Let’s Start at the Very Beginning…A Very Good Place to Start

Perhaps the title sounds a bit familiar. The words form a phrase from the song, “Do Re Mifrom The Sound of Music
When thinking of ways to make my blog focus more memoir-centric, I kept going back to the beginning. My beginning. When I started out in this life.

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

It was 1946. February 10 the day. My parents had agreed on having no more children. Between them, there were already three–my mother’s son and my father’s two daughters–from previous marriages.

A short honeymoon in Chattanooga, TN, changed the course of their lives, and I entered the world a little over nine months later.

When I was born, my parents were living in an upstairs apartment on 17th Avenue South in Nashville, TN. Not a large space, the apartment became more crowded following my birth, or so I’m told. A view of the street, as it looks today, is seen here:

RCA Studio A
RCA Studio A

The address where my family lived is now home to the RCA Victor Recording Studios. The street was renamed Music Row as part of the entertainment district in Nashville. It looks quite different from the building housing my folks’ apartment.

Sometimes I jokingly tell people I was born on Music Row. If they put a recording studio on the site where you were living immediately after birth and rename the street, you aren’t to blame, are you? And it’s my story, right?

While living there, Mama stayed home with me and Daddy went off to work as a linotype operator. His apprenticeship for a newspaper in a small town south of Nashville seeded his ongoing love of printing and publishing.

Mama and me, 1946
Mama and me, 1946

I have no idea what life was really like in that apartment and among the three of us. But I want to believe it was a happy time. Here’s a photo of Mama and me when I was about six months old. It looks as though it might be in a nearby park in the area or on the campus of Vanderbilt University.

Now you know that I hail from Nashville. You know my birthdate which means you also know how old I am. And you know that the first house I lived in was torn down and replaced by a recording studio.

Memories, even bittersweet ones, are better than nothing.
~Jennifer L. Armentrout, Onyx 

These are my beginnings. As barefoot as I am in this photo, barefoot I would be every chance I got until I was much older. Wearing shoes is so un-Southern.

I hope to bring you more tales from Nashville as I move on with completing my memoir and begin the publishing journey.

What about you? Where were your beginnings? Is the first house you lived in still standing? Any memories you’d like to share? Join in below–I’d love to hear more about each of you.

Mother’s Day and My Memoir

Years ago I hated Mother’s Day.
The search for a card was the worst. A card that didn’t say: “Mom, you’re the greatest,” “I adore you, Mom,” “Mother, you’re the best ever!” And Hallmark had plenty more I ignored and didn’t buy until I felt guilty.

The verses and kudos didn’t fit the mother I had. In fact, sometimes I wished she were dead. Then I’d be free of the abuses, emotional and verbal. But I’m not in charge of life and death choices.

Despite my feelings, I always sent flowers and a vanilla card. How could I not? She was my mother. She breathed life into me. Yet she seemed to hate me. And I didn’t know why.

Years passed. Hurts continued. One day I learned I would move Mama to Oregon near my home to care for her. No longer mobile, she needed professional care. With the support of my husband, the move took place.

And with that move came changes. Changes in Mama. Changes we couldn’t believe. What happened? What caused her to change? I have the answers to the questions, but I’m saving them for my memoir.

What I can share with you is that I never imagined feeling sad on Mother’s Day because she isn’t here. She died 10 months after we moved her to Oregon.

This is the last photo taken of Mama just before we moved her in December 2000. With her are my nephew, Kevin, and a younger me.

I believe she died happily. I was the one unhappy when she died despite those earlier wishes.

I pondered all the years we’d spent defying one another, arguing, hurting and, yes, hating each other. Why? Another question I know the answer to now. But you’ll have to wait.

And you know something? There is a good side to my mother. I hope to do justice to that part of her story in my memoir. She deserves nothing less.

Via Google Images Via Google Images

A Day in the Life | Easter (Episode #2)

Welcome to the second installment in my A Day in the Life series of short creative nonfiction pieces drawn from days gone by. I hope you enjoy them.


Easter

One Easter Sunday stands out in my mind above all others. I was around age four. Dressing up was a highlight for me as it was for most little girls, especially around Easter.

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

Easter meant a visit from the Easter Bunny with baskets filled with eggs and jelly beans. It almost always meant new clothes and this particular Easter it meant a new pair of black patent leather Mary Janes. I was so proud and excited to wear them. I thought Sunday would never come.

Finally, Sunday came. Up early to check out what was left by the Easter Bunny, eat breakfast, brush our teeth, and then dress for church.

That’s when it all fell apart. I heard Mama and Daddy talking.

“She cannot wear those shoes. Can’t you see it snowed last night?”

Oh, no! Mama was telling Daddy I couldn’t wear my new shoes. If I hurried, I could get dressed and have my new shoes on before they finished arguing.

“Honey, the snow isn’t that deep.” Hurray for Daddy! But Mama was having none of it.

Finally Daddy saved the day. He told Mama if she felt it was too messy to wear the new shoes, he would carry me from the house to the car, from the car to the church, and reverse his plan when it was time to come home.

I’ll never forget wearing those shoes, but most importantly, I’ll never forget how important I felt when Daddy reached down with his long arms, picked me up, and carried me in his arms.

Do you have a special Easter memory from childhood or perhaps another stage of life? Perhaps you can use this as a prompt to write a short piece sometime over the next few days. If you’d like to share it here as a guest post, please contact me.

A Day in the Life | First Photographs (Episode #1)

A Day in the LifeFor some time the idea of writing creative nonfiction shorts as a way of looking back at my life has been niggling at me. A recyclable phrase for a title, one my readers would remember and hopefully flock to, took a while to conjure up. But I finally heard it the other day, and I introduce you to a randomized series of creative nonfiction shorts called A Day in the Life.
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First Photographs

An unexpected package arrived in the mail. A rather small, nondescript box addressed to me from my cousin in Tampa, Florida. As usual, I grabbed the mail, pulled further up the drive, and ran into the house to begin dinner.

The package kept calling to me. Once our evening meal was started, I unwrapped the box to see what surprises it held.

Under the exterior wrapping, I found a note. My cousin explained the box held some items she had recently found when going through her mother’s personal effects.

Nothing could prepare me for what I saw when I removed a layer of white tissue paper.

For the first time in my life, photographs of my father lay nestled among other items. I had never seen a photo of my father, other than ones taken after I was born. Continue reading “A Day in the Life | First Photographs (Episode #1)”