ThingstoKeepphotoSome of you may have read a feature I had on the blog for about a year called Mama Says. (And if you haven’t, it’s all still there.) My mother has said many wise and hilarious things over the years.

Recently while helping her move I came across a binder labeled “Things to Keep Forever. Or a Little While.”

Cracked me up.

Along with sentimental family wedding programs, graduation announcements, photos of great-grandbabies and the like, the binder contained assorted short pieces my mother had written. Since I am a writer, a page called “Why Do I Write?” caught my attention. (Well, it all caught my attention, but for purposes of this post I won’t go into all that.)

So think of this as a guest post from my mother on the topic of why we write.

My brother made me do it!

I remember a day, many years ago now, when he was just starting to publish the Gazette, which was a family newspaper he published for a couple of years. He called me on the phone and said to me, “I want you to write some of your childhood memories so I can put them in the Gazette.”

My response at first was not very cooperative. “I can’t write,” I said. “I don’t remember anything from that far back that I could write about.”

I remember we talked a long time that day. Probably more than we had ever talked to each other in our lives. And he would eventually get back to the same subject. “Write,” he would say.

“I can’t,” I would reply.

In his calm, quiet, insistent way, he assured me that I could—that I would find the memories.

And today I have to say, “You were right.” Because I put my pen to the paper and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Since then my desk has become filled with folders of things I’ve written about my life.

Writing these stories has become a richly satisfying thing for me. I write them for myself, and I write them for my children, for their children, and their children. I write them because I know what a thrill it would be for me to find and read something that my great-grandmother, or great-grandfather, had written—something that would tell me a little something of who they were beyond just their names and dates of birth.

My commitment to writing my own life stories and thoughts is wrapped up in all the tales this brother has told about all those family members who were before our own time. For all the searching he has done to find who all those people were and how they are related to us, and for his ongoing willingness to share it with me, I am grateful.

I participated in a memoir writing class last year, and one assignment was to write about someone who had been a teacher in my life. I reviewed in my mind all the people who had been teachers in my formal school life, and none of them seemed that significant. Much to my surprise, I realized my very own little brother, also now a retired teacher, had been the one who has taught me in a most important way.

“Write,” he said, and so I did and continue to do so.

I wonder—did he think he was done with teaching just because he retired from the classroom?

Shouldn’t we all continue to learn and continue to teach, even though we have moved into the retirement years?


August, 2000