Posts tagged ‘personal history’
June 9, 2016
In my last post, I took exception to an article blaming British baby boomers for their children forsaking gardening. I still stand by my point that each generation is different from every other generation, but I also note that certain interests and talents are passed along. A case in point: the pleasure I get from taking care of the garden I certainly got from my father.
When I was a young girl, my father spent his free time in the backyard planting and weeding. He grew beautiful roses and peonies, placing cucumbers among the flowers, so they would not be noticeable. He cultivated tomatoes on the far side of the detached garage, frequently checking on them, as they turned from green to red and ripe.
I recently went back to the family history my husband and I had written for my parents’ anniversary to see what we had said about my father’s favorite pursuit. My mother remembered that he “spent from early spring to late fall out in the yard blissfully gardening.” I recollected a few incidents, including one spring, long after I had left home, when he had discovered that a migrating bird had laid her eggs in one of his larger flower pots. What could he do, despite his lack of patience, but wait for the ducklings to hatch and fly the coop? My dad, a hardworking businessman, never mentioned his outdoor activities at all.
Do you spend your time in the garden? Do you have a favorite flower? What about your parents? Why not write about it? As English author P.G. Wodehouse remarked, “Flowers are happy things.” And they bring back wonderful memories.
© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved
May 26, 2016
A recent article from The Times, a British daily newspaper, deplores the state of the English garden. It seems that younger generations have never learned the joy of weeding and planting. Their gardens, if a patio or barbeque pit hasn’t replaced them, are neglected. A spokesperson for the Royal Horticultural Society is quite concerned about the situation, as well she should be.
English gardens have a long and illustrious tradition. Landscape gardens, designed to represent an idyllic pastoral environment, date back to the early eighteenth century. They incorporate rolling hills, green grass, possibly a lake, and a scattering of classic structures, such as bridges and sculpture.
Cottage gardens, hosting vegetables and herbs, as well as flowers and perhaps a beehive and some livestock, originated even earlier, dating from Elizabethan times. Over the centuries they became more decorative than practical, informal rather than structured, and populated the countryside. Roses tied to wooden trellises were a common sight. Honeysuckle added its sweet scent to the mix.
Why are English gardens dying out? One explanation is that renters, rather than owners, don’t invest in the property where they reside, and there are a lot of renters these days. Another explanation put forth in the article from The Times lays the blame squarely on baby boomers for their failure to teach their children, now in their twenties, thirties, and forties, to nurture nature. “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade,” wrote Rudyard Kipling.
Still, why blame baby boomers, if a drive in the country isn’t what it used to be? I maintain that each generation, shaped by the social, cultural, and political events that occur in its lifetime. is different from every other generation. We shouldn’t forget what made us who we are, but the past shouldn’t dictate who we become.
© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved
April 8, 2016
Charles de Lint writes novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, and lyrics. He has a distinctive style, incorporating American and European folklore into his urban fantasies. I want to thank Chris White at Routine Matters for inspiring us with this great quote.
March 9, 2016
I’m looking ahead. We’re now into March, and April showers (we hope, here in Southern California) will soon be here. There are lots of things to celebrate this time of year.
For example, April is National Humor Month. Seriously. It’s also Stress Awareness Month. That’s perfect, isn’t it, as laughter can help relieve what ails you. Just don’t let anyone make a fool of you on the first.
During the month there are special days to honor school librarians, Girl Scout leaders, and barbershop quartets. There is an entire week for administrative assistants.
We also recognize some of our favorite foods, including peanut butter and jelly, jelly beans, pretzels, prime rib, and shrimp scampi.
May is Personal History Awareness Month, a personal favorite of mine. So you have some time to think about what makes a day, a week, a month special to you. Then write about it!
© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved
February 2, 2016
Is it too soon to look back at the Eighties? I don’t think so. It was an interesting time, a period of ups and downs and ins and outs through thick and thin. And we survived. How did you survive? Why not write about it?
- Off to a good start. Minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President on January 20, 1981, Iran released the fifty-two Americans who had been held hostage for 444 days.
- But there was a recession. With the Federal Reserve tightening money to curb inflation, which had peaked in April 1980 at 14.76%, the U.S. recession began in July 1981. Unemployment was 7.6%, rising to 9.7% before the recession ended the following year. Still, we made money. The Dow Jones Industrial average began the decade at 838.74 and ended at 2,753.20, coming out way ahead of Black Monday in 1987, when the market lost 22.6% of its value, falling 508 points to 1,738.74.
- Dirty little secrets always come out. The decade had its share of scandals. The Iran-Contra affair reeled the Reagan Administration. The Gary Hart/Donna Rice affair shook politics. The ban of Pete Rose from baseball hit the sports world hard. Milli Vanilli’s lip synching rocked music fans. Coca Cola kept secret its recipe for the syrup that is the basis for its soda, but deigned to change it to “the new taste in Coke.” It fell flat. Pepsi had its own calamity when Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire while filming a Pepsi commercial.
