“The idea of being forgotten is terrifying…”

My mom is a voracious reader and instilled in my siblings and me a love of reading and books – real, physical, books.

A while back she was reading The Library Book, by Susan Orleans, and took some notes on Chapter 8 about our memories, our mothers, and books; these resonated with me.

The author says that she felt that if she wrote down her memories they would be saved, somehow. “The idea of being forgotten is terrifying. I fear not just that I, personally, will be forgotten, but that we are all doomed to be forgotten…” This is definitely an older, or at least more mature, experienced person’s perspective. I am certain I would not have connected with this idea and probably would have thought it morbid, when I was 22 or even 35.

As the mother of 4 grown children and 2 step-children, as well as the proud grandmother of the most impressive, beautiful, funny granddaughter (that’s definitely a new perspective on life), that fear that Susan Orleans mentions is very real, almost tangible.

It starts with this fear of not being recognized – by my nieces and nephews that I don’t see very often, or my sweet, precious granddaughter. I feel very urgent about weird things: “What if she never reads this specific Mother Goose Rhyme?” or “I must sing ___ song to her on my next visit.” Her parents read with her and sing to her – does it really matter what those books or songs are? Well … yes, because they are connected to me, to my mother, to my upbringing, my brother and sister, to my parenthood memories of raising my children.

So I have started feeling the urge to write over the past 5-6 years. The living room, my bedroom, my office room (not-so-endearingly called the junk room), my school bags are all littered with multiple journals filled with random thoughts, ideas for fiction and non-fiction, teaching plans and ideas for writing (there is another area of fear as I reach retirement age – “everyone should know ___ or how will they survive without me?”), and the typical Dear Diary entries about my feelings, my joys and frustrations, my surgeries, my journeys. .

If someone could make heads or tails (tales?) of anything I have in there, it could turn into a mini-library of its own! Therefore, I have these dreams to do that myself – write! Be a writer! It sounds so romantic to take each of those ideas, one day at a time, and develop it into a lovely story, book of vignettes, blog post, children’s book or series, or best-selling novel.

Ms. Orleans says, “Writing a book, just like building a library, is an act of sheer defiance. It is a declaration that you believe in the persistence of memory.” Maybe that’s what Salvador Dalí was telling us in his painting, “The Persistence of Memory,” with the melting clocks? I need to defy time, be more defiant, and write more intentionally.

“In Senegal, the polite expression for saying someone died is to say his/her library has burned … But if you can take something from that internal collection and share it – with one person or with the larger world, on the page or in a story recited, it takes on a life of its own.”

Wow. I can’t stop thinking about that saying.

My sister Kim put it like this: “I think it means that what is important to us, our experiences and times, and all we know, dies with us. And even though we get interested in personal history(ies), when we get older it is because we don’t want people still here to forget our library. … What we won’t forget, and grieve the loss of, is our time and those deeply important experiences with our closest family. Like the snow stories. [family sledding stories] Those hit a nerve with me … they just brought to the surface life as it should be, almost like the Wimpy Kid stories.”

“Our trip in ‘79,” is a phrase that has begun many a tale told to my children – so often it inspires an eye roll followed by, “Yes, we know, mom. You’ve told us that before.” Kim, Bobby (brother), and I merely have to say, “Look at those sheer crags!” and a knowing, loving smile will appear on our faces, and if we’re in the same room, peels of laughter will break out and all three of us know that all’s right with the world again.

I’ve become my mother, for better or worse, and the similarity comes with that instinctive urge to share everything I know, my memories, with those I love because the fear is real.

“The idea of being forgotten is terrifying.”

**All quotes, other than the one at the end by my sister, are from my mother’s notes on the book, The Library Book, by Susan Orleans.

Letter of Thanks to Dr Margaret Clark

I met you in 1990 sometime towards the end of the semester. I had graduated with a degree in Spanish, began grad school, and quickly learned that the study of literature was not for me. I also got married in October of that same semester and was pregnant with our first child. What on earth was I going to do?

