What were you doing thirty years ago today?
Your first response to that question might be: I have no idea!
What if I changed the question and asked: what were you doing in 1982?
Asked that way, the question gives you a frame of reference with which to consider the time relative to other important dates in your life like the birth of a child, the death of a parent, starting a new job.
If I asked you to consider popular songs of the time: Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, Eye of the Tiger by Survivor, and Abracadabra by Steve Miller Band that might help you might have a sense of what was happening in your life at that time.
Perhaps if I mentioned that the Academy Award for best picture in 1982 went to Ghandi and the best actress was Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice you might remember something about the relationship you had with someone you saw the movie with.
If I told you some of the popular TV shows of the time were T. J. Hooker, Cagney & Lacey, and St. Elsewhere you might be able to picture yourself in your living room and find yourself remember times with family and friends.
What if I could tell you what the weather was like? For example on this day in 1982 in Kamloops, BC (where I lived at the time) it was cold–26 degrees Fahrenheit (or -3 Celsius but it hadn’t snowed yet.
As I was writing this post I used the tools on the internet like dMarie Time Capsule and Environment Canada to get a glimpse of this day thirty years ago. It took me no more than fifteen minutes to be transported back in time to that little house on Holt Street.
Laurinda was four-years-old and attended preschool three afternoons a week; her teacher’s name was Mrs. Linnell. Michael was two and used to call me ma instead of mom or mommy; his favorite Sesame Street character was The Count. It was the last October that both of my parents were alive.
I can picture myself making supper in my kitchen with yellow gingham curtains, peeling orange and yellow wallpaper, and a tiny white stove. I remember spending evenings writing stories and poetry on a clunky old typewriter my dad had given me; I can see the yellow newsprint and almost hear the ding when I’m at the edge of the page and reached up and flick the silver carriage return lever. I had a sense of what I wanted for my life but no idea of how to get it.
Memoir writers use tools like this to take them back to a particular time and place. Giving thought to what was happening around us can help us remember details. After reading Two Hearts many people remarked about the level of detail I included and wondered how I could remember so much about events that happened such a long time ago. These were just a couple of tools I used that helped me.
Now it’s your turn. What was happening in your life thirty years ago?