It happened yesterday morning as I was cleaning our hall closet. It is summer, I am a teacher with four children of my own…this is my summer of organization…closet, laundry room and garage. I was very seriously contemplating my yearbook situation. The question at hand was, “Would I regret it if I threw away my four hardbound yearbooks from high school?” Four large, space consuming books I hadn’t looked at in years and that documented four years I really didn’t enjoy and filled with less then flattering pictures of myself. With yearbooks in hand poised halfway between garbage can and shelf, I watched a card fall and from the insides a newspaper clipping.
It was my high school graduation card from my grandmother. Not seen in twenty-two years, the newspaper clipping was from the San Francisco Chronicle and her favorite columnist, Stanton Delaplane. His topic was “writers” and “storytellers.” It had been published in October of 1985 and she had saved it for nine months to put in my graduation card in June of 1986.
My grandmother, one of the greatest women I will ever know, had passed away at 94 six years earlier. I sat down on the closet floor and bawled.
Suddenly, I remembered the gift and the day. I liked the gift, a book on writing mentioned in the article as a necessity for all serious writers, but I was 17, graduating from high school. I realize now that I didn’t understand then all that she was trying to say in her card and the clipping, and I certainly didn’t appreciate the effort and sentiment. She was telling me that I was a writer and that good writers are not just writers they are storytellers, which is something I have always known about myself. But, here it is 22 years after the gift and I haven’t really done anything with the writing or the storytelling.
I start all the time. I write little bits about my children, I tell their stories in emails to friends, and last year when I had breast cancer I chronicled it all in a series of funny and some not so funny emails to my girlfriends. I envisioned my articles being like “Sex and the City” for working mommies everywhere…funny, edgy, thoughtful…except, of course I don’t really live in a city, more of a town, and the sex part with four young children in the house is probably different then the single gal in New York City, but still I had my ideas. The sticking point was always, how do I start? How do I get across who I am and what I will be writing about? Really, how do I introduce myself?
And then, yesterday, in the midst of my organization summer…. the card and clipping. So, I’ve slowed down my organization, woken up before my girls, turned on the computer and started my “storytelling.” It’s a good time. My oldest starts High School, I have entered my 40’s, I have hair after a tangle with breast cancer, obviously…a lot to say. And now, thanks to my grandmother, I believe I have introduced myself. This is my memoir, not because I am famous or infamous, but because some extraordinary things happened to a fairly ordinary girl.
I didn’t throw out the yearbooks. Seriously, you can’t do that. I’m a small town girl living in the town I grew up in, who throws out their yearbooks?