- Moonwalk to the music. Of all the music videos we watched on MTV, and there were a lot of them from our favorite musicians, Michael Jackson moonwalking to “Billie Jean” from his Thriller album got into our heads. From the same album Jackson danced to “Beat It” and “Thriller.” The zombie sequence from the later has been reenacted from Times Square to Hollywood and Highland. We learned Jackson’s moves and recited his words, so we’d always be in step. While Frank Sinatra wore a hat with style, no one did more for a black fedora — or one white glove — than Michael Jackson.
- More stations, more of the time. We watched a lot of television in the Eighties, and not just MTV on cable. Dallas was the first of the primetime soap operas, spawning Knots Landing, Dynasty, and Falcon Crest – I watched them all. In the fall of 1980, the resolution of the Dallas cliffhanger that had ended the third season generated 83 million viewers, more than the number of voters in that year’s presidential election. Just about everyone wanted to know who shot J.R.
- Talk a little. Talk a lot. In 1987, the National Association of Broadcasters bestowed the Peabody Award on Johnny Carson in honor of his 25th anniversary hosting The Tonight Show. Joan Rivers, David Letterman, and Jay Leno were favored guest hosts, going on to their own late night talk shows. Meanwhile, Oprah Winfrey’s show went into national syndication in 1986 and soared in the ratings during daytime.
- Tennis, everyone? It didn’t matter if baseliners were playing serve-and-vollyers on hard court, clay court, or grass court. We loved rooting for our favorite tennis player of the decade, of which there were many greats of the game, as they came out swinging, taking on their rivals, wooing crowds, and becoming household names. Leading the men, there was Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Ivan Lendl. The women were just as popular and included Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, and Steffi Graf. And then along came Monica Seles.
- Here come the brides. A lot of famous couples got married in the Eighties. Some of them are still together, including Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan. Others didn’t make it, such as Madonna and Sea Penn, Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. And then there was Prince Charles and Diane Spencer. An estimated global television audience of 750 million watched their 1981 fairytale wedding. Yet for sheer spectacle, nothing was more remarkable than the mass wedding conducted by the Reverend Rev Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church. The gathering of 2,075 couples, brides and grooms dressed in identical outfits at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1982, was a sight to behold. Moon matched the couples himself, often pairing differing races and nationalities, in his belief that all of humanity should be united. A church spokesman puts the divorce rate for the blessed at a mere 25%, which, if true, is better than the national average.
- Women first. The Eighties saw a number of firsts for women. Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court. Sally Ride was the first American woman in space. Geraldine Ferraro, as Walter Mondale’s running mate, was the first woman on a national ticket. Aretha Franklin was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- The walls come crumbling down. “Tear down this wall,” President Reagan pronounced in 1987. And two years later the Berlin wall came down. Back at home, unemployment was at 5.3%, and inflation, too, had decreased dramatically, falling to 4.65%. And we cheered.
© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved
February 25, 2015
Upon joining the Association of Personal Historians, a growing organization of professionals committed to helping anyone who wants to preserve their life and family stories, I thought I’d check out some of the recommended resources on memoir writing to hone my craft. I started with Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away.
Goldberg is a poet, an author, and a writing teacher. She inspires and encourages writing, in general, and writing memoirs, more specifically, with beautiful language, thoughtful advice, and practical exercises. But she’s also a disciplinarian, a stickler for details. She won’t accept excuses, although she’d be pleased if you wrote about them.
Goldberg rounds up the usual subjects that you can cover in a memoir – grade school, driving lessons, favorite holidays, and places called home. And then there’s the unusual – your mother’s shoes, your father’s dresser, your brother’s bicycle. Regardless, her exercises always have a point: she wants you to get in the practice of writing. As she observes, “There are no prescriptions in writing, no one way that will get you there forever. A little jig, a waltz, the cha cha, the lindy, a polka – it’s good to know a lot of moves, so when it’s your time, which is right now, you can dance your ass off.”
If you’re writing a life history, Goldberg also wants you to get in the routine of remembering. “Memory doesn’t work so directly,” she advises. “You need to wake up different angles.” Often her directive following her ruminations on a topic is: “Go. Ten minutes.” On this particular subject it’s to spend time on the phrase “I remember.”
As imaginative as some of Goldberg’s suggestions are, not everyone will willingly go where she leads. Clients might not feel like jotting down their thoughts about sex or money. Thinking about “the road not taken” or describing a winter funeral once attended might be deemed counterproductive to the task at hand. However, her sentiments are heart-felt and wise.
I recommend Old Friend From Far Away to anyone who wants to step through the looking glass into a seemingly distant world. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, especially if you practice.
© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved