After mom died we found, carefully stored away, a small gold pin from the United Service Organizations, or USO.
Mom got that pin in Denver during World War II. Her church set up a USO to serve the troops, and mom volunteered.
Dad was stationed at the Army Air Force base near Denver. They met at that USO. Mom and Dad never talked about their pasts much, so we never heard that “how we met” story.
We got bare facts, no color.
My kids will not be able to say that of me. Every year I write another chapter. So should you.
Of course, not everyone writes for a living. Kids can buy pre-made “memory kits” for their parents to fill out, but the format — a question and a space to write the answer — screams “keep it short.”
That’s wrong. As we saw in Tuesday’s column about one woman’s memories of the John F. Kennedy assassination, the trick is to tell what it was like. Be a storyteller. Write the movie, not the CliffsNotes.
Consider my parents. Did they meet in a crowded church basement? What song was playing? Did he smile and nod or say something stupid?
Dad was no Rock Hudson, but cleaned up well. I’d have liked to hear what Mom thought.
Dad once told me he thought Mom was “a cute chick,” but didn’t elaborate.
You can do this. Get pen and paper, or fire up the computer. Settle back. Have a glass of wine or whatever. Stare out the window and pick one event to let your mind wander over. Don’t worry about the beginning or end. Just take notes.
For example, that day you bought your first car, was it raining? Was your father along?
What kind of car was it? What color? Engine sound OK? Talk about the other cars you considered first.
Talk about the summer jobs you worked to buy it. Did the guy who ran the grocery store cut your hours, even though he knew you needed that car to drive your girl to the prom?
Yeah, the prom. No car, no prom.
What was the theme, “Enchantment under the sea?” Did the dancing stop when some weird kid — Marty McFly? — blew everyone away with some mean guitar riffs?
And after the prom ... well, I leave that up to you, but if you don’t tell, the kids will ask.
So tell a story. There are no wrong answers.
Nothing is silly or mundane. Describe the pictures in your mind. Any memory that pops up, write it down.
Take a couple weeks, keep coming back, you’ll be amazed what turns up. If you need a guide, find a copy of Anne Lamott’s amazingly wonderful book on writing, “Bird by Bird.”
Lamott says anyone who survived school lunch has enough raw material to write for a lifetime. I’ve been writing memories to my kids for years, haven’t run out yet and I still haven’t gotten to school lunch.
Yeah, that lunch: Lone Ranger lunch pail, warm olive loaf and limp lettuce white bread sandwiches at a Catholic grade school.
I illustrate my efforts with pictures from the family albums. If the software is too complex, ask your grandkids to help or don’t sweat it.
Run spell-check, save the file or take the finished pages to a printing place. Have it copied and bound. A 10-page book in color, with a nice plastic cover, will run you about $15 a copy.
Darn cheap Christmas gift, considering your kids will treasure it forever.