As far as I can remember, my husband’s best friend, Greg McCone, sent me your way; he was a PE/Coaching major in the College of Education and was almost done with his studies. I remember meeting with you and having no doubts that I would begin my education classes in January, although I couldn’t even imagine what being a teacher would actually look like. Your classes helped me begin to formulate a vision.

You purposefully placed me with one of the best ever, Michelle Gayon at Ramay Junior High, for my Student Teaching and she remained my mentor through retirement. That experience set me up for success the rest of my career. The two of you helped me with more than teaching. You were, and continue to be, strong-willed, intelligent women who seem to understand the whole world as well as every individual you meet. High expectations, yes, but also the guidance to get there and the freedom to try something and fail on my own. What an ideal learning experience!

When the UofA began the MAT Program, they started out working with only one district to keep things less hectic – I happened to be teaching at Walton Junior High in Bentonville and was blessed to get to work with you again, mentoring Miranda Risinger as the first Spanish MAT Candidate! Because I was able to meet with you and talk about the program, as well as catch up on life, just listening to your advice at a different point in my career and personal life was a blessing. I always felt the urge not to let you down, which is a good thing because it made me strive to do my best, even when you were not present.

Through the years when people would ask me why I started teaching, I would say that I never planned to, even headed in several different directions first, but that God knew what he was doing and pushed me in that direction. God sent me to you, Dr. Clark, because He knew I would listen to your strength and wisdom.

Why Should I Write Every Day?

Dreaming about being a writer is so pleasurable. I’m an outstanding dreamer! But maybe I mean … being an author? Like, “I wish I could play the piano,” by just waking up one day without effort or the frustration of practice and can play.

I seem to be more of an idea factory with writing, than a producer of content. Much like my students, I imagine I can just sit down and out it will pour, fully formed and lovely. I know this to be wrong because I tell them so, have witnessed it, and … I’m always right … right? I’m the authority figure.

Beginning in February I have been taking an online copy writing class through AWAI which satisfies the practical side of me: assignments, feedback, lessons, and reading assignments. I have learned a great deal. For example, this is a sales marketing field which in general I do not enjoy, but there are numerous stages, styles, and mediums across the spectrum and some actually do interest me or appear more attractive than others.

The best leaders of this webinar series (Pam Foster is probably my favorite so far), also remind us that we should work for clients we agree with, or have common beliefs, or at least believe in the product or service we/they are promoting. For a few weeks this seemed hollow advice to me because most of our assignments and lesson examples were for financial markets, random health pills, or other “gimmicks,” in my opinion, and I couldn’t see past that. Not interested.

However, we started our “5-Part Campaign” project and one product option was basketball-related. I really got into the idea of trying to convince my husband to buy this fictional product through my copy! We’re supposed to write with ONE person or prospect in mind and he was perfect. Interesting, challenging, and not fake desire on my part. I feel like I know enough about basketball to come up with an angle, multiple ideas, stories, and headlines – a strategy! I get it.

Then, last Friday during the AWAI “2021 State of the Industry Virtual Summit,” a surprise guest got through to me personally. Seth Godin said, “Everyone should write a blog daily.” It doesn’t have to be perfect; it doesn’t even have to be good.

What? How can I share my imperfect creations?

Because, again, I tell my students to do the very same thing! The same advice has been popping up from various sources over the past decade: write every day. Even Whoopi Goldberg’s character in “Sister Act 2” says to Lauren Hill’s character, “If you wake up in the morning and you can’t think of anything but singing first, then you’re supposed to be a singer girl.”

Writing on a blog, knowing someone will possibly read what I write will make me take better care, be more empathetic, and get accustomed to writing more clearly. I act like I’m not afraid of anything and I normally believe myself, but writing where people can see … yikes! If I write every single day for a year, I will have some good, some bad, and I will find my niche for writing.

So, “Here I go again on my own…” I’m putting it out there hoping it is true: I will write and post something every day. It may be long. It may be short. It may not be quality (gasp!) or interesting. But I will do it and I will get better at writing … because my teacher said so.

“Progress is the ultimate motivator.” ~ olivierleroy@yourswimbook.com [thanks, Kim!]

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