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If you’re like most people, having some examples of memoirs to read gets your mind thinking about the stories you want to tell. I’ll assume you’re here because you want to write your own memoir or at least are interested in reading other people’s stories.
So, I’ve included a few short memoir samples that hopefully will encourage you to start writing. With the advent of the computer it is now simple to write an online memoir or read the stories of others. But at some point it is nice to have a physical document to hold and read or share with our family and friends.
Since that is our ultimate goal, I’ve posted a few excerpts from my Grandmother’s memoir and also a piece from my memoir (it’s still in development.) I hope you enjoy reading these and maybe later you will share some of your stories with the rest of us.
From “Dessie’s Story: In Her Own Words”
My Grandmother was born in 1900 and lived 92 years. Even though she only had an 8th grade education she began writing her memoirs in her 80′s. She taught herself to type and finished them in 1992. Here are a few memoir samples from the finished manuscript. – Holly
- It was in 1899 when my brother Ode and youngest uncle, Ira, (who were the same age – 5 years) were in the woodlot either playing or trying to cut wood for the stove. Uncle Ira had the ax, and being cross-eyed, his aim was never sure. This time it was bad. He sunk the ax into the log where Ode was sitting on the log with his hand resting beside him. The ax-blade went right through the between the first finger and thumb, leaving the thumb hanging by some flesh and skin in the palm. Uncle Ira ran home and hid under the bed. Ode ran into the house where Sissie, 15 years old, was caring for the babies. She scooped a handful of soot from the chimney, applied it to the wound and stopped the blood flow. Ma, who was probably out working in the garden at the time, came in and they took the boy to Grandpa. The nearest doctor was in Hindman, 6 or 7 miles away. This situation called for immediate action so Grandpa did the surgery, sewing the thumb on with needle and thread, using some sort of sterilizing. Whatever he used, the thumb healed and grew along with the others, having 2 stiff joints, (which did not keep Ode out of service in World War I.) The soot ring showed under the skin like a tattoo, but only faintly.
Here is another memoir sample
- There were nine of us in our three-room cottage, Ma and eight children ranging in age from 4 to 20, Harlan being the oldest at home. Iota was next (always called Ode), then Corsa, Lucinda, Me, Virda, Ethel and Willard. Delta was born the first year that we lived there. (On entering the service, Iota renamed himself, choosing the name Cullen I. Combs for his service records.)
- All three rooms had fireplaces but we used only two. The one in the kitchen-dining room was not needed since we had a range. The other two were bedrooms. One had two full-sized beds and a trundle bed that fitted under one of the big beds. There was no room for dressers, but there were shelves for folded linens, towels, clothes and such.
- There were chairs or foot-stools for the family during winter fires. Usually there was a stoneware churn with milk to keep warm enough to sour the milk for buttermilk and butter. We had no special place to do our homework. We roasted potatoes in the hot coals, and popped corn or parched field corn (but that was better done on the range in a skillet). Ma occupied this room with the small children. The other room had two full-sized beds, boys in one, and girls in the other. I mostly slept in this room. We had pillow fights. I remember myself and Corsa sleeping together. We were somewhat crowded. There were no bathrooms; we used the barn for a ‘two-holer’ along with the livestock. Everybody had to go outside before going to bed.
And here’s a poem I wrote for her memoir…
88 Long Years
- How’d I get so old?
- My swollen feet like sacks of dough
- Knees creaking, but still
- The strawberries need planting.
- Lord, how’d I get so old?
- So today is my birthday
- 88 long years.
- I’m getting tired of it all
- And who’s waiting on me
- Not him, that’s for sure!
- Still chasing some old skirt
- Down the block.
- I suppose the kids will call though.
- He’ll take me out to eat,
- Probably at Denny’s again.
- Thank goodness it’s Friday night,
- Seafood Special – I love their hushpuppies.
- Lord, how’d I get so old?
- Momma lived to 104.
- How’d she do it? Better still –
- Why’d she do it?
- I guess I could make myself a cake.
- No, I’ll just get a chocolate one
- By Sara Lee.
- I really like those.
- How’d I get so old?
- Momma called me Dessie
- It sounds like a happy name,
- Where’d things go wrong?
- I don’t feel any older
- Thank when I was 40.
- Lord, how’d I get so old?
- - Holly Goldman (2004)
A Short sketch from My Memoir (in progress)
- Just after Christmas 1993 I finally reached my sister, Michele, by phone. She was in a hospital in Florida while I was with my husband and children in Washington State. We could hardly have been further apart and still been in the US. Michele tried to sound cheerful as she told me how she ended up in the hospital with kidney failure but I could hear a tremor of fear in her voice.
- “So what exactly does this mean?” I asked. “Can they fix it? How long does it take?” As she explained percentages of kidney function to me and how much was necessary to live, I interrupted and asked, “So will your kidneys get better?”
- She told me that kidneys don’t regenerate and the doctors said she would probably need to go on dialysis and one day might even have to get a kidney transplant.
- We were never close as sisters even though we shared a birthday. I’d been her second birthday present and we couldn’t have been more different than if we’d come from separate families. Our lives and lifestyles followed completely different paths and I didn’t really care for the way she lived. But it was her life and I didn’t spend much time or energy thinking about it.
- Always one to look for a solution, I said, “Well you can just have one of my kidneys.”
- “Really?” she said, a note of surprise creeping into her voice.
- “Sure, why not?” I answered, “I’ve got two good ones, as far as I know, and I only need one.”
- Not sure if I was joking or not she said, “I don’t think it’s that easy. I think I have to go on a list or something. We’ll have to see.”
- “Okay, just let me know.” I said, not exactly sure what I was offering. But what else could I say? She was my sister.
- I recalled that phone conversation as we lay side by side on the gurneys, looking groggily at each other. My husband held my hand as Mom hovered between us two girls, trying not to cry. I had too many drugs in me to worry about being afraid.
- As they started to wheel us into separate operating rooms, Michele said, “Thanks, I love you.”
- “I love you too,” I told her as we moved apart. I squeezed my husband’s hand, grinned goofily and said, “Let’s do it.”
- Prevailing knowledge says a kidney transplant is more difficult on the donor than the recipient. Donor recovery time is longer because the surgery to remove a kidney is more complicated than the surgery required to implant one.
- It was early June 1995 when we had the transplant. Michele and I were at Florida Hospital in Orlando and had separate rooms on separate halls. Within a day or so Michele was slowly hobbling down the halls to my room. It would be a few more days before I would be shuffling back to see her. Although she was up moving around before me, I left the hospital after five days while she had to stay behind for a few more.
- We convalesced together at my oldest sister’s place in Orlando. I think this time was hardest on her because she had not only two recovering sisters to look after, but my Mom, my husband and our two kids were staying at her house. This was in addition to her own husband and six children. I don’t know how she did it but she was a godsend to all of us.
I hope so! Now that you’ve read a few examples of memoirs, it’s time for you to start writing your own memoir samples. Whether it’s an online memoir or just something you jot down in a journal or computer document, it’s that easy to get started.