Oct 23, 2013

An Experiment in Memory

This semester, as a part of my MA program, I am in a course on the writing of creative non-fiction. The course is specifically designed to deal with memoir writing. As such, I have been reading everything from Annie Dillard to Michael Ondaatje to Salman Rushdie to Virginia Woolf.

Our final assignment for the course, then (logically), is to produce our own short memoir peice. Short, of course, is relative, since the assignment is to be between 5000 and 10 000 words.

We have had little exercises in writing to complete, some which I have done and some which, admittedly, I have not. One of my favourites, though, was a short 150 word description of our earliest memory, visually stimulated by an old photograph. This short "experiment in memory" has consequently served as the launching point for the narrative arch of my memoir peice.

Prelude complete.

An Experiment in Memory

Fragranced by crimson gerber daisies and black-eyed-susans, it is the Carpenter’s world. Reclined in the corner of a home he built with his own hands, he is snoring softly to himself while overcooked pot roast begins to decompose melodiously against his bowels. Barely four years old, I concern myself with memorizing the spored texture of a raggedy black mutt’s flushed tongue as he licks his dinner from grandma’s porcelain. Second-hand immigrants discuss the weather (it has been warmer than usual this year which probably isn’t good for the farmers. Solemn nodding). She crouches in the foreground, her energy spent resisting the desire to touch - then slowly moves forward for prevailing curiosity. But the dog growls, and the Carpenter snortles in response, so she recoils and purses her lower lip against the upper, biting hard on toothless gum. We make no noise, and instead, I smile curiously and carefully. Dinners should not be interrupted; children should be seen and not heard. 

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