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A-Z Challenge: R is for…

Reunions for Reflective Research

What research do we have to do for a memoir? Isn’t it just something we write from memory?

Well, not exactly. We may have to research historical information to make sure it fits our narrative. We may have to research the lives of our parents or other family members.

And we may need to research just to jog our memories. Maybe others can remind us of long-forgotten events. What better place is there to do that than at a reunion, where participants naturally reflect on their common past?

Apparently I’m going to a school reunion in August. After struggling with the question of whether to go, I do seem to be headed in that direction. (I’ve attended two previous school reunions, and they weren’t easy, despite the fact that all the women were very pleasant.)

Now I have to answer another question. Do I want to ask people to relate everything they remember about me for the purpose of my memoir?

I think the answer is yes, but I’m still a bit worried. Is there anything they might say that I don’t want to hear? I don’t think there is. I certainly can’t think of anything specific. But I’m not sure.

What would you do?

Note: I love to read your comments, especially when they’re attached to the right post. Please remember the Comment link is at the top of this post.

By Miriam Drori

Author, editor, attempter of this thing called life.

13 replies on “A-Z Challenge: R is for…”

I would say, yes, bite the bullet and ask them because this could be a very useful source of information. I know it’s not easy though, and I’m a fine one to say this as I never found the courage to go to any of my school reunions, being so unhappy at the last school I attended from aged 13-15. I’m still in touch with one friend who knew me from that school. She confirms some of my memories, but she was not in the same class as I was where my shyness/social anxiety became an enormous problem for me. Fortunately, I do have detailed diaries of that period, but of course my diaries are bound to be all from my own perspective.

Good memory jogs for me were diaries, journals, photographs, letters, the memories of old friends and, later, I got hold of my medical case notes. Memory is inevitably fallible but I found my memories tallied very well with what I later dug up from external material. I am fortunate enough to still be in contact with the two main friends who knew me best at most of the time I was writing about. I also met via Friends Reunited four childhood and school friends (not from my last school) I hadn’t seen for years and they, too, confirmed some of my memories.

Thanks, Jean. I hardly have any diaries, journals, photographs or letters. I do have my school reports, which say a lot. But I could probably find out much more by asking at the reunion.

I don’t think I could do this either. However I think you need to be cautious about their memories. Will they be honest with you? Will they actually remember things or will they have a put the gloss of time on what happened? My sister and I sometimes talk about things that happened when we were children but of which we have completely different recall. She might not have registered things that were important/worrying to me and vice versa

I’m a sucker for reunions and talking about the past. However, I have a very good memory (not for what I did yesterday) of those days. My memories are only of what I was involved so it would be good to find out what else was out there at the time.
Yu have just reminded me to get a pedicure as I will be wearing sandals in Israel, whereas here we have hardly taken our boots and vests off!

I think I would just let the memories flow naturally at the reunion but take your friend’s emails, either from them or the organiser and when you get home contact them and ask them specific questions.
It will give them a chance to think before they answer and it might be easier for them answer truthfully when you’re not face to face.

I probably wouldn’t start with saying I’m writing a memoir to folks. We typically start editing ourselves if we think we’re going to be quoted or part of a story. Gotta look good right. I say just go and talk with friends and acquaintances and let the memories flow (with some directed questioning as needed). You never know what you’ll get. At one of my earlier reunions, a guy who became a good friend later, told me something very cool about myself that still tickles my heart.
Don’t be a Hippie
Take 25 to Hollister

That’s an interesting idea, although I hadn’t really thought of quoting anyone, and if they’re part of the story, they could always have a name change.

I would go, but as others have said, not mention the memoir to begin with. I’d just chat about schooldays and see what comes up when people talk about their memories. If you feel comfortable enough to mention it later during a conversation with someone then do, but be prepared for a lot of questions – what’s it about? Why are you writing it? etc., and whatever that might bring up. If you’re not sure about having those conversations at the reunion perhaps take emails as Ann suggests so that you too, have time to consider your responses to these questions as they come up.

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