Yesterday morning, my oldest son taped several pieces of computer paper together to make a banner. “We’re celebrating Love Day, Mom.”
I put grapes into a plastic baggie. “We already had Love Day, honey.” I snapped shut his lunchbox, and placed a waffle on his plate. “Valentine’s Day was in February. Now eat.”
He rested both hands on his cheeks, and leaned forward. “No, Mom. Love Day. The day we celebrate the people we love who died.”
The water continued to run, the dog snored in the next room, and my eyes pooled. At last, he had mentioned her. For the first time since we had returned from her funeral. Five months ago.
It was a moment of transcendence. And I almost missed it packing lunches.
This, if for no other reason, is why I write. Because I must pay attention to these small moments.
No writer should aspire to being too cool to care about the small stuff. Doing so is an offense to us all.
In an era where reality-show vixens and Jersey Shore goombas get book contracts, it can be hard to take on the art of memoir. It’s easy to doubt the power of our stories. Can we write if we haven’t faced death, or abuse, or if we haven’t Eaten, Prayed, and Loved ourselves to a higher existence?
Of course we can. And we must. Roach-Smith notes, in one of my favorite lines,
Transcendent revelation can occur eating Girl Scout cookies, if your head’s in the right place.
Because even if we ARE writing about death, abuse, eating, praying, or loving, it’s the small details of the big experiences that make a moment resonate.
I may not remember the songs of my mother-in-law’s funeral, or the particular arrangement of the flowers. But I’ll always remember a five year old boy, taping computer paper together, and crafting a banner to let his Grandma Laurie know that he’ll never forget her.
Especially on Love Day.
Own your stories. Own the power of those small moments, and how they can weave together the most colorful and textured life. Pay attention. You already have the story you need.
Like what you’re reading? Marion Roach-Smith has much more wisdom to share. Join us as we read The Memoir Project. I’ll discuss aspects of it each Wednesday. Meet us as well for a Twitter chat next Wednesday, the 28th, at 9:30 PM EDT. We’ll discuss chapters 1-3, as well as other aspects of the writing life (read: join us even if you aren’t reading!) Use the hashtag #writeonedge
See you then!