This post, by Dawn Thurston, originally appeared on MemoirMentor.
Thanksgiving is a week away and Christmas is not far behind. The holidays resurrect all kinds of childhood memories. Why not spend some time this season committing your memories to paper. Even if you don’t have time to write a complete story, jot down ideas as they come to you during the holidays, ideas that can be developed later into a polished piece. Here are some suggestions to guide your thinking:
- Keep your stories personal. What was meaningful to you? What did you look forward to? Does one Thanksgiving or Christmas stand out more than the rest? Were there any disappointing moments? What are your favorite Christmas carols? What childhood traditions have you carried over to your own family? How are holidays different today than they were when you were a child? What was your favorite part of the holidays? What food did you like? These are just a few questions. The point is, make it your story.
- Anchor your story in its era. People of all ages love the movie A Christmas Story, a memoir-style story of a 1940s Christmas told from the perspective of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker. The film is lush with period detail, and yet its recounting of a child’s joy, longing, and disappointment seems to capture aspects of everyone’s Christmas memories. My children swear their Christmases were just like Ralphie’s, even though they’re decades apart. Include details that communicate your childhood era. For example, when I was a child, Christmas trees were decorated with colored lights and tinsel. By the time I became a teenager, tiny white lights were all the rage. So were flocked trees. For a brief time during those years, the late ’50s, I think, some folks favored ghastly aluminim trees, standing them in rotating bases and training colored flood lights at them–a kind of bizaare extension of the Space Age, I guess. Your childhood years had their own set of holiday fads. Red Ryder BB Guns? Cabbage Patch Dolls? Slinkies? Get them in your story.
- Include sense details.