Live in the moment

I love to write memoir. I usually write it in present tense, as if the event is occurring.

Such as:

The nurse wheels me out of x-rays. I am trying so hard to not cry from pain and fear when I see him standing there in the exam room. He has something in his hands . . .

My Baby Ann doll. Smudged face, short white hair in cowlicks now, from lying so long in the toy box.

Despite my pain, I’m suddenly irritated: I can’t believe he brought Baby Ann! I don’t play with her anymore. Not since I was eight, last year. I want to say Daddy, I am too old for dolls now, don’t you know?

But I look at his face, I see the worry, because of me, because of my arm that the doctor is getting ready to pull and pull, to set the bones . . . and something inside me twists, gives way. I start to cry for Daddy because he’s trying to help me and doesn’t know how. I cry for me, for the pain about to intensify at the doctor’s hands and I don’t know how much.

I even cry for Baby Ann and her smudges and cowlicks.

When I write like this, I am there. It is happening. I see the exam room. I remember my red shirt with ruffled sleeves, ruined by plaster of Paris so that I could never wear it again. I see my father’s face contort, turn grayish-green, when I scream during the torturous pulling of my broken left arm to set it. I see that old doll, so vividly, in Daddy’s hands.

As I write it, see it, relive it, I think, How beautiful, Daddy.

I didn’t think any such thing at the time. Nor did he.

Which brings me to now and the idea of recognizing moments as they occur.

I saw the sign at the top of this post in a shop today. When you’re in the throes of a daily writing challenge, you learn to look everywhere for ideas. I took a picture of the sign as soon as I saw it.

I knew, in that moment, I’d write about it. Somehow.

Because that statement about living in the moment and making it so beautiful that it’s worth remembering speaks on two levels. Worth remembering in order to write about, of course. And being fully present for the people in your life. It is a call to be mindful, to savor every moment together. Moments typically aren’t as beautiful alone. Certainly not in being together and feeling alone (read “UNPLUG,” if you wish).

Memories will live, yes.

But what makes them so beautiful is how we live our now. Be present now. Make time now.

For we don’t know how many minutes we have.

-Do we, Daddy.

16 thoughts on “Live in the moment

  1. The sign is so appropriate for this month. You are right that we are much more aware of meaning in things when we are planning to write. And the story about your father is so tender, including the end. You always bring everything together so poignantly. The lesson of writing in present tense is one I will practice. And the lesson of living for the moment is always good to remember. Thank you.

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  2. Fran you leave me with tears in my eyes. The memory is so fresh and crisp but your words at the end made me weep. We need to take in all these small moments and memories and share them. I am grateful for the memory finding this challenge has provided me! Thank you for putting it all in perspective for me!

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  3. Oh wow, this is a great post. So much in here — the red ruffles, the cowlicks, the gray-ish green face, and the sign. We all need that sign! I love March because even though I’m spending so much time writing and reading, I’m also spending time noticing and gathering. Your post is a great explanation for that, and a reminder of the importance of continuing. You weave moments, memories, past and present, and reflection so beautifully, Fran.

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  4. I love your memoir writing. This is on my list to try. I’ve been listening to memoir on Audible. First, Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance and now Michelle Obama’s Becoming. As I listen I think I could do it. And your post helped me to see how writing it will help me see more clearly.
    One of my writing group partners is writing memoir in the form of letters to her granddaughter, Letters to Lucy. And she goes back and forth between past tense and present tense. It works.
    Do you have anymore resources to recommend to me?


    • First – thank you, Margaret, for loving my memoir writing. For me the “secret” is the old, old rule, “show, don’t tell.” -How to make it come to life? The letters idea is intriguing. As far as a resource – what comes to mind is the first memoir that made me say Ohhhhhh, I didn’t know writing one’s life experiences could be done so beautifully: Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. More recently: When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice, Terry Tempest Williams. Both are so lyrical.

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  5. Fran, this post is so completely you. It reflects your positive nature and your ability to not only live, but also transform each moment into a. divine gift to be lived to the fullest.
    The sign is a perfect reminder to savor each moment, as is your writing. Each day I look forward to reading your post, knowing it will touch my day with a grace filled insight on life.

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  6. I am always astonished at the details you remember from your youth; you were so in tune with being present, so young. My own memories are so fleeting, so blurred…maybe because of the ever-changing backdrops of place and people and cultures, who knows. But I so appreciate these vivid, detailed windows into your world!

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  7. Loved this post. It made me think of my own dad and how distance has given me new perspective on many of my memories. I try really hard to resist the urge to record or take a picture and just live in the moment and write it on my heart. Thank you for sharing.

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