Friday, April 17, 2015

What Have You Left Behind?

In working through a memoir writing project, it can be beneficial to consider a time in your life when it was necessary to leave something behind. Circumstances dictated that ties would be severed with either an object, a person, a place, a particular group or activity--perhaps with an entire way of life.

In my own experience, I can recall several occurrences that fit this theme, but my first recollection of leaving something behind brings me to age nine--June, 1961. My fourth grade school year had been filled with birthday parties, good grades, delighted parents, a supportive church family and a group of girlfriends with whom a special bond had formed.

This final day of the school year at Hudson Elementary School in North Carolina was particularly significant because my life, as I had known it, was forever changing. On that sunny day in June, I was armed with my boxy, black Brownie camera, enthusiastically taking photos of my best friends Debra Craig, Kathy Kincaid, and my cousin Ann Jackson. I wanted to be able to remember them just the way they were.

Mom, my sister Pat and I packed our remaining clothing into suitcases and in two days would be setting out on a long distance adventure. We were moving to Arizona from North Carolina, and Dad was already there working and settling our newly rented home, anxiously awaiting our arrival by train into the Flagstaff railroad station.

Although I was nine years old, one of my prized possessions was a curly-haired, brunette, toddler-sized doll named Connie. Her height equaled about half of my skinny little frame, so transporting her from one location to another could present special challenges. In spite of the logistical difficulties, I stubbornly refused to allow Connie to be packed into the U-Haul trailer that Dad drove across the country. I simply couldn’t part with her for the two month period that we would be separated.           
With every intention of taking Connie with me on the long train ride, I struggled to carry her along with other belongings as we walked through the train station on our departure day. Mom was envisioning the difficulties that Connie would present during this trip that would take us all the way to Chicago, where we would change trains and board the sleek, modern Super Chief to transport us to Arizona. Where would Connie sit? She was large enough to take up a seat of her own, and Mom wasn’t about to pay for Connie to occupy a passenger seat.

My Aunt Judy and younger cousin, Debbie, were there to bid us farewell, and Mom gently approached me with a suggestion. “Honey,” she began. “Why don’t we give Connie a new home with Debbie and Aunt Judy? You know they will take very good care of her.”

I frowned, firmly pursed my lips, and gave Connie a loving glance. Somehow, even at the tender age of nine, I knew that Mom was right. After lugging this toddler doll all over the train station, I was well aware that dragging her across the country was going to be a daunting task.

“I’ll give her to Debbie,” I reluctantly conceded. The look on Mom’s face was total relief.

Perhaps somewhere deep inside, I realized that I was reaching an age where being attached to toddler dolls was for younger girls and it was time to pursue other, more mature interests. That was the day I began to write in my red, locking, five year diary. It was the day I said goodbye to my former life and friends, left Connie behind (albeit in good hands) and discovered that it was actually fun and entertaining to write about life.

As you write your own "Left Behind" memory, take time to consider:
What is the background story?
What did you leave behind?
What were you feeling?
What was the ultimate impact?

Wishing you the best with your memoir project,
Mary Anne Benedetto

Author of Eyelash, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, Never Say Perfect, From Italy with Love & Limoncello and Write Your Pet's Life Story in 7 Easy Steps!