The first step in memoir writing is to decide on and write down your reason for doing this writing. You may write your memoirs for any one or several of the reasons listed in So You Want to Write Your Memoirs. “Because Laughter Feels Right” was written for one of these reasons: to commemorate a loved one.
Writing memoir about someone you love or respect requires choices. Do you write about who the loved one is (or was), or do you give more emphasis to what this person did? Do you build a character profile, including such details as where the person was born and what they did for a living; or do you narrow the focus to a specific place or time or incident. Do you profess your love for all the world to know, or is your love to be taken for granted?
In “Because Laughter Feels Right,” the emphasis is upon what a beloved grandmother did rather than on who she was. Details in this life story are limited to what grandmother and the writer, her granddaughter, often did in the evenings during the writer’s childhood. Granddaughter professes her love for her grandmother using the words she would have used during her childhood; in this life story, love is shouted, as the old saying goes, from the treetops.
Because Laughter Feels Right
My favorite person in the whole world is my Gramma. My Gramma goes to work every day. My Mama goes to work every day. I go to nursery school.
Gramma and Mama and me all get home at the same time every day. Six o-clock. The big hand is on 6. The little hand is on 12. Or sometimes the big hand is on 5 and the little hand is somewhere else and that’s not six o-clock, but it doesn’t matter.
The first thing Gramma does is take off her earrings. I gave her those earrings. I made them in school with tiny seashells and Elmer’s white glue. Gramma puts her earrings in the box I gave her when I gave her the earrings. Then, she takes a bath. After her bath, I help her wash her dress in the bathtub, still full of soapy water. She rinses her dress in the sink, and I help her hang it on a hanger where it can drip into the bathtub. She smoothes out the wrinkles with her hands, and I pull out the bathtub plug and watch the water swirl down the drain. I wonder where that water goes.
Sometimes after her bath, Gramma washes her hair in the sink. She rinses the shampoo out of her hair and then puts “bluing” in. She calls it bluing, but it’s not blue. It’s a wonderful color: purple. Gramma tells me it keeps her hair from looking yellow. But it never looks yellow. It always looks kind of silver, like spoons. Sometimes, if she doesn’t wash her hair, Gramma lets me brush it for her.
Then, I take my bath while Gramma gets dressed in one of her at-home dresses, and she helps me get dressed and brushes my hair. Then we go out to where Mama has dinner ready.
After dinner, Gramma and I take a walk. I hold her hand, and it feels big and warm and comfortable. We look at all the flowers on people’s lawns. Gramma’s favorite is impatiens, but they don’t have any feet to stomp on the ground, and they never say “Hurry up.” Well, they’re just flowers.
I always say that my favorite flower is on the big bush on the corner where we turn right. “Hibiscus,” Gramma says. “Hi biscuits,” I echo. We both laugh just because laughter feels right.
My Gramma is in heaven now. All the other important people in my life who have died—grandfather, uncle and aunt, mother, friends—all good people, all people I have loved, I say about each of them: She is dead now. He is long gone. About my Gramma, who has been gone since I was 9, I say, “She is in heaven now.”
Because if there is a heaven, that’s where my Gramma is.