Lately, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing my book. I say ‘my’ book because it’s one I’ve been threatening to write for as long as I can remember. I know what the story is, the plots and sub-plots, the highs and lows, the love and loss. And I know who will be the main protagonists. The end I’m a bit fuzzy on, but I’m hoping it will come to me when I’m in the throes of typing.
The story will be based on my mother’s life; her childhood, her family, the hardship and happiness, the loneliness and the love that defined her life. I can’t ever be sure of my mother’s complete life because she’s no longer with us to tell any of her stories. And who ever knows what lies within a person’s memory, those tiny forgotten moments that complete us all as human beings. We never see a complete picture of a person’s life but only versions of ourselves, reflections that may ripple or be still like the surface of a lough.
My mother’s is another story among billions that exist in the world. But it is one I believe should be shared or at least given a physicality of its own, a life; an existence beyond our memories, written down, typed up, birthed. And I so very much want to be the one to do that for my mother.
My sisters have also been at the receiving end of promises and threats to begin the arduous process of writing the story before I forget how to write or generally forget everything. And they know that I’m already not the best when it comes to remembering details. I have a general sense of where and when events have taken place, but I get hazy on the details (a characteristic that makes me the perfect confidante — it’s not really that I am a rock of dependence for your salacious secrets, but that I have simply forgotten.). When I recall something to my sisters with the expectation of a merging of memories, I get blank stares and then a retelling of a story I clearly knew little about, which can become quite disconcerting. How many versions of an event can there be? Memory is a strange thing, completely subjective and prone to interpretation by all parties present at the time. That’s why we need facts to prop up these memories, voices that ring out in unison, or video evidence. There’s nothing more dangerous than the distortion of facts. But I’m not going to delve into this modern nightmare here.
It’s not easy to write a memoir, whether your own or someone else’s. Yet, in some respects, it feels like it should be. Like everything, the only difference between those who do and those who do not is perseverance, a bit of passion, commitment and discipline. I have the utmost respect for people who ‘do’, who battle through the distractions of life, made all the more difficult these days because of the domination of screens and the abstract content that appeals to the most primitive parts of our brains; bright colours, simple messages, emotional angst, music and of course, cats. The mind that can forego the pull of an image of a cat or dog with its tongue sticking out, or a video that shows people falling over and smacking their heads, is a strong one indeed. I aspire to that strength, if only to begin; to simply begin is the biggest challenge I currently face. To continue is the next challenge. To finish is a dream I hope one day to realise.
Christina Curran is freelance journalist based in Northern Ireland.