Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

by Edgar Allen Poe, William Saroyan, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Nov 02, 2009 8:47 am

Our first question this week is one about Saroyan’s essay, “Why I Write”. Be sure to click the link below or in the announcement post to read the selection.
“Why I Write”:




How far back does your memory go? If you are willing to share, what memories do you have from an early age that made such an impression on you that they are still with you today?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby nebraska » Mon Nov 02, 2009 4:38 pm

I don't think my memory goes back very young at all .... maybe kindergarten age? I remember being excited that my grandmother was coming from out of state and I got to go home for lunch that day to meet her, but I remember nothing of the actual meeting. I am not always clear on whether I truly remember something or if I think I remember something because I have seen photos. :rolleyes: I guess that is why I take so many pictures as relying on memory is not my strongest quality.

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby Buster » Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:06 pm

Saroyan's interest in writing about memories seems to be about preserving people and events, almost stopping time by putting it into words.

To me that seems peculiar, for most of my memories have no words attached to them. I can describe them to you, but it will always be a flattened version. Writing about sound and motion, which are what most of my early memories consist of, diminishes them, rather than preserves them.

One, watching fireworks with a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, never fails to make me smile, even though I was barely two years old when it happened. Somehow every glorious explosion before or since existed in that moment.

In the second, I am lying on my back in the bottom of a boat being rowed by my grandfather, caught in that indescribable moment just before the sun comes up, hearing and feeling the waves on the hull, watching the bats stream back to their daytime hideouts.

It might be possible to convey these thoughts/ feelings (neither of these is the right word for the phenomena- the memories just are) in music rather than words.

Rather long and confused post, but what can I say? I don't think in words.

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby suec » Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:33 pm

I don't thnk it's long or confused at all, Buster. I agree with you; I don't remember in words either. Mainly I remember emotions and pictures. But your memories do seem spectacular.

My earliest memeory must have been of my grandad, which I can be specific about for he died when I was only two and a half and I only met him twice. I know that I remember him because I remmeber his blue V neck jumper and him smoking a pipe, neither of which are shown in photos, especially as they were black and white ones. I remember liking him, sitting on his sofa in his strange house. I suppose I remember it for being an unusual thing, being there, because it was in a different country and therefore remarkable to me. I remember often dragging my little brother out of his cot and hauling him downstairs to play in our den behind the sofa. That was nice, although it's a wonder I didn't cause him serious injury. I can only have been three or four. But i used to enjoy those mornings. And then a weird memory :hatter: - several, actually, because I was dressed up as Alice several times, for a school fete and a couple of church bazars. My family had a stall there and my mum was the Mad Hatter and my gran the Queen of Hearts. My family had a taste for dressing up and I certainly took to it at the time. However, I have photos, so perhaps I remember it less well than I think. The one thing I do remember very clearly, and don't have a photo, was running across the school field in the sun, dressed up in the costume, aged about four, I think.

It didn't give me a taste for the story. In fact, I actively disliked it when I finally read it. I was still a small child at the time.

I do write about experiences now. I'm afraid I will forget them otherwise, But I didn't start doing this until a few years ago. It would never have occurred to me as a child to preserve them in any way.
"Luck... inspiration... both only really happen to you when you empty your heart of ambition, purpose, and plan; when you give yourself, completely, to the golden, fate-filled moment."

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby shadowydog » Mon Nov 02, 2009 6:21 pm

Interesting question. I can also remember visual images but have no idea how old I was at the time of each event. I know I was (possibly) 3 or 4 at the earliest memories and about 5 at the later events. Some of the memories might be of earlier events. :perplexed:
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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Nov 02, 2009 7:10 pm

How interesting that when I read your posts I just realized that there is no sound in my earliest memories either, only visual and emotional memories. I can't really understand why I would have certain ones. When I was 3 I remember my goldfish swimming in a serving bowl in our kitchen and I remember her name was Goldie (pretty original :lol: ). When we were cleaning out my mom's old dishes I couldn't part with that bowl because I feel an emotional attachment to it. My other memories are from that same time fame and involve visiting friends for dinner, my babysitter, my great-grandmother (very briefly) and my mom's laundry basket that had wheels. I also remember having lunch with my father at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC when I was 3 or 4, what I wore and what the booth looked like. Strange I don't have any auditory memories of NYC!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby gemini » Mon Nov 02, 2009 8:18 pm

I do agree with Saroyan about writing being a way to preserve life because it is so fleeting. He mentions art, as in paintings or sculptor doing the same thing. When you think about it, any memorable contribution you make is a way of having something remembered.
As for my own memory, I am the first to admit it is terrible. As Nebraska says the things I do recall I can never be sure they are not from seeing photos of the event or friends and family telling me about them.
The oldest memories I recall without photos is of tussling in the backseat of the car with my brother when my parents drove to California on a vacation. I was probably about 5. I do remember the sound of my mothers voice telling us to behave.
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby Liz » Mon Nov 02, 2009 11:03 pm

