Thursday, February 25, 2010

Our First Published Memoir

The Hale Street Writers began with my mother, Idora: She was its first student memoirist, and the first to publish her writing. She began writing Wife and Mother years ago and set it aside one day intending to pick it up again when she felt inspired. Years passed. In 2008, I started bugging her about it. I thought a group would help motivate her. I was all set to start one at the Randolph Senior Center (where Mom often goes for lunch, for book discussions, and for her monthly pedicure), when the director of the center beat me to it. My mother and I signed up for Ann's workshop, which ended a few weeks later. By then, we had six writers who were hard at work on their life stories, so we kept on meeting without Ann.

A year later, my mother delivered Wife and Mother to our friend John Lutz, a printing wiz, who produced 50 copies that went flying out the door, generating in turn a collection of fan letters.

My father was a country doctor, and much of Mom's book is about the role she played in our community as the wife of Dr. Ransom Tucker. Dad was a visionary: His dream was to start a clinic that would serve the White River Valley, a rural community. The effort cost the entire family dearly—my father loved his patients and literally worked himself to death. He died of a heart attack on his way to work at the age of 59.

My mother's memoir is a special gift to me. When my father died, I was 17, a senior in high school. How well I remember receiving the terrible news. My mother and I were traveling, on our way to visit colleges in the midwest. A state trooper pulled us over somewhere in Ohio and told my mother to drive to the nearest rest stop and call home—this was way before the days of cell phones—and he escorted us down the highway to a roadside motel. Mom went inside while I waited in the car with my boyfriend. "I wonder what's going on?" I said to him. When my mother got back in the car she slid in behind the wheel, looked down at her lap, and said, "Daddy died." Then she lowered her head, put her gloved hand to her face, and cried a few silent tears before gathering me into her arms.

Her memoir recounts the early years of her marriage and draws to a close 30 years later. It gives me a portrait of my father that I cherish. I am still putting together a mosaic of Dad from the bits and pieces I gather from other people's memories. It is one of the things I love about being back in my home town after a 30-year absence. All around me are people who knew and loved him. I am so grateful to my mother for writing about him and sharing her memories with family and friends in the form of this wonderful book.

No comments: