By the Wind Grieved

By the Wind Grieved
“O lost, And by the wind grieved, Ghost, Come back again.” Thomas Wolfe

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Veering Off the (Safe and) Beaten Path in Memoir

The author (on the right) about to undergo early fitness training.

Last week, I had such fun with Lisa Reiter's Bite Size Memoir, that I decided to do it again. I expected to take another pleasant stroll into the past, but this time the exercise prompted a deeper reflection of the process of writing memoir: to wit, the memories often veer off on a path you did not expect. And when they do, do you follow the wolf to Granny's house or do you stay on the safe and sunny path?

If you recall, Lisa's challenge is designed to help anyone record some personal memoir in small manageable bites. There’s a prompt every week and some constraints to keep it small (with full details on the page linked above). Essentially, you create your piece in 150 words, or in ten "I remember" statements. 

Last week I responded to the "Magic and Fairy" challenge with ten statements. This week, I am trying out the 150-word format on the theme of what in England is called "Sports Day" and in the US "Field Day."

Right away you have probably picked up from the photo I chose to illustrate this post that my path was indeed going to stray from the topic of sports. What do three rather glum little girls have to do with the organized melee of children's field days? Just this: it is my pictorial clue as to my main impetus to get fit. 

The photo must have been taken around 1959 or 1960. It shows my twin (on the left) and me (on the right) flanking our older sister, Peggy, in front of our home in Minnesota, some four or five years before the memory I am about to describe. Now take a look at the expression on Peggy's face. Imagine you are that girl's little sister. Now imagine Peggy five years older and five years bigger. Yikes!

Now, on to my...

Bite Size Memoir on Sports

I benefitted from the 1960s national outcry over Americans’ tendency towards couch-potato-hood and President Kennedy’s Council on Physical Fitness.

For periods of each year, my classmates and I were run through a gamut of field sports and calisthenics on the parched field of my parochial school in Phoenix Arizona. Although my eyesight was on par with a bat’s, and my glasses thick as Coke bottles, I was a colt of a girl and did well at the sprints, long jumps, and hurdles.

Still, it wasn’t Kennedy’s program that kept me fit; it was outrunning my older sister, a blue-eyed angel with ripe-rose lips and the heart of an imp. Indeed, she perfected an ingenious three-step torture on me: 1) the knock down; 2) the disarming straddle; and 3) the air-block, achieved by covering my mouth with one hand and pinching my nose with the other. 

What could I do but get fit with a vengeance?

I must finish here with a disclaimer and an apology to my sister for sharing this publicly. I would not do so unless her childish demagoguery were not common knowledge. And just so you do not chastise me for falling into victim mode, I will confess that I was hardly an angel myself (only our sister Patty could claim such status) and soon learned how to defend myself with long nails and butter knives (another story).

Bottom line for this post: Beware where your memories take you...then go there anyway.


  1. Now you have me pondering what prompt could possibly illicit the tales of long nails and butter knives! I'm dying to know, so all clues welcome!
    I'm glad to learn of "Field Day" in the US and delighted one thought had you quickly chasing another - for me, that's the magic in this. And I just LOVE this picture! Not many photographers tolerate anything but smiles and that gives a distorted record of our pasts. Thank you Jeanne!

  2. Pure associative wanderings were what led me to the long nails and butter knives, I'm afraid. My memories of field days were so slim, they carried me into the much richer realm of play, which I remember as having been rather wild and dangerous...completely unsupervised by adults an any rate.Thanks for commenting Lisa!

  3. That is hysterical, Jeanne! And where did you find the photo? LOL to all of it!!! --- Twink2

  4. Thanks Twink2. Fished the photo up from the deep past. Don't remember having seen it before. Goodness knows what preceded the moment the shutter clicked. I appreciate the comment!

  5. Ha, great story! Congrats to your sister for encouraging your physical fitness better than Kennedy ever could! ;)

    1. Thanks for visiting my blog and for commenting Lori. Checking our your blog and your short fiction now and look forward to reading more.