A few years ago I began to go through old pictures given to me by my Grandmother Elizabeth Klimek and by her eldest daughter, my Aunt Eva Mapes. One picture at a time I took from bags or boxes and pondered, smiling or weeping but always remembering. Then I wrote the story of the person or place depicted. In the writing I let myself enter the little girl Mary Jane's experience as a three, four, or five year old--those flashes of memory that seem permanently sealed upon my heart and mind. Woven among those episodes and images the now much older writer in me, Christin, followed their trail to where it faded into forgetfulness or was lost altogether. The crumbling of houses and landscapes. Development of something new. Death of the old and then the death of those who remembered them.
At first I recorded these stories and descriptions in another blog by the same name as the book. Then as I kept getting older and saw my grand nieces and nephew being born and already older than I was when I experienced this life and land, I began to think it needed to be a book that the Klimek and Lore families could hold in their hands. And then I thought of the place, Baudette, Minnesota and Lake of the Woods County for which these stories are part of history. And then I thought of old people I've known all my life--how they enjoyed telling the stories of their past.
When my grandmother told me stories I enjoyed it and could see that she enjoyed it, too. But what I have experienced now that I didn't appreciate as a child is the absolute pleasure of storytelling, especially for the elders among us. The joy is this: we return in memory to places and people that no longer can be found anywhere on earth. Every time the story is repeated we find ourselves in that place among that company. That entire world is resurrected in our minds. What could be more glorious than realizing that even in the sad stories, the painful ones, being there again is good. My Aunt Edith from the Lore family told me many stories about my Grandma Klimek from years before I existed. When Edith was a teenager she worked at the resort and my grandmother was her boss. And every time Edith told the story while I visited her (over and over and over) her characterization of Grandma differed just a bit. It was growing. She actually was redeeming my grandmother as she re-imagined the story. She also was redeeming her perspective on that time of her own life when she saw the content of an experience far more and more clearly than its context. She became more compassionate as the story of my grandmother and her boss developed. And every single time she insisted on her memory's accuracy and that her story was absolutely true.
It is the task of age to integrate the person's entire life. A memoir unlike autobiography gathers together the truths stored in the heart more keenly than in the mind. It is a compassionate view of life. We attempt to get the facts right, but ultimately that isn't the goal. A memoir records a person's attempt to bring wholeness to memories from a limited time of life. And while it doesn't deny the wounds inflicted by all sorts of violence, a memoir searches into even the most painful time until it can lean towards understanding and compassion.
The book is available for purchase on Amazon.com, only in paperback. It is full of pictures as well as stories which made a Kindle ebook a bit beyond my skills.