Writing DownPosted: November 17, 2007
“Why do I write? I write because I kept my mouth shut all my life and the secret ego truth is I want to live eternally and I want my people to live forever. I hurt at our impermanence, at the passing of time….
I write because I am alone and move through the world alone. No one will know what has passed through me, and even more amazing, I don’t know….
I write because to form a word with your lips and tongue or think a thing and then dare to write it down so you can never take it back is the most powerful thing I know….
I write [because] writing might be all I have and that isn’t enough. I can never get it all down, and besides, there are times when I have to step away from the table, notebook, and turn to face my own life. Then there are times when it’s only coming to the notebook that I truly do face my own life.” [Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg]
So, All Her Life begins in a book with a pink shiny fabric cover, daisies, red roses, and a bluebird on the front. Now, all these years later, it is scratched and stained, with worn and torn edges, much like the life it records. Inside, though, the images are fresh. A swaddled newborn in the arms of a slim young mother, a clip of hair from a first haircut at five months, an eleven-month-old with fat rolls on her legs. A rubber doll, a rattler, a red purse for the First Christmas. A First Easter card from Grandma ‘Haffey. First word at four months: Mom-Mom, first steps at nine months, first sentence at fifteen months: Come on Daddy, dinner. First plane ride and first train ride at nine months. (I cried all the way on the plane, so they brought me home on the train. But I still have my Sky Cradle Club Certificate of Membership from American Airlines — June 25, 1950, when I flew from Memphis to Cincinnati.) “Broke last bottle July 18, 1951.” The book isn’t fleshed out. As so often happens, when the second child comes along, entries in the first child’s baby book become scarce.
My life is not important. Or remarkable. No great or interesting or memorable happenings or feats. As I look back, the most remarkable thing is the framing of my early life. A Baby Boomer, I was born at the opening of the post-war prosperity years, the 1950s, a time of hope and optimism and living the American dream. I came to my own during the turbulent 60s as the winds of change blew, with civil rights violence, Vietnam, the assassination of a president, and the first moon landing. College graduation and a wedding came in 1970. When I paste my young life on the pages of history and look at where I came from–TIME (50s, 60s) and PLACE (Mississippi Delta)–and what those early years were made of and the people and events my life nudged against, well, that is remarkable. And I want those who come after me, and of me, to know what it was like. Back then. That is why I write it down.