In Part 3 and the last of this series, I’m happy to tell you about a really fun memory from living in Lafayette, Indiana, from third through seventh grade–swimming in the Columbian Park pool with my friends on summer afternoons.
The pool was very large and round. The deep part was in the middle. The center had a floating dock that sported diving boards. To get there, you had to be able to swim in deep water. I remember getting there, but not having the courage to jump off a diving board.
The pool, surrounded by a cemented area for our towels, was highly chlorinated. One summer my blonde hair somehow turned orange.
Not long ago, someone on Facebook posted a “share” of a picture of that magnificent pool, apparently the largest of its kind at the time, now replaced by an aquatic center. I have no pictures of that original pool, and the Facebook picture must be protected because I could not download it.
But I do have a picture of my friends standing by the surrounding chain link fence.
As far as memoir, I can conjure up a little story about each of these friends even though I have kept up with only the gal in the dark suit–it was navy–with the stylish poof-out white balloons. After my family moved away, we wrote letters and, years later, I went back to stand up in her wedding. We’ve traded Christmas cards ever since.
And I have a picture of me in the pool. Too bad it’s not in color or you could see the bright aquamarine of its chlorination. Remember wearing those tight bathing caps with a strap under your chin? My suit was black or navy with a little ruffle across the top.
Plus I have a picture of all of us–I’m second from right. My hair? I must have been putting it up in those brown rubber discs that opened up and folded over your wet hair to make a tight curl when combed out. Earmuffs, anyone?
After the pool, on our way to the bus, we’d go to the Frozen Custard, which has become an icon in Lafayette. I have no pictures of that either, but, of course, I made sure Marv took me there on our recent day trip to Lafayette. Nostalgia blossomed as I remembered standing at those very windows ordering my nickel cone and my first Twinkie, that new soft and mushy sweet treat.
I was, to use a well-worn cliché, in my glory sitting at the picnic table with my beloved frozen custard. Now I could even afford a hotdog to go with it.
And, lest you should miss the creaminess of this delectable treat, here’s a close up:
It wasn’t until a trip twelve years ago to Lake Lawn Resort in Wisconsin that I found, for the first time, an ice cream that even began to resemble my childhood frozen custard…at a Culver’s.
Now, think about doing this exercise, using photos to write memoir, yourself. If you’re unable to visit a place from your past, try visiting it in your mind. You’ll be surprised at the details that will come back to you.
These memory jottings from our day trip to Lafayette are only a start. When I’m ready to write the stories, I can take my time walking through these places— attending to visuals, sounds, smells, tastes, and feels — to help me dig deeper for a memory. And I will include photos of old friends at the anniversary party we attended, but I didn’t ask their permission to post them here.
Then, with thanks to Sandra Scofield* for the tip, I can quickly, without thinking, jot a feeling next to each memory. This will tell me, without my head getting in the way, what that experience was like for me. I can still feel my face fall when I was not chosen to be a cheerleader in the seventh grade. I can, at age seventy, still do the “We’re gonna F-I-G-H-T” cheer that I learned for tryouts.
Come on over. I’ll show you.
*Sandra Scofield, author of the memoir Occasions of Sins, frequent teacher at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and from whom I have taken two courses.