Whew! I finished writing my dad’s stories of childhood and early adult years the best I could with some writings from him and letters he wrote to his family from his army service in the US and in Japan, late 1950s. How fun to read when he met my mom – my future! It’s in his hands now to correct anything and add to it. He was thrilled to read it!
I was excited to find that my dad’s mother, my grandmother, had saved all the letters he wrote back home. After she died, Dad kept the letters but never looked at them so he was a little nervous about what I would find in them. I laughed and told him, “You’re writing to your mom and dad, so I’m sure there’s nothing to be embarrassed about!”
The letters were fun to read and were a view into what my dad was like as a young man. He had a sense of humor and enough confidence that he was not impressed or cowed by “the brass.” He was surprisingly adventurous considering he came from a rather limited childhood in a family that worked hard to scrape a living farming on the far edge (then) of Chicago. He loved eating the strange Japanese foods and exploring Japan away from other Americans.
If you have a stack of letters from the past, my March 2012 blog post “What to Do With Those War Letters” might help you figure out how to incorporate them into a book. With my dad’s letters, though, I pulled out the interesting bits and added them in story form to his earlier writings of his life. I changed all the verbs to past tense and sometimes moved descriptive information around to fit into the narrative story better. My job was organizing all the bits of his writings into one long story in time sequence and figuring out how to divide the story into parts, sections, and/or chapters.
My dad’s memoir will be family-only, so you won’t be able to read his perspective of the Japan and its people he experienced about ten years after WWII—so fascinatingly different from today! It doesn’t lend itself to commercial sales since it has too much family and personal information no outsiders will care about but that is important to our family. I published my mom’s memoir, Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, because it contains lived history about a different culture and time in a different perspective, interesting to anyone.
Lived history is important to save, even if for family only. Its value is in the saving and passing it along, so it isn’t lost forever. Learning about how people lived, what they experienced or even survived through, enriches our lives, teaches us life lessons, surprises us or makes us cry, gives us inspiration, makes us appreciate what we have. They are special and have more meaning because they are true, not made up. When the person is our family member, the stories are even more precious.
Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul…