One of my clients wrote a book that started out as a memoir project for his children. He later decided to publish his story and share it with the world. Starting with a journal is a wonderful way to gather your stories to share your story with your family. This article, which appeared on Next Avenue, offers guidance for starting your memoir project. It’s geared toward grandparents, but all of us can use these ideas in our memoir writing.
You can check out A Look Back In Time: Memoir of a Military Kid in the Fifties (Volume 1) by Bernard Lee on Amazon.
So many boomers are finding delight in nurturing grandchildren — and most of us also are amazed that they do grow up quickly. That rarely seemed the case when we were bringing up our own kids.
A traditional baby book stuffed with baby shower napkins, pink or blue ribbons and photos seems a bit outdated in this digital age, though many of us do make them for our grandchildren.
Another option is a journal.
You can write it on the computer and call it a blog, or on paper and call it a diary. Either way, recording special moments will help you recall every heartfelt emotion from the early days, months or years — depending on long you keep writing. Plus, you will have something meaningful to share with your grandchild when he or she is old enough.
You write what you want, long or short, and you write when you want.
It’s easy. You write what you want, long or short, and you write when you want. The idea is to preserve those moments that touch your heart. There are no deadlines, no required lengths, and no need to fret over spelling or grammar. This is just you, talking on paper or typing up your thoughts.
How to Begin
On the day in 2011 that I learned my daughter-in-law was pregnant, I started an online journal called “OH BOY! OH BOY! A Blog for My Grandson.” I added entries right up until his first birthday.
So what did I write about?
The news of the impending birth, the responses to that news from family and friends and even a sampling of the names we expectant grandparents hoped the baby would call us once he arrived and learned to speak.
I made a note when one of Max’s grandmas-to-be (he has three, lucky boy) first bought baby clothes. She sent me an email that read, “I’m going to send the kids a couple of them, but also hang one up on the living room wall to remind me of him coming. Fun, fun, fun!”
In the blog, I wrote that when I put these new items on the top shelf of the closet, I found not one, but two sock monkey dolls, purchased a few years earlier just in case I ever had a grandchild. In a later post, I dutifully recorded the history of sock monkey dolls.
Of course, I did my share of shopping too. Recreational shopping takes on an extra kick when a grandbaby is on the way! My first purchases were a blue hooded sweatshirt, size 6 months, and teensy tie-dye socks.
Include Warm Wishes from Others
I want Max to know that even people beyond his immediate family cared about him before he arrived, so I copied some emails from friends into the blog.
This came from my friend Carolyn: “What a lucky grandson he will be. He’ll learn the history of Ireland. He’ll learn about oceans. He’ll learn about whales. He’ll have all sorts of children’s books. I’m thinking he’s going to be brilliant!”
One day, I wrote about all the places we might go together: “We can go to the Galapagos when you are 7. Can’t wait for you to meet the marine iguanas! We can go whale watching at the Farallon Islands when you are 10. We can go to San Francisco Giants’ games whenever we feel like it. The California Academy of Sciences, the world-class art museums, the playgrounds — it’s all waiting for us. We’ll go and do and marvel at the world together!”
That day, clearly I was in Grandma-as-Auntie-Mame mode.
On the day of the baby shower, I showed up with a normal gift, but I also brought some of my son’s baby blankets and a few tiny outfits of his that I’d saved all these years — freshly washed, of course. In the blog, I recorded all that, to provide a “you-were-there” moment, along with warm wishes from people at the party.
A few weeks before the baby was due, I wrote this: “We toasted you at Thanksgiving. We spoke of you on Christmas Eve. We toasted you at Christmas dinner. At each event, we were hyper-aware that you will be among us soon. I imagine myself holding you, looking into your eyes. I imagine us becoming quite close. In some ways, you are the person I have been waiting to meet for a long time. I look forward to loving you.”
What older children wouldn’t want to read something like that about their impending arrival?
Report on the Birth and the First Days
Of course I wrote about The Phone Call from my son, saying the baby was here and mom and baby were both well. I also compiled a short list of famous people born the same day. And here is what I reported after my first meeting with Max:
“What an amazing moment. You — and me. For the first time. You were all bundled up in a blanket and had on a tiny hat that made your right ear fold over. At some point — I think when I moved you from my left arm to my right — your blanket shifted and out popped your tiny right hand, with long slender fingers. I touched your hand with my index finger — and you grabbed it. Yep — we are in this together, for the long haul.”
I made a list of visitors who came to see Max at the hospital and in the following months, once he was home. When he was three months old, I recorded a moment of grace: “Time and time again — as recently as yesterday afternoon — I held you while you slept. Sometimes rocking, sometimes sitting still, sometimes patting your back or arm or leg, sometimes just studying your beautiful face, I held you as you slept. What a remarkable gift.”
Write What Your Heart Tells You
You get the idea. Inspiration for this project came from one of Max’s grandmas. “Put together a blog about this journey for him to enjoy when he’s older,” she said. Looking back, I am so glad I listened!
And I think it’s great advice for anyone bubbling over with joy before or after the big event. Again, it’s easy. You just record your thoughts and feelings about the great gift that is the birth of a grandchild.
You write it down now so you can relive it all later, together.