Those of you who’ve been coming around here for a while will have realized by now there’s a lot of looking back in this blog. It’s certainly not all backward glances yet, thank you. But when one reaches these golden/twilight/over-the-hill [choose one] years I seem to have arrived at despite best efforts to stall, delay, color my hair, and otherwise try to put off the “getting old” for which the blog is named — there seems to be less blogworthy stuff in the day-to-day compared to that rich lode of times gone by with which to fertilize posts and memoirs, and perhaps even interesting pieces of stand-alone writing.
But (you may ask) why do I sometimes write about what I remember in the first person, as if we were having a conversation, only in slightly more “proper” language than I’d probably use if we were just hanging out — and sometimes write about a girl or young woman called Anna or Molly or Sophie? Some newcomers who have stumbled on the recent set of eight Anna posts and then looked me up have conflated my age with the dates of these stories and quite sensibly concluded in their comments that what I write about Anna is “sharing” or memoir or personal history.
Well, yes and no. Clearly, Anna (and Molly and Sophie) lived when and where I lived, and had similar parents and similar experiences and feelings. But when I put all that in the third person I am trying to do something other than tell you what I remember. Disassociating myself from what I may recall happened to “me” and considering the girl and young woman I was as someone other than me — in other words, putting her in the third person — permits me to write something that’s not really just my personal history, as told to you and you and you, but to paint on a larger canvas and hopefully to suggest something about the times this female person was born into and lived in, the societal expectations for girls and women then in place, the people in her life that she herself would have been unable to understand at the time but who may have had their own problems and concerns and blind spots that would necessarily influence and shape the young woman she would grow up to be.
For example, each of the eight Anna pieces posted just before this one (and the four about Anna posted previously as “from a novella in progress” — as well as the ones not yet written) are intended to comprise part of a narrative of sequentially arranged snapshots of the life of a particular family in mid-twentieth century New York as seen by the only child. Its tentative title, if it ever gets finished, is “Anna’s Version” — meaning there might have been other ways of telling this story.
The father, for instance, would likely have had an entirely different version of the same events, if he had ever had time to sit down at his Royal typewriter to tell it, including an account of matters about which Anna at the time knew nothing. The mother’s story would have been a third version (although since she was afraid to learn to type and apparently had no close friends, I’m not sure who she could have told it to). A family therapist — if consulting one was an idea that could ever have crossed the minds of these parents — would undoubtedly have given us a fourth, far more objective, version.
But I hope I have been writing from Anna’s viewpoint with enough implied clues as to what may have made these naturalized parents from another culture the way Anna perceives them, so that it eventually will become a view of what we all do to each other without meaning to — as well as Anna’s story.
Well, enough of that. These possibly overly clinical distinctions may derive from too many years of shrinkage. (Or perhaps too many years of trial lawyering: “Is it your testimony, Ms. ___, that so and so really did this that or the other thing on such and such a date?”) Now that we’ve cleared up once and for all what I was aiming at (hah!), go ahead and read whatever you find here any way you like. There’s also plenty of just self-referential me me me rummaging through a basement of memories in these posts to satisfy the most insatiable appetites for “sharing.”
Be my guest. Enjoy.