I’m loving all of your answers. I was very curious how far back your memories go because I have very few memories prior to 10 years of age. I have them, but they are few and far between. And I don’t think I have any memory before 3 or 4—when I danced to American Bandstand on the TV. I have a couple of memories from 4/5 of going to Elitches in Denver (an amusement park) with my mom and grandma & grandpa, and of going to Fairyland in Oakland (which I think I’ve mentioned before) and was in awe of the young girl who dressed up as Alice in Wonderland. Then it’s only bad stuff I remember—like the time my first grade teacher read a story about a child who got Leukemia (I’ve been afraid of cancer ever since), when a classmate drowned in the quarry when I was in 2nd grade and when President Kennedy died when I was in 3rd grade. Little Caroline was my idol (weird) then. I do remember TV shows and cartoons. Most of it was visual, as others have said. Auditory begins about 10 along with many other memories.

I never would have thought of writing at a young age (which echoes what most of you have said). However, writing became important as a young adult. I chronicled trips, journaled and began scrapbooking. Pictures alone were not enough.

I agree with Saroyan that art is a way of counteracting impermanence because it is a record of a person’s existence. My art just tends to be in pictures (either drawn, painted or photographed). It can also be in clothes that someone has made or a quilt or whatever craft one makes. Think of all the art our kids made that we kept. It can take the form of a present that someone has given us. I have many of those. This is why it is so hard for me to let things go. I rarely even delete emails. Everything seems to have a story.

And then there is music. I hear songs from my past (dating again back to 10 years of age) and can remember what I was doing or how I felt at the time. But many times music can make me very sad.

Jeez, I think I could write a dissertation on this subject.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby nebraska » Mon Nov 02, 2009 11:37 pm

I do think photography is an art form, and it enables us to freeze bits of time. I think I take pictures almost compulsively so that I can "keep" those moments forever. Similar to what Saroyan does with writing.

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby gemini » Mon Nov 02, 2009 11:40 pm

Liz. Your post refreshed my memory for sound memories. I was trying to remember sounds when DITHOT, suec and buster mentioned visions and sounds but I forgot about music. I can recall music that my parents played on old 78 records when we were youngsters. My father loved Marty Robbins cowboy songs and they stick with me to today. I also recall hearing Wolverton Mountain on the radio on a trip through the West Virginia mountains and whenever I hear it that is what I think of. Some sounds just lock into the time you hear them.
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers



Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby suec » Tue Nov 03, 2009 2:42 am

That's true about music. When I hear a track, it can can take me right back to where I was when I first heard it. My earliest is when I was about 6. Whenever I hear the song, it takes me right back to being on the ferry to Ireland, and where I was on the boat at the time, on what I rememember as a lovely sunny day.
"Luck... inspiration... both only really happen to you when you empty your heart of ambition, purpose, and plan; when you give yourself, completely, to the golden, fate-filled moment."

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Nov 03, 2009 8:50 am

Music, while not something I create personally, has always been and still is a huge part of my life. I think each decade of my life has a soundtrack!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby trygirl » Tue Nov 03, 2009 10:30 am

Great answers everyone! Technology has definitely made preserving memories easier than in the past. Once home movies were a possibility, all you had to do was a put in a tape to remember a special time. I think my earliest memories were family day trips. All of us piling into the car, parents, siblings, and grandparents. These were some of the happiest of my young life. And like suec and Liz, music is attached to every ride.
I'm not a brand, I'm more of a variety. - Johnny Depp

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby Buster » Tue Nov 03, 2009 10:51 am

Not only "music" for me, although there is an original soundtrack running in my head almost all the time -

Most, if not all of my memories, have sounds (and often smells) associated with them.
For example, the summer I was five, I remember sitting in the driveway, sharpening popsicle sticks by rubbing them on the cement. (Okay, I know - I was a vicious little kid, but you have to understand my older sister always got the leading role in our games. She was Robin Hood, and I, being substantially larger, was always Little John, who of course always got knocked off the bridge. Needless to say, my solution was to carry a shiv to avenge myself.)
At any rate, I spent quite a lot of time sharpening popsicle sticks, and I can remember the smell of the hot pavement, the gritty sound of the stick against cement, the weird vibration in my wrist and elbow as the tip got sharper and sharper...And also the sort of "hum" of summer in the suburbs.

Sometimes a certain chord, or a wafting smell, can evoke very strong memories.

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Re: Saroyan Week ~ Why I Write ~ #1 Memories

Unread postby ladylinn » Tue Nov 03, 2009 4:06 pm

Memory is such a wonderful gift - my earliest memories is of my mom and dad and I living with my grandparents on a farm. Age - preschool (4 or 5). I remember us sitting around a coal pot belly stove in the living room. Like others have said - just memories - no sound.


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