Wednesday, 21 October 2015

narrative

You know how it is.  Someone you haven't thought about in years pops into your head. You wonder what ever happened to her. Or him.
Confirmation Day

Awhile ago I got to thinking about my old friend G. She and I were pretty close back our school days. Her dad worked for Loveseth's. Her mom was a war bride. She had an older brother and sister and an adorable little sister who spoke with an English accent. We were from good Anglican families and sang in the church choir and got confirmed at the same time.  After school before confirmation class we used to go to the Tastee Freez for a pop. One summer we decided we should make a few bucks and ran a summer camp. Our charges included our own two sisters, the Chmelyk twins and their little sister. I think we made enough money to buy a burger. G and I drifted apart in junior high. She moved to White Rock and I never heard from her again.

A few days ago I somehow got in touch with her over Facebook. She replied with "Is this really you? From DC? Looking forward to catching up with you...wow, really catching up...and where to start?"

Where indeed? How to tell your life story going back over 40 years? What have I done that would interest anyone? What is "my story?" What to put in? What to leave out? I can tell the basic facts in a couple of paragraphs, but is that all there is? So many things happen in a life.  What would matter to her? What matters to me? The highlights matter as much as those low times I'd rather not share with anyone. The wonderful and the horrible experiences that make me who I am.


A couple of years ago I wrote my mom's story for her, illustrated with photos from her life. As a dementia sufferer, she sometimes forgot who she was. My brother told me that almost every day, she poured over that book, sometimes remembering, sometimes thinking she was reading about someone else. Today I wonder-what did she want me to know that I never found out? What would she rather that I never knew?

When my grandmother died, I inherited her wooden trunk full of letters. Every now and then I make a stab at those letters. Hundreds of letters. Newsy letters from my mom to my grandmother when I was born. Homesick letters from my aunt when she went to Chicago with her husband so he could take a course. The letter that told her that my great grandmother had died. Mostly, letters from my grandfather. Letters worrying about money. Personal letters asking why she never wrote back. Letters no one else was meant to read. All part of her story, part of a new narrative no one else in my family knows.

We all have our stories. As a teacher, I think about the stories my students have to tell. Once in awhile, I'm the one they choose to tell it to.