I’m giving you an opening line today:
In our house, Sunday dinner was always…
You can use this as a way into a piece of memoir. Mealtimes can be memorable and looking back at the routine (or otherwise) of a particular day in your formative years can give you plenty to write about.
Try recalling the food and the occasion using all your senses: touch, smell, sight, sound, taste. Write 1,000 words if you can, which is plenty of space in which to go into detail.
Think of the smell of a roast dinner cooking (or burning!), what is going on in the kitchen as you wait to be served (or to serve)? What about the taste of the vegetables you were forced to eat (over-boiled cabbage anyone?). What was the design on the plates? Can you remember what you talked about (were you even allowed to talk during a meal?). Were you involved in laying the table or washing up afterwards? Who else joined you for meals – name names and describe them, especially their funny little ways. There might be one particular meal that sticks in your mind because of something happening, a memorable incident.
If thoughts of childhood Sunday dinners don’t trigger enough memories, try using that line and turning it sideways: In our house, Sunday dinner was never a thing, it was Friday night I always looked forward to, chip shop chips and fish in batter for everyone… We’re still writing about childhood food, but from a different stance.
If you had a rotten childhood and memories of mealtimes are painful, writing about them can be cathartic. Thankfully, my childhood was uneventful so I don’t have to spend too much time digging up a past that was unpleasant and hurtful.
See if you can find some humour in what went on back when you were little. Some of the rituals and rules seem ridiculous in modern times. Side plates? Serviettes? Pastry forks? Grace?
One reason for writing memoir is to preserve memories of such things for future generations.
This might be a piece of writing you don’t seek wider publication for (although look out for memoir writing competitions, they do appear every now and then), but you may like to keep your memories as a record of social history for your friends and family to enjoy.
** Knowing 42 is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything (as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams explains in full), I began a Lockdown project of creating 42 days of writing prompts and exercises. When that finished, I let myself off coming up with a daily post and decided to go weekly instead. Now, every Wednesday afternoon at 5pm (Dublin time) I post a writing prompt and suggest a way in which you can use it to generate new writing. As always it is just for enjoyment, no pressure, no hassle, no worries and I will continue until I’ve had enough (or someone insists I stop).
You can let me know if you’re enjoying the prompts via email to louisegcolewriter(at)gmail(dot)com.