Whew! The fever of Theo’s Big Memoir Giveaway is behind us. Now, back to me, how I became me, what it’s like to be me. Just kidding. But I do want to resume the how-i-came-to-write-memoir story.
Before the contest started, I wrote in the post “It Started Like This” about the influences of the 70’s: annie hall, the happy hooker, go ask alice, erma bombeck. Wait, I might not have mentioned The Erm, but I should’ve. Such a flippin’ front runner, Erma was writing about her domestic life when no one wanted to know what a stay-at-home mom did. Like, please, who cares? And, girlfriend got PAID to do that. A million dollar advance in 1978 for If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, Why am I in the Pits?—yowser!.
But, I realized the other night I’d left something out about the 70’s: girl singers. I went to a Mary Chapin Carpenter/Shawn Colvin concert this week (outdoors at the Woodland Park Zoo here in Seattle, pretty cool). When MCC was talking about how she became a songwriter after college, I had a Joni Mitchell flashback. I was 14, and frankly nearly failing school and crushingly bored studying All Quiet on the Western Fucking Front and Bridge Over the Fucking River Kwai. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was never assigned a book by a female author in 5 years of high school (canada, that’s why the five years, in case yr wondering) and I don’t think any books were assigned that even had a female protagonist. Anyhow, that summer I had this babysitting job where there was very little to do except comb through their Jethro Tull-laden record collection. It was there that I first spied its muted beige cover with a cryptic watercolor design in the center: Court and Spark.
Over the next few weeks (these people went out a lot and i guess the kid slept a lot), I poured over these lyrics. “Sitting in a park in Paris, France, reading the news and it sure is bad. They won’t give a peace a chance. It was just a dream some of us had” and “He makes friends easy. He’s not like me” and “I’m sitting here waiting for my Sugar to show. He said he’d be here hours ago.”
Dear God, what had I stumbled upon? This woman is clearly speaking about her own ordinary but extraordinary life. Can this be done? By the end of the summer, I’d memorized the whole album. I could still sing it verbatim today, except my kids would probably kill me.
But the point is…I’d spotted a beacon. Maybe I hadn’t found any books that soothed me(bookshelves at home, btw, stuffed with Ann Rand,outdated World Books, some weird precursors to The Celestine Prophesy and back issues of Alfred Hitchcock magazine). Later, there’d be plenty of books to read, not to mention Joan Armatrading and Lauren Hill albums to listen to. But for now, I’d found something to read that quenched my reader thirst.