“Writers are the custodians of memory…”—William Zinnser
“One of the saddest sentences I know is ‘I wish I had asked my mother about that.’ Or my father. Or my grandmother. Or my grandfather. As every parent knows, our children are not as fascinated by our fascinating lives as we are. Only when they have children of their own—and feel the first twinges of their own advancing age—do they suddenly want to know more about their family heritage and all its accretions of anecdote and lore.”
Zinnser goes on to say that if you are to be a custodian of memory then you must tell your story. Write your memoir. If you’re not comfortable with writing, you can dictate it to someone else, to a recording device, to your computer, to a ghostwriter. You can tell your story or your family’s, or both, through recipes. A recipe book with a few happy memories sprinkled throughout to make it interesting might do. Or perhaps a few sad ones.
Since anyone can self-publish now, you’ve got no excuses left. Money? How about crowdfunding? All you need is the will, and a good editor.
Don’t skip that part, or you’ll live to regret it. Lots of folks have learned this lesson the hard way. Nothing is more embarrassing than seeing your silly grammatical mistakes forever memorialized in print.
Said Zinnser in an essay in The American Scholar, titled, How to Write a Memoir: “Be yourself, speak freely, and think small.”
That doesn’t mean you should not anchor your story in history. It just means that not every memory you dredge up will be worthy of sharing. Above all, your memoir must tell a good story or nobody will want to read it. And it will be good, if you have the courage to tell it.