Changing gears a bit – I will return to my Wales saga tomorrow …
Seven years ago I began participating in a different kind of writing program – it’s not a creative writing course and there are no critiques. It’s purpose is to encourage us to write our life’s stories. We all have stories. “J’écris ma vie” was started by Olivier Fillion, a Frenchman in Quebec. The seed for “J’écris ma vie” (literally, “I write my life”) was probably planted during his years in public relations where his work included meeting with retiring staff and writing something about their life. From that Fillion went on to develop an outline for tapping into one’s memories to produce family stories for the next generation.
He developed it as a two-year program, meeting every two weeks to share stories. At each session a guide or ‘prompt sheet’ is distributed with questions – it is not intended that we necessarily write on every point; they are merely an aid to help nudge the memories loose. The program starts with the early years, looking back to our ancestors, values and beliefs, brothers and sisters, and moves through childhood, adolescence, love and romance, parenting and family life to retirement and the golden years. A member of our community took it upon himself to translate Fillion’s program into English and W.I.N. – Write it Now – came into being.
A ‘”two-year” program that has kept both me and my husband engaged with an interesting, fun, humorous and sometimes sad, sympathetic and empathetic community of new friends for seven years. It re-awakened my joy in writing and gave structure to my jottings.
A simple prompt from the first sheet, The Early Years: “What early memories do you have of your grandparents?” prompted me to write the following:
When I was in my late teens we moved closer to my father’s parents and I got to know and appreciate my grandmother, Hilda. She even lived with us for a time and if I had to describe her in a few words, they would be “one of the last of the grand old ladies”. She had grace, she had strength, and she had class.
Hilda was born in Toronto in 1891, and lived at “Ventnor”, on Avenue Road; from her home she watched Casa Loma being built.
She married my grandfather in 1913 … she told me once that she remembered running naked in the yard with my grandfather during a soft summer rain … not something you imagine of your grandparents, and certainly not in 1913.
My favourite anecdote about Granny took place while she was living with us when she was in her 80s. One evening’s chat turned to Grandpa who had passed away some seven or eight years earlier. She said he was buried in Grove Cemetery and that there was a spot for her there too. “Not beside him”, she said, “the plots are one on top of the other.” There was a delightful pause, and then she said, “It will be the first time I’ve ever been on top.” It took a moment for everyone in the room to react to that rejoinder.
Granny continued on, despite some severe blows, always grace under fire, with an inner strength I admired. At times I’ve thought that if I could have her strength that I would be OK. Hilda passed away just short of her 95th birthday. I always remember her with admiration, warmth … and a smile … a Grand Old Lady to that last.
If this prompts you to write something, I would love to read it – please leave me a link.