Today’s memoir writing lesson from Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away:
In this exercise, Goldberg asks us to respond to several prompts. They are derived from the “I remember” prompt, but are more specific. I will choose a couple to publish here.
Give me a memory of the color red. Don’t use the word “red” at all.
In high school I had a pair of floral hot pants that were designed with an overall-style bib front and straps that crossed in the back. The yellow daisies bloomed against a background the shade of a chili pepper. I’d bought them while shopping with my best friend who went to the high school across town. My high school was far more preppy than hers, so when I walked through the halls in fake patent leather knee-high lace-up boots, a yellow T-shirt, and those shorts, my face and throat flamed with a rosy-hued rash. It didn’t matter that my outfit was the height of fashion on TV–it didn’t fit at my school. I felt as if everyone was looking at me and when I would look at individuals who quickly looked away, I realized I was not being paranoid. I wished I were that little birthday girl in her chiffon dress–the one with the pink top and a skirt decorated with twin-stemmed cherries. In the shorts I felt like a girl with that well-known letter on her chest.
Tell me about a time you remember rain. Rain does not have to be the main focus.
While walking in the rain, I tend to look down at my feet. As a kid, the sidewalks on my street were uneven and sometimes damaged, so water would puddle easily both on and off the sidewalk. The brown water seeped over my Buster Browns and onto my socks when I made a misstep. Even worse were the worms and nightcrawlers that had come out of their undergrown homes to find death on the sidewalk. I remember walking home from Mrs. Blair’s house (my next door neighbor babysitter), and the time it took to walk down her driveway, up the sidewalk, and up my driveway in the rain amidst the dying worms (that smelled . . . wormy) seemed interminable. In some tiny part of my brain I am always walking that worm gauntlet between babysitter and home.
Go ahead and try it. Start here: Give me a memory of the color red.
Lily Lane (my grandcat and smartest cat in the world)