Memories Are Made Of This …

A heap of grey ashes, dead and cold, smothering the last embers of a smouldering cinder may yet suddenly be lit up in a flash of flame if someone pokes it, letting in oxygen. So it is with memories. An article on an alumni association website suddenly beamed me back forty years, and people I had long forgotten were resurrected in all their glory in my mind. Events and conversations from decades ago were as clear as yesterday (which nowadays isn’t always as clear as it should be) – literally flashbacks, flashing and flaming images of the past.

I e-mailed a former colleague, who responded instantly, and oh my goodness! How bright and clear were the 1970’s and 80’s to us both! “Do you remember …” “Did you know …” “Who was the person who …” “When did X do that …” “Who said …”

I sat down and wrote a 5,000-word memoir, which I sent to her asking for feedback. It came, yet more oxygen to feed the flame, and my memoir is now over 6,000 words. I could easily have made it 7,000 if I’d added more personally revelatory details but I went through it carefully, removing some of my more caustic comments about former colleagues and references to indiscretions: of course, those were some of the most diverting parts, but I see no point in re-opening old wounds and offending respectable elderly people I have had no contact with for forty years if they should happen to read it. Would they be likely to read it? Many of them, sadly, are dead and gone, but their children are still around. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum.

Who would be interested in this, anyway? Well, maybe the alumni of the International School of Geneva who subscribe to the website that triggered my reminiscences, and maybe the International Baccalaureate Organisation we worked for, which is vastly different nowadays to what it was then. Perhaps they would be surprised to know from what a tiny sapling that mighty tree has grown.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. My daughter is, of course, always my first port of call: her comment was that it was highly entertaining but not very PC by today’s standards. Hmm, she didn’t see my first draft – that definitely might have upset one or two! I sent my memoir off to both places, and now await the reactions with curiosity. Will anyone react at all? Does anyone there remember me? Just because I remember them doesn’t mean I made any kind of impression in return. We’ll see! I might even serialise my piece here. What do you think?

17 thoughts on “Memories Are Made Of This …

  1. Well, I haven’t read it, but I bet it’s pretty interesting. I know what you mean about leaving out some bits. My grandkids have no idea why I’m pretty easy-going about a lot of things. If they knew what I was getting up to at their age, they’d completely understand.

  2. Thank you so much, Cat, for telling us about the writing of these very important memories of yours. I am sure this writing is going to be very interesting to a lot of people. Maybe at a later stage you can include some of the things that you felt could not be included yet as to not to offend anyone. I have a cousin who included shortly before his death in his memoir some things that were not liked by another cousin who knows, that this particular memoir had been sent to me. Now, the other cousin shrinks away from having any contact with me. Some people just cannot bear to discuss things from the past in an open way.

    • I understand that. The former colleague I contacted, and one or two others, are aware of some things that we can still giggle over in private but wouldn’t necessarily share with the rest of the world!

  3. I have many times thought I should write my memoir. My daughters would like for me to “write it down.” My problem is related to what you said in this post. I am not particularly PC and never have been. I generally don’t care very much what people think of me. The problem, of course, is that there are so many other people in a memoir and I am not sure I have adequate tact and diplomacy to avoid ending up with a stinging tirade that would hurt others. I’m going to give it some thought.

    Anne Lamott say just start writing no matter how bad it is and clean it up later. Good advice. Maybe I will.

    • I agree – get it down in writing, out of your system, off your chest, whatever – and then read it through and stand appalled at the virulence!!! THEN you can work on it.

    • Yes, the IB is very different now. In my time we had a policy of admitting only schools that were not-for-profit, so that limited us in many ways, especially financially. But it allowed scope for ideals to flourish.

  4. Dost not good indiscretions make for good drama?😲😊However, I understand, especially when we bring up the past and some of those indiscretions have our name on them.
    It’s funny how standards of political correctness don’t remain constant. The Me Too movement has made that quite clear.

    • Indeed it does! There was a time I contemplated making a fortune by threatening to “tell all” – but extortion isn’t my game after all! Anyway, nobody would believe the half of it! And I really don’t want to hurt anyone by muck-raking stuff that has lain dormant for half a century almost.
      I have often thought of writing a fictionalised version, but even that would be too much. No, for the time being the potential drama is being played out among those of us who survive and keep the old tales alive!

  5. I think that’s a great thing to have done. Do let us know if it’s gets broadcast in those places.I have a FB friend from my university days which was quite a lot more than a couple of years ago and it’s always fascinating to see where their life took them “!

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