Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
” Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” - Thomas Merton
I just returned from my annual pilgrimage to Trenton, Missouri- my home away from home between 1986-1989. A story in itself. As a matter of fact, as of this writing, my work-in-progress memoir opens up in Trenton.
Trenton is a small town in the heartland of America; a collection of dear friends, colorful characters and fond memories. I stayed with John and Mary Sue who told me ” you’re not company” and I blended in with the rhythm of the place like I had never left it twenty-three years ago.
Stories are everywhere and this year was no exception. Besides reconnecting with dear friends around kitchen tables, walking trails and a quick trip to Jamesport to pick up pies from an Amish bakery, here are a few “memoir moments” that stand out:
I don’t really think of myself as the senior center type but I did qualify age-wise to put my $3.00 in the donation box and sit down to a home-cooked meal with a roomful of seniors. Mary Sue and I were on a mission to see our friend Nancy and we knew we’d find her there. Sure enough, we spotted her at a table with a lovely couple, Richard and Mary. Richard was a Korean War Veteran. After getting our hearty meatloaf and mashed potato meal, we settled in at the table and struck up a lively conversation about the “Greatest Generation” which immediately prompted me to think about two things- my own dear WWII Naval Veteran-Dad and Karen Fisher-Alaniz’s beautiful memoir, Breaking the Code: A Father’s Secret, A Daughter’s Journey and the Question That Changed Everything. Their eyes lit up when I told them about Karen’s book. I gave them the information but made a mental note to order it for them and mail it to them as a surprise. I was reminded that sharing our stories really does matter. Later in the week we ran into them at the small movie theater in town for “Last Ounce of Courage”, an independent film depicting patriotism and freedom.
Smalltown Bookstore (reminiscent of Jan Karon’s, The Mitford Series):
Sitting at Hardee’s for some morning coffee with my friend Denise, I heard about Maggie Bush. She and her husband Jim own and operate the local bookstore, Maggie’s Mess of Books and the small movie theater in town. I decided since I love bookstores, I must meet Maggie and experience her bookstore. I daydreamed about doing my own book signing someday. The store used to be a doctor’s office and was a maze of small rooms packed with new and used books. I browsed the musty stacks, bought “The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw and nestled into an upholstered corner chair to start reading it.
I had to wait for Maggie as she had gone to get a permanent. When she returned with a pink streak in her white curls, she told me it would make her day if someone would refer to her as “that crazy lady with the pink hair who hands out free popcorn at the movie theater keeps me going to the movies.” Maggie and Jim also own the movie theater. She believes “it’s not just the movie, it’s the experience.” She vowed to hand out tissues at the week’s showing of “Last Ounce of Courage.” Maggie told me her story of being a newspaper editor in New Jersey for 28 years and a Marine Combat Correspondent in the Vietnam War. She loves books and started by buying 200 books in North Carolina. Now she has 300-400 books shipped at a time. Currently, she has 26,000+ books and has a loyal assistant, Rene to help her. She is working on her own memoir of prejudice in the South from her childhood point of view. Every Friday at 9:35 AM she is interