A Funny Thing About Writing My Story

by Jiffy Page

(I asked Cyndy to write about her experience telling stories of her childhood in her book, ONCE, which I helped her create this year. As you'll see, the effort had some unexpected results.)

page proofs
Once in page proof stage

Ideas come from unexpected places.

Mine came in a room full of grandparents, being told that our memories matter, that they’re unique, that they’ll be lost if we don’t write them down.


And so I went home and wrote - about my childhood summers, catching fireflies in glass jars, the hot Ohio nights when the fan endlessly pushed around moist, miserable air.


The more I thought the more I remembered; words tumbled onto the page.


I read what I’d written to my ten year-old granddaughter. To my surprise, she was utterly charmed, fascinated and overflowing with questions. With that encouragement, my memories became a book. “Once…,” I called it.


As I looked into my past, the floodgates opened. Things long forgotten returned in vivid detail. Chapter after chapter nearly wrote themselves, each one read to my waiting grandchild. Every seemingly insignificant detail excited her, and thus, me. Grocery store orange crates I carried home and made into backyard forts were every bit as wondrous to her as American Girl dolls and Legos.


A funny thing began to happen. No longer was I just remembering and retelling. I was starting to understand how I became the person I am today; that became the core of my journey into the past. And so I remembered, and wrote, and shared, and grew to understand. It was an enlightening, enriching journey.


I’ve shared my book with family and friends, finding their reactions sometimes surprising, always interesting.


But most surprising has been the response of strangers. I’m an unabashed salesman for the wonders of this project, sharing what I’ve done with an old man in a little shop in the mountains, with the groundskeeper at the Ohio cemetery where I went in search of the graves of my aunts, with people I will never see again. And they listen. Then, with excitement, they begin to tell me their stories, feeling the value in sharing what they know from those years ago. It’s been incredible.


For me, the effort lead to a new understanding of myself. The sharing lead to connection with family, friends and strangers.


We are all messengers with tales to tell in voices uniquely our own.
Tell them - people want to listen.

 

- Cyndy Mote Saunders

 

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