A memoir is a memory. Memories may be long or short, serious or humorous, ordinary or extraordinary. Whatever they are, they are truth as you know it and as your readers will come to know it.

Here are some of the memoirs I have written or edited. Each of these is a chapter in a book.

Tough

I throw my head back as hard as I can, and it makes a satisfying whack against some part of Joey’s face. He yelps, lets go of my arms, which he’s been holding behind my back, and retreats. I pursue, and the fight continues. The two of us smack and smash, slug and sock at each other.

This is the culmination of an entire year’s worth of jeers and gibes. Waiting for our fifth-grade class to begin each morning, we’ve had some intense skirmishes. Several times we’ve thrown each other’s school books in the ditch surrounding the school yard, and once I wound up with that black ditch ick all over one of my nicer school dresses. But right now, it’s combat, and I’ve got to win. read more

They Is Us

I once read a book about the annexation of Earth for use by an alien race that wanted majestic purple mountains and fruited plains for themselves. They didn’t bother to murder us. Instead, an uncounted number of our generations before they made the trip to Earth, they did something that caused every passionate encounter between a man and a woman to become a crime of passion. Men who got turned on killed those who turned them on. This happened over and over until finally there were not enough women left alive to birth the human species.

Sometimes, I wonder if what I read was fiction. Worldwide today, in 2017, women between the ages of 15 and 44 are more likely to die or to be seriously injured by men than they are to be killed or maimed by cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined. For pregnant women, the situation may be worse: The leading cause of death for pregnant women is being killed by their husbands. read more

Drunks

On the lunch shift, the drunks are at tables rather than at the bar, and the waitresses serve them my Bloody Marys and martinis along with their New York Strips. Five or six ounces of vodka and 16 ounces of dead cow in an hour, and then they’re gone—until after work, apparently. This is my first nighttime shift as a bartender, and I’m surprised to see many of the same faces I’ve often seen at lunch since I started this job. Most of these guys must have noticed me behind the bar at lunch. Most of them now seem to be taking a closer look.

One sot is doing more than gawking. Since 5:00 when he toddled in, he’s tried “Hey, you gotta boyfriend?” and “You’re hot, girl!” Neither have gotten him any more than another Dogfish Head beer—why anybody would name a beer Dogfish Head, I don’t know, but he’s ordering them, I’m serving them to him, and the brand seems to suit him. I’ve moved away from him by the time he’s come up with “Nice ass!” loud enough to elicit some titters. Sorry, I mean laughs. read more

We Know Where Lopez Is

Any bus ride you take in Puerto Vallarta is a sightseeing tour. It won’t be the kind of tour that tourists from the States get after being sales-talked into a timeshare presentation with free city-excursion hook. It won’t be the kind of tour that expatriates take when they venture away from their air-conditioned seaside condos. It’ll be the kind of tour that,….

Getting to “Centro” one morning for a Spanish class is easy. We know all buses go to Centro, and we’ve seen a bus come by on our street every 15 minutes. We walk across the street and catch the first one that arrives. Easy, we say to each other. read more

You Too Are Us

CAST OF CHARACTERS:

  • Peepee Boy, 10 years old, the instigator, always ready to shock the younger children
  • Katharine, 8 years old, studious
  • Stork Girl, 8 years old, a know-it-all
  • Baby Fairy Girl, 9 years old, demure
  • Belly Buttons Boy, 9 years old, acts reasonably
  • Buffalo Boy, 8 years old, always physical
  • Jump Rope Girl, 8 years old, also physical
  • Littlest Boy, 6 years old, mostly interested in toy cars
  • Mama, the mother of Katharine and Little Brother
  • Little Brother, 6 years old, very sure of himself

FADE IN at stage right: read more

On Time

Every evening about this time, a man with a mean pout and a gold cross at his open shirtfront drives a BMW along the street in front of where I’m living. From various houses emerge my neighbors, anxious for fat grams in 20 bags. Meanwhile, women who want to be called girls materialize in immaterial costume, hands on hips, waiting for their rides to even less desirable neighborhoods. A little later, there will be the nightly hikes to the hooch house by scarecrows you never see in daytime. Daytime is safe here in Long Beach, CA. After one or two forays, however, I’ve decided that nighttime is not.

