I began writing the memoir the day after Bonnie Jo Campbell suggested that I turn the 19-year stalled project into a memoir told in vignettes. I quickly wrote ten pages about my mother’s past loves. She was married three times, but loved five men.
In reality that was just an info dump. There was little meat in the words I wrote, but it was a start, so I kept going. The next vignette I tackled centered around my mother’s patriotism. I remembered she had written a letter to the editor after a lackluster bicentennial celebration. She wrote, “On July 4th 1776 the Town Meeting voted money to encourage young men to join the Continental Army…in 1976 our seventeen member Bicentennial Committee decided that Kennebunk would not join the rest of the country in celebrating this important day in the history of the great experiment.”
I have a copy of the letter she wrote thanks to Allison Atkins of the Kennebunk Free Library. I emailed the library and asked if anyone could assist me in locating the letter, and I had a scanned copy within a couple of hours. Love your librarian! I can’t express how interesting it was to read Mum’s words of frustration. I began to feel a connection, like I was sitting next to her for a flash of a moment.
When I began writing about visiting the Freedom Train, I remembered being bored, but that was about it. I Googled the Freedom Train and learned it was known as the American Freedom Train and that it came to Portland, Maine in April of 1976. However, this didn’t coincide with my memory of it being hot. Then the more I thought about it, little bits started coming back, and I thought that a childhood friend had been with us. I reached out to her on Facebook and I was right. She and her mother went with us, and it was hot. She said she even had a picture of us.
These little wins fanned my creative flame, but also made me realize that I had to do more than commit words to paper, I had to think and dig, and ask, and dig some more to find those moments in time. I had to be willing to open my mind and see my mother for who she really was, not just the woman I remember. I also have to willing see myself for who I was and who I am – hence, my journey.