It is “Author Night” at a meeting of a very fine book club. I am the author. As a memoir teacher, it’s not my first Q&A gig, but tonight they will discuss my book. In other words—we will discuss me, the old gal who threw her dysfunctional life (and her mother’s) onto the page for all to read.
I’d met only a few members of the club, but I know a great deal about them. They are men and women crazy for words strung together with care, triumphant sentences and books to keep forever on shelves, just to touch the spines. I’m talking about love here. But you know that.
What was unknown to me became delightfully apparent as each person introduced themselves. In-between bites of pumpkin pie, new smiles, new names, and Holy Mary Karr!–every person here is writing a memoir. Ten readers. Ten memoirists. Memoirists collect experiences in an attempt to capture the fluttery thing we call life. Memoirists look at a slice of pie and recall the aroma, the occasion of that particular dessert on another autumn night, on a thousand other autumn nights.
The first member reveals “what my memoir is about” and that story could bring you to your knees. And then another story and another. Bravo and Brava.
And how did I tell my story? One memory at a time. To honor a woman who abandoned me. To dig a hole in my remembered past and jump into it without flinching. What other way is there to live?
Lean in. Tell me more. It was a magical night, ending much too soon. We left our private room and walked through the empty café. I saw an older woman slowly wiping the tables. Goodnight, goodnight, we said to her. And I knew, without a shadow of doubt, her story was as wide and important as any other soul’s on any autumn night.
I Knew You by Name: The Search for My Lost Mother by Peggy Barnes