If you’ve never taken a class on writing about your own life, you are missing out on some fun stuff. Yes, some material from your life may be painful to write, but a lot of things are fun to recollect.

To help you remember, writing teachers come to class armed with “prompts” to jog your memory. And that’s just what happened in the six-week class I just finished here at my winter home taught by Diane McCarty.

Diane came to our 90-minute class armed with memoir examples from the local library, a topic for the day, and lots of time to read examples from our and her own writing. And prompts. And we could adapt her prompts anyway we wanted. For example, she asked us to write about what we lost when our grandparents died. Three of my grandparents died before I was born, and I only have a few memories of my one grandmother who lived far from us and died when I was in high school. So I chose to write about what my own grand kids will lose when I’m gone, if I don’t talk or write about them. Rather than write a paragraph, I started a list:

Going to church twice on Sunday. Having devotions at all three meals every day. Having a party line. Four digit phone numbers. Getting our first TV when I was in 8th grade. Our first TV coming in a large wooden frame. Linoleum floor in the kitchen–using Johnson’s Paste Wax to polish by hand on hands and knees. Clotheslines. Clothes pins. Washing just on Monday. Maytag wringer washing machines. Bluing in the rinse water. Hanging the sheets on the outside line to the streets and the underwear on the back line facing the back yard. Using the Mangle Iron.

These can serve as story starters later for a writing project. Using lists is great for this.

Another prompt was to write about our favorite food. You got that in my last post on ice cream.

But a really fun one was toward the end of the class: Write about something naughty from your childhood. Maybe you were never “naughty” but I was. As a child raised in a parsonage by my pastor dad and his wife, always having to behave lest I offend some parishioners, I was always looking for something to do behind my parents’ back. Of course, in those days we really did nothing that awful relative to today, but the joy of doing something perceived as naughty was worth the effort.

The story that came to mind was one I’ve never written before, and it was great fun to write:

The murder took place in the corrugated-steel window well of the pastor’s red brick two-story Colonial home on 68th Street. When the pastor and his wife were not at home, their 12-year-old daughter was watering her mother’s large round garden of tall red canna lilies when she noticed movement in the window well nearby. Peering closer, she saw the movement belonged to a brownish furry animal about the size of her hand. It had apparently fallen into the window well and could not gain enough traction on the ribbed walls to climb up and out. Swish. Swash. The daughter swung her hose over to the window well, switched the nozzle from spray to full blast, and chased the poor creature round and round until it collapsed in the collected swirl of water. Her heart bombarding her chest, the daughter raced to turn off the faucet and fled upstairs to her bedroom. She had killed the poor thing. How dare she? A pastor’s kid too yet. She never told a soul, but now at age 80 she thinks she remembers checking the window well later in the day and finding the animal gone. Did she really check or is that wishful thinking? She guesses she’ll never know, but thinks it’s safe now, sixty-eight years later, to confess. 

Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

Oh my! Confession is good for the soul!