never should have seen, and yet, would soon become accustomed to. But instead of him and her. It was her and I.

adreamofautumn's avatar

I was 16 years old, spending my summer alternating between softball camp and running wild in the neighborhood with all my friends and siblings. At night it was an evening death match amongst the four of us over who got to use the only computer in the house. Every time I won that battle I would spend hours talking to her. We met at summer camp, we became great friends, we could and did talk about anything and everything. We gossiped about her friends and mine. I talked to her about my boyfriend who was a little goofy, but incredibly sweet and loveable. Our relationship was simple, never strained. One day I mentioned my boyfriend, she told me in so many words “you know you like me more than him right. I denied it. Within hours I was considering if she was right, within weeks I was pretty sure she might be, within months I was breaking up with my boyfriend and I had fallen in love for the first time. That first girl reset the course of my life.

SuperMouse's avatar

It was November 1976, I had just turned eleven years old. My mom went in to the hospital for what I was told was a simple surgery. I was seated at my grandmother’s dining room table with my brothers and sisters when my dad came in from the hospital with an update. He sat down and said “Your mother has cancer, she could live 2, 3, 4, 5 or even 6 years. I counted on my fingers and realized that in 6 years I would be 17, I would be able to handle it better at 17. I decided right that minute that she would live 6 years. She was gone less than a year later.

Harp's avatar

In my early twenties, sick of my job and desperate for a fling, I plotted with a buddy to do a cycling trip of epic scale. We bought bikes, terminated our leases, quit our jobs, and bought one way tickets for London. All we knew at this point was that we wanted to bike through as many countries as possible while our money lasted. To that end, we resolved to spend only $5.00 per day.

It was mid-April when we set out from London. An unrelentingly soggy chill dogged us all through England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and back down to London. We developed terrible coughs, tried to quell our constant hunger with bread and canned meats, and slept night after night in sheep pastures.

Things got better when we crossed over to the continent. It was May, and we had left the British chill behind. France was like a mellow dream, but cruelly tempted us with delicacies we couldn’t afford. Still there was coffee and cheap wine, fruit and better bread. This was a sweet month, and one that altered the course of my life, but that’s a different story.

Spain, by contrast, was one trial after another. Vast, arid, unpopulated plains, heat, clouds of mosquitoes, tortuous roads, poor food, and plagues of flat tires took a heavy toll on our spirits. The only bright respite from the Spanish ordeal was Portugal, where we briefly rediscovered our humanity before plunging back into Spain.

Late July found us in Italy, which was a chaotic riot of experience. That leg of the trip seems the least coherent of all in my memory. The fatigue of so many bad nights on hard ground, the grueling physical exertion fueled by inadequate food and the dehumanizing effect of such a disconnected life were beginning to show their damage by this time. By Rome and mid-August, we both just kind of wanted it to be over. We wanted showers, roofs, soft things, caloric things, clean things.

We calculated that we had covered about 4000 miles over our 4 months. There are so many stories within this story that will have to remain untold for now.

augustlan's avatar

At four years old, I was precocious… I could already read, and felt I was more than capable of holding up my end of the after-dinner conversation. Instead, I was sent down to play in the basement rec room so the adults could talk.

I sat on the plaid couch sucking my thumb, with only my giant stuffed panda for company. Soon enough though, Uncle ‘M’ came down to suggest a game of hide and seek. While I counted, he scurried away to hide. After thoroughly searching the rec room, there was only one place left to look… the laundry room.

I was uneasy. The laundry room was a small, unfinished room behind a steel door. All raw wood and damp darkness, it scared me. I didn’t want to seem like some ‘little kid’, so I went in anyway. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I breathed a sigh of relief. He was nowhere to be seen.

As I turned to leave the room, he jumped down from the rafters above me. I was so startled that I began to cry. Trying to quiet me, he picked me up and sat me on top of the washing machine, patting my arms, my legs, talking gently all the while. He laid me down so my legs hung off the edge, lifted my dress and pulled down my underwear.

As I lay there, I could hear the other adults talking and laughing loudly right over our heads. I remember thinking, “They’ll never hear me.” And they didn’t. Not for a long, long time.

Jack79's avatar

well memoirs have to do with what you remember, and what you remember is not necessarily what is the most interesting stuff for the readers to read. I remember that one time I had diarrhoea and gosh did it stink! I do not remember much of my second concert in Meissen though. Despite the fact that it must have been packed. Which one would you rather read about?

I think that the editing comes in when you’ve written everything down on paper (some 3000–4000 pages of it) and then want to make a story, find a pattern. For example, Joan Baez’s autobiography does not include every little detail of her life, but it is an interesting insight into the life of a rock star in the ‘60s. And (for someone born in 1972), gives you the atmosphere of the period. Which was more interesting to read (in my opinion anyway) than Bob Dylan’s, a detailed account of concert tour itineraries and dicography.

Grisson's avatar

I think I prefer a Raspberry Walnut Vignette.

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