How To Hold On To A Memory


By Pat Chatlin, Special to the Independent


Blossoms will run away,

Cakes reign but a day,

But Memory like Melody

Is pink eternally.            ……Emily Dickinson



Now’s my chance to collect precious memories from my life while I can still remember, I smiled as I signed up for Berteil Mahoney’s Memoir Writing Class at the Susi Q.  How easy– just a pen and paper, no special gear to lug around.  The only part of my body I have to work on is my brain.  Little did I know what a life-changing exercise capturing memory fragments on paper would be.

Writing about the past is like exploring an archaeological dig; uncovering layers of time, grasping for broken chards and building new connections with the benefit of wisdom and experience.

There I sat at my computer working on my third draft about a trip to Greece laughing out loud or recalling a Vietnam veteran I met long ago with a tear rolling down my cheek.  The very act of writing awakened my napping mind.  New questions popped up:  Why did I do that?  How much should I tell?  What if?  With the support of a nurturing teacher and my fellow-writers in class, I dug deeper and deeper into the interiors of my mind: trying to make sense of some of my choices, proud of others.

Nothing renews a friendship or opens new lines of communications with a relative faster than jotting a note on a Christmas card to inform the person that he/she is in chapter seven of your memoirs. You find yourself talking to people  whom you hadn’t talked to in years, feeling exhilarated trying to fill in each other’s blanks.  Revisiting the past is one of the best trips you will ever take. However, creating a legacy of family history to pass down is better than that porcelain pot you made in ceramics class.  The one you know will end up in a garage sale someday.


The author, Pat Chatlin, lives in Laguna Beach and participates in a Memoir Writing class here at the Susi Q taught by Berteil Mahoney.  Berteil’s next Introduction to Memoir Writing class begins October 10.  Visit

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