Downsizing or not - writing about your life is one way to record your family history and leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren. It forces you to be courageous and step out of your comfort zone. It is not always and easy journey, but it is worth making the first step under the guidance of an experienced memoir writer and booking a writing class. I started my memoir writing journey in January 2015 and have come a long way by now.

A couple of weeks ago, I returned from a holiday in Europe during which my father celebrated his 80th birthday. I used the opportunity to ask him about his childhood memories during the Second World War. One morning, I was sitting in our family home flicking through old photo albums and a cigar box full of photographs. I found quite a few treasures – images from my parents as children, teenagers, and young adults. The most precious ones were faded portraits of my grandfather and great grandfather with their families.

At his birthday party, I met an 88-year old cousin of him. While chatting away, I discovered that she knew quite a lot of stories regarding my grandparents and great grandparents. I arranged a visit a couple of days later and was pleased with the outcome of our discussion. She showed me a folder with a collection of old photographs, letters, and orbituaries of relatives. She could not only tell me the name and birth year of my great grandmother, but also tell the story how my great grandfather arrived in the suburb I grew up and how he found the place to build our family home. With the help of my father and her, I was able to reconstruct a small family tree from my father’s side. From this conversation emerged another topic in relation with my family history that I decided to include in my memoir.

I also interviewed three of my mother's brothers while being in my hometown. We had a lovely afternoon – chatting away with coffee and cake – exchanging and commenting on faded family photographs. From the childhood memories of my uncles, I gathered new information about my mother, who passed away in 1998. They told stories about growing up during the War, their childhood tricks, where and what they liked to play, and how they experienced my mother as a sister and young teenager. Apart from recording all the information, it was a lovely experience connecting with my relatives, sharing the same family history, being woven together with an invisible thread, unbreakable. My fingers danced over my keyboard, as I tried to keep up capturing their words with my laptop.

Researching my family history, I hoped to reconnect and engage my 13 and 10-year old sons to their country of birth which they had left at the age of six and three. After initial protests, and repeatedly emphasising how boring it is to visit yet another relative, who might be able to shed some light on my past, my teenage son admitted: “You have learned a lot about your family over the weekend.” He even looked through the old family photographs and wanted to know who the people were. I am very happy that I made the effort to talk to my father and interview my relatives. I was surprised how open they were to my inquiries and how willingly they shared what they could recall.
With this mountain of new information, I started reviewing what I had already written and re-writing my manuscript. All of a sudden, some paragraphs made much more sense, gaps closed, the puzzle formed an image.

Last week, I started my Life Writing Masterclass to hopefully finish an entire chapter. Like at my previous class, I met a group of passionate writers with interesting stories to tell. It always fascinates me how other people perceive the world and what they have experienced in their lives. In this first class, we recapitulated how to open the vaults of memory and dig down deep using our senses. I am looking forward to eight weeks of guided writing and – hopefully – completing an entire chapter. I will keep you posted!

You can follow my memoir writing journey by reading my previous posts The Magic of Memoir Writing and The Magic of Memoir Writing - Starting From Place.

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