One of my college writing classes started every morning with free-writing as a warm-up. The idea of free-writing is to put pencil to paper and write without stopping for three minutes—just let the words flow. I have no idea what I wrote most days, but once the subject was grandmothers—yours, the cliché, whatever. Mine had died recently. I didn’t want to deal with those feelings, so I started writing about my grandmother’s house.
Her house wasn’t large, but it was furnished nicely–like something you might see in a magazine, and, for some reason, that was held against her. Most of the family considered her an indulged wife, who supposedly spent my grandfather’s money as fast as he made it. Proof was that she dressed better than anyone else in the family, and her house was always “fancy.” At the time, I was feeling confused, because her furnishings looked ordinary, almost shabby in my mother’s house. Suddenly in the middle of writing, I realized my grandmother was not the spendthrift she was reputed to be; she was an artist—probably a frustrated one. She took ordinary furnishings and ordinary clothes and made them look good together. She had style. As a result of that free writing exercise, I’ve never thought of my grandmother the same way again.
Want to gather your family stories? Just start writing. Sometimes you’ll discover things you didn’t know you knew.