“When Memories Surface,” Ensign, Aug. 1983, 62
Have you delayed writing your personal history because you didn’t keep a diary in your early years? Take courage! After years of using this same excuse, I finally found a solution and have had a wonderful time reconstructing the past. Not only is my conscience relieved, but I have enjoyed reliving many long-forgotten experiences and have profited by reviewing others that were not so enjoyable.
Actually, my stumbling block was not a total lack of journals and diaries—only the first nineteen years of my life were undocumented. But since a personal history should begin at the beginning, how could I go about writing of that period in my life? My solution involved cutting up paper into three-by-five-inch scraps, and then, as memories of childhood surfaced, I wrote a few words about each on a piece of paper: “Sunday School in the basement of the old tabernacle”; “Tiffany light shade in grandma’s dining room”; “the $.15 broken window.”
For a while I carried pieces of paper with me so that memories could be jotted down before they were forgotten again; and I was careful to limit my jottings to only one item on each piece of paper.
When I felt that I had enough notes to begin writing, I arranged them roughly in chronological order, and my life story began to take shape. As I wrote, other memories flooded in and were quickly noted on scraps of paper. It was fun to remember people and things from forty years ago: a lesson in honesty when, at age five, I had broken a neighbor’s window; getting stuck part way through recitation of the Thirteenth Article of Faith in sacrament meeting at age ten; experiencing for the first time a spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of the gospel. And there were long-forgotten friends to be remembered—wherever could they be now?
This “card-indexing” of memories could cover as many years as needed. It is also profitable as a stock-taking exercise. When I dipped back into the formative years, besides remembering and savoring the sweet experiences, I reviewed episodes that I would not like to repeat, and resolved to be better than I had been in the past. On the whole, though, I determined that my record might be a source of both inspiration and instruction to my descendants. Robert J. McCue, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada