Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Remember... Exercise Part 2

This is part 2 of yesterday's writing exercise. You were to write I remember, then freewrite whatever came to mind for as long as you can. Look back at what you've written. You may find a theme in what is there, and you may find enough for inspiration to write more than one personal essay. 

When I looked at the sample of mine that I posted yesterday, something stood out for me. You'll see it in this second part below. Because of crowded conditions in our living arrangement, I never had time alone during my growing-up years. That is material for a full essay, using what I'd written as an example. Take a look at the rest of my exercise below and see what else might be used for another essay. 

I remember.... Part 2

I never knew what it was to be alone during my growing-up years. With three younger brothers and living in a small apartment, privacy came down to my allotted ten minutes in the bathroom each morning. The only place I can remember having solitude is when I walked to the library, which was at least once every week. Down the three flights of stairs with a load of books in my arms and away I went, past the conservatory in the next block, past the city park, and across the double set of railroad tracks. One was for freight trains, the other for Chicago Transit Authority "els" Once over the tracks, I turned onto a cinder path that ran behind the train station platform. I loved that cinder path. It made me feel as though I’d entered another world. The feel of concrete under my feet was the norm, but crunching along the cinder path brought me to another realm. The back of the train platform was to one side of me and a field of tall weeds bordered the other side of the path. Today, I would probably think it was no place for a child to be walking alone, but I did it myriad times over those years and never had a mishap. Maybe an angel walked with me.
The cinder path ended all too soon to suit me, and I skipped along the remaining block and a half until I reached my home away from home--the public library. While I made the walk to and from the library, my thoughts ran to so many things. I had time to think, to plan, to dream. I cherished that private time as much as the wonderful books I carried with me.

I remember so many good things my mother cooked and baked for us. Food was something to be enjoyed in our home, not just to eat to stay alive. Money was scarce, and Mother skimped on many things, but food was of primary importance, and we ate quite well. Steak appeared on our table only occasionally.  And we knew if we had steak one night, the next night was something like tuna casserole, or a pound of hamburger stretched in any way possible, and some never even thought of before. My mother baked a lot, and she passed the love of baking on to me. She had learned from her own mother who had a neighborhood bakery for many years.

Memories feed an old soul. Memories entertain the younger generations. Memories are priceless.

Yes, I remember so many things from those childhood years on Garfield Street in Oak Park, Illinois. They helped make me the person I am today, and they've made me appreciate all that I have as an adult, not least of all, the joy of having occasional private moments.__._,_.___



  1. I read both posts and think this is a wonderful exercise. I'm going to steal your idea for next month's writer's group. You are an excellent source of ideas. Thanks!

  2. I'm glad you want to use the exercise, BJ. You should get some varied results from a group doing this. Let me know how it turns out.

  3. Ah, Chicago! I spent a lot of time in Chicago some 20 years ago. I remember reading something in the Tribune written by Sara Paretsky about how she and a roommate had to contend with an unsatisfactory landlord -- I still have the piece somewhere, if I could only find it.

  4. Hi, Nancy, I just posted a comment as anonymous, because it wouldn't take my google address. Don't know why not.
    Peg Nichols

  5. Peg--maybe you can just continue to post as anonymous and sign your name. A bit ironic, I know, but it seems to work where google won't for some reason.