Thursday, March 15, 2007

My story

I sat in on one of my wife's lectures on memoir writing at a local bookstore recently, and participated in the exercises she concocted for the attendees. Here is "my story":

I crossed the threshold into the viewing parlor of the Giove Funeral Home in Selden, New York. It was a steamy July day in 1986, a year that was pregnant with change.

The parlor was filled with broad-bodied, black-clad Italians, sniffling and weeping the mascara off their eyelashes. But even before the sight of mourning struck me, though, I was invaded by the smell of it -- the sickly florid perfume funeral homes employ to mask the stench of chemicals.

What happened to me after the scent grabbed me can only be described in a series of staccato memories: Walking up to the casket, seeing my great-grandmother embalmed and tugged from within, feeling woozy, sobbing and crying, and finally my mother asking my aunt to get me out of there.

When linear memory returned, I'm sitting with my brother watching Oliver North take the stand on daytime TV in the Iran-Contra hearings.

I don't know who was feeling worse -- me, or Ollie.