The Work of Memoir

The following is in response to Irene Water’s Times Past challenge. Read the rest of her post at Carrot Ranch for more discussion on memoir writing.

Alphabetical Order,                 D. Avery

I would have to go to school.
Because, while I knew some things, I did not know all things, and there they would teach me things.
I would learn to read and write.
Ok, so I went to kindergarten. No regrets. I met some good friends there. And I learned. I learned how easy it is to get in trouble with your good friends in kindergarten. And I learned to recite the alphabet. I learned it and then we just did it. Recite, recite, recite. Reading, I found out, was to wait until first grade. (The secret was, it was too late; I had accidentally figured reading out at home while looking at comic books. Shhh.) But by day it was that crazy disconnected string of letters that weren’t even categorized by their roles; their sounds and roles were still guarded secrets. We just learned to identify them by sight and their names. And that was fair, because not all my friends could read when they got home but at school we were all equal when it came to reciting the alphabet, though in fact Freddie could sing it more beautifully and faster than any of us. In another year, in first grade, it was less fair; he was still singing that song while the rest of us were all out of tune, scattering those letters and putting them into choppy combinations of sounds.
But what about writing? Well that was where we recited on paper, drawing the letters, making them ourselves. We had to do this silently; Miss Koring liked silence a lot. Freddie kept singing the alphabet, he got in trouble for that.
I figured out how to do this alphabet writing, and I did it just like Miss Koring showed us, one letter after another in that same order we sang them in. It was fun at first, mastering this skill, copying those letters onto the lined paper. We kept doing it. In the same order. In the same way. I started to get into trouble.
Ms. Koring did not like it when Bs had wings and antennae drawn on them. I made it through the Cs, and even capital D. But lower case Ds looked like the musical notes that Miss Thorpe taught us, Miss Thorpe who let me do the chickadee-dee-dee part of the music lesson because of my name. Miss Koring did not like it when my lower case Ds danced up and down the lined spaces like musical notes, like flitting chickadees. EEEEeeee. Flying flags flapping on the Fs got me in trouble again. GGGGgggg HHHHhhhh III (am being so good) iii JJJJ jjjj . Miss Koring came back by. Kicking Ks caused conflict. LLLLLlllll. Looking through the window I could see majestic mountains mounded with snow, but I got in trouble for my rendition of the letter M. I’ll be good. NOPQRS, S started the sound of my surname, but I slunk sorrowfully when scolded for my slithering script. And I should have known not to string taut telephone wires between my Ts, and to have just done them as I had been taught. Too late. UVW, whoa, here we go again, Ws, waves of Ws washing wildly across the lined paper. In trouble again; I couldn’t win. XYZ, Z end of the day, another day of school. I hadn’t learned much.
I would have to come back.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

By Irene Waters

As you read this I will be sitting on the high seas, nearing the equator, out of range of the internet so I will start by apologising for what will seem my tardy response to any comments. Don’t worry I will get there and look forward to coming back to a conversation in full swing.

Initially, I was planning for this post to discuss what memoir is but decided that I have already written a post on the difference between memoir and fiction so instead I will direct you to that and write instead on the work of Memoir.

Have you ever thought about why you read memoir? Have you ever noticed that you read memoir differently to the way you read fiction? I know I do. I am supercritical with memoir if I find what is written to be unbelievable. If I discover after I have…

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12 thoughts on “The Work of Memoir

  1. I haven’t read Irene’s post yet, but I enjoyed your response. As a year one teacher, how could I not? While I was taught as you describe, I never taught that way. How clever (and fortunate) that you’d figure out reading before you got to school, and how wonderful you realised that there were differences between kids that didn’t matter a thing at all. Oftentimes, in my experience, back then, the inability to learn was accepted as “normal” and no attempt was made to adjust the curriculum or pedagogy to suit them. Many of those kids left school early, got a trade, and made the big bucks. You know what I loved most about your post? Your final sentence, that you learned nothing so you had to go back. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Loved your response D and how you managed to keep your creativity going despite the teachers. I love the thought of all your letters bouncing over the page as music and washing on the line. Sharon earlier suggested that we should have paid less attention to the style and more to creativity. It sounds as though that is exactly what you did. It made me wonder whether the whole idea of being taught writing as we were was to make us the same and unwittingly had the effect of knocking out some of our creativity. You might think you don’t write memoir but this was a lovely snippet of your childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: School Days, Reminiscences of D. Avery | Norah Colvin

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