Where’s Rosie? She’s supposed to be back in the house by now. This is the third night in a row that I’ve had to go out looking for her. read more

Every Parent is Proud

“The Phantom … was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

“He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved. read more

Me Mensan

“Sorry,” our young visitor has said three or four times along with “Oh, I don’t think my opinion counts for much” and “I’m not that brainy, really.” This last was in a throaty whisper to the one man at this party I’d really like to communicate with. He’s suave and physically powerful, but he always ignores me in favor of the younger things who gather around him. I’ve noticed he usually picks brainy as well as buxom. He’s making an exception for our visitor’s baloon breasts.

By now, I’ve had it with listening to this woman apologize and decide to take myself and my glass of wine out to the folks on the lawn. I do feel for the woman, though. I’d feel uncertain, too, if I thought I were the stupidest person in the room, even if I had her D cup, even if Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome were refreshing my drink. read more

Am I Now a Wise Woman?

This story, “Am I Now a Wise Woman?,” was the first one in a client’s book of memoirs. It contains almost no detail itself, so could be considered lacking in elements that make a memoir memorable. However, it does introduce a book that is rich in experience and, well, wise.

Start with “older.” The younguns are rarely even knowledgable, much less wise. I am older, 70, in fact. That certainly makes me a time-honored woman. But knowledgeable? read more

Counting Every Rib

At a table at a beach-front open-air restaurant in Boca de Tomatlan in Mexico, my date and I are approached by a Chihuahua who is even tinier than he would be if you couldn’t count all his ribs. I think the poor fellow must be starving, and this is distressing enough. But then I see nearby a much larger dog, a Doberman-mix who is nothing more than dull eyes and dry skin over bones. The Doberman, I conclude, really is starving.

Are there degrees of starvation? “Six degrees of starvation?” Let’s see: Hungry, starving, dead. That’s three. Maybe snackish could be No. 1 and hungry No. 2. Then what? Famished? No, too much like a Beverly Hills teenager. Dead is certainly No. 6, though. read more

This is Grim

Shayna is 8. I’ve received a phone call from her. She is sobbing. “No, I don’t know where she is.”

I speak to my granddaughter across 400 miles of phone lines: “Doesn’t she go away a lot?” read more

Something Else to Show I Care

This story was written by a client to warn her grandchildren against falling prey to consumerism and wasting their money.

I just read that each year in the United States, four million tons go from logs to landfills just to make wrapping paper and holiday shopping bags. Here I am trying to have a paperless office and feeling guilty about not using the back sides of all my already-used paper for notes when I read about an amount of paper that, if I stacked it four feet wide by four feet high, would stretch 100 miles. All for the bags we use to carry gifts home from the malls and the pretty paper we surround each gift with. Mostly at Christmas. Yikes! read more

What Might Have Passed on By

“I remember walking along what seemed like a huge expanse of road. I was very young and very scared. But I had to do it. I think you told me to do it.”

“Walking along a road? I wouldn’t have let you walk by yourself anywhere at 2 years old,” says my mother. read more

Love or a Straight-Five Engine

“Grandma,” says Quinn, plunking himself down in the passenger seat of the car, “we have to go to the grocery story now. I have get roses.”

“Why,” I ask my little car guy. Not once since my grandson has been old enough to talk has he ever shown the slightest interest in flowers. read more

And the Pain is Gone!

I’m old. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, my back hurts, right here, see?  Where my hand is. I get up anyway, go downstairs and let Lilly the dog out, waiting just inside the door for her and absent-mindedly pressing where it hurts. After she comes back in, I take my hand away from the pain long enough to pour my coffee, take a sip. Then, I notice my hand is back again pressing, again, where it hurts. Maybe I’m trying to press the pain into my body. Maybe I’m trying to impress upon myself my own ability to survive the pain.

I throw up my hands in exasperation. read more

Where is Quinn?

The rule was that you call Grandma when you’re leaving wherever it is that you’re playing. You tell her where you’re going to play next. When you get to where you’re going to play next, you call again to let her know you’re safe. Then, if you‘re ever not safe, if you disappear, Grandma will know where to start looking for you.

In a city where punks with their pants falling off hung out in parks handing out packets of powder, where there was the occasional story on the news about another small boy vanishing, where Quinn himself saw someone waving a gun in the bleachers when we went to the skateboard park,…. well, you would think my grandson would have been happy to have someone know where to start looking. read more

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