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And that’s the way it was, June 15, 1984

I would be an excellent liar. Not of the small, occasional-lie type, but of the grand, that-story-is-so-amazing-she-couldn’t-possibly-have-made-it-up type. After all, intricate plots and multi-faceted characters are my strength as a writer, and if you wanted to turn a small country’s propaganda machine over to me, I know I could do you proud.

That is why I almost never lie. Falsehoods scare me. And, in the way of those who abhor people who flaunt the very faults they work so hard to control, I hate liars. I am particularity outraged by grandiose, habitual liars who create a make-believe world and foist it on others as truth. How dare they?

You probably already know what I think of our president, so I won’t go there.

Yet, there are two areas where lies and reality do blur for me. One is one right here in my blogs. The other is in my books.

I write my blogs under my own name and in first person, as though I am presenting you with hard facts. And I often am. But I view my posts as a creative endeavor, too, and I allow myself a little poetic license to make a point. Particulars can be omitted, events can be exaggerated, and timing can be altered to provide a narrative that is more succinct and entertaining. I want you start the post, I want you to finish it, and I want you to understand what I am trying to say. So reality gets a little air brushing. I figure that you are fine with it.

I write my books as fiction, and they mostly are. Like many writers, though, I have used my own experiences to craft parts of my stories. The Zeitman family looks a lot like my own, at least on the surface, and some odd details, like the family’s favorite meal of eggplant parmesan, were lifted directly out of my own life. I mean, why bother making up another entree?

I’m now finishing my first rewrite of book six (and last) in the Zeitman family stories, and am having to revisit some of the events I borrowed from my own life and then bent and shaped to meet the needs of my novels. I’m discovering something interesting. My own real memories have become shaded by the altered version that I’ve told so many times in my books. Yikes.

So here is the truth.

June 15, 1984 at 4:17 a.m. I gave birth to my first child.

About a month earlier (not the night before), I had a strange experience while falling asleep. I felt and kind of heard what appeared to be my baby’s thoughts. It lasted a few seconds. It was very odd. I have never experienced anything like it again. I have no way of knowing whether it was real or imagined.

I did make my first presentation to the president of my company the day I went into labor, and he did make an uncomfortable joke about how having sex sets off childbirth. He was right, sexual arousal releases oxytocin, a hormone that does a lot of things, including induce labor. I knew what he was talking about at the time he said it, but was willing to bet that most of the men in the room did not, even though of course they laughed like they did.

There was no gathering in the break room after the presentation, and no horrible joke told about how a busload of children of color going off a bridge “was a start”. That joke was told by a geologist at another function some months later. I was every bit as stunned and horrified as my character, and made the same attempt at an objection that she did. I got the same reaction. Everyone acted like I’d farted loudly and looked away and said nothing. This was 1984.

Thirty-three years ago I experienced one of the most significant days in my life. Yet the events of it now blend into the day Lola Zeitman gave birth to Zane. I feel like I have lost something of my own, and telling you the truth is my way of trying to regain it.

I also have a better understanding of why lies scare me and why I work so hard to avoid them. Our memories are tied to the truth. The liar, and those who hear the lie, find their recollections begin to blur, and after awhile, there is no true memory. What a horrible thing to lose.

Unless, of course, there are tapes. I used to think that the idea of having videotapes of anything and everything was the very definition of an Orwellian nightmare. Now, I wonder if a recording of an event isn’t the only way to preserve it, unshaded by forgetfulness and wishful thinking and pride.

Maybe the universe is keeping a video of my whole life; the good and bad and the embarrassing and the exhilarating. Wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe I could get to watch those tapes some day, and relive each moment the way it really happened.

I like the idea. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.

(For more segments about June days from long ago, see That’s the Way It Was June 10, 1947, June 18, 1972, June 28, 1888, and June 30, 1940.)

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2017 in telepathy, writing

 

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What the hell happened in 1968? (World Peace Edition)

Funny how forty-seven years can melt away in an instant.

Sixty-year old Sherrie Cronin is going through the last bits of china and art from her mother’s house. She is used to the memories that the old things bring, and the pang of how her mother once loved this vase or her father once showed her that book. What she isn’t prepared for is the newspaper. Still stark in its faded shades of charcoal and cream, it is a relic of communication that she almost never sees these days. The Wichita Eagle. It whispers to her from a place she once lived, and from a Friday August 23 of long ago.

1968 Vietnam“I wonder what was going on in 1968?” she asks, as she picks up what turns out to be the editorial page.

“President Johnson appealed once more to the American people this week to support his policy in Vietnam ….” she reads, and forty-seven years melt away in an instant as thirteen-year-old Sherri Roth stands holding the newspaper. The girl is curious, she yearns to be a Lois Lane-style journalist, and she skims the news, searching for answers to the burning questions about life that keep her awake at night as she tries to understand the universe.

“One day….” Johnson is quoted as saying “the men who bear the brunt of this battle are going to come home and .. they are going to ask an accounting of us …. and the soldiers and the American people will look back on what we’ve done … with the same pride that we feel in our other efforts in the cause of freedom when we have defended it with out blood.” Johnson was speaking to the VWF, so it doesn’t surprise the astute young Sherri that his assertion is met with enthusiastic applause.

But this is the editorial page. The writer of the article has his own perspective to add. The editorialists says “The trouble is that millions of [Johnson’s] fellow countrymen simply do not believe that. In fact they oppose his policy precisely because they do not feel ‘pride’ in this war and do not honestly know what ‘accounting’ they can give to the soldiers for all the human sacrifices…. There is no evidence that the American sacrifices have convinced the Chinese or any other communist peoples that ‘wars of national liberation’ have failed. On the contrary we might have convinced them of the opposite and even Lyndon Johnson would probably hesitate to send another half million men to Asia if another such war broke out again.”

Yes. Of course. The older Sherrie knows that history will eventually say “What a mistake. What were we thinking?” She knows that it will be decades before any leader sends another half million men to Asia to meddle into the internal affairs of another nation. But she also knows that it will happen again.

Young Sherri is a budding peacenik, holding secret views about pacifism that would disturb her parents if only they knew of them. Over next few years she will silently support Eugene McCarthy, and learn to despise Nixon. She will hold her breath during the Iran hostage crisis, and watch the invasion of Kuwait while she nurses her youngest child, crying in relief when the brief war ends without further escalation. She will shudder at the bombing of Serbia, thankful no troops are on the ground. She will applaud George Bush when he shows restraint after the attacks of nine eleven and she will utter outraged opposition when he inexplicably invades Iraq. She will even become a fan of the Dixie Chicks when they oppose the war, and buy her first Country Western album.

zen2zany11Forty-seven years is a long time, the older woman thinks. The pain and loss of Vietnam is all but forgotten now, save for the families that were the hardest hit. How would you expect people to remember the discord here, and the devastation there, in far-away beautiful places filled with young girls every bit as eager for life as she was? Who now thinks of the cost of that war, the waste, the shattered bodies and brains, the hatred and fear generated and, in the end, the shame of nothing to show for sacrifices so horrible? It is a thing of history now. Done and gone. She carefully folds the newspaper back up, putting the memories of wars past away along with the small piece of china that the newspaper once held.

For more notes from 47 years ago, where 13 year old Sherri Roth reports the news from the Friday August 23, 1968 Wichita Eagle, see my other blogs posts for the How to Get a Standing Ovation Edition, the Women’s Edition, the Won’t You Please Come to Chicago Edition and the Race Relations Edition.

[From page 4A of the Friday August 23, 1968 Wichita Eagle “James Reston’s view” from the New York Times News Service]

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2015 in peace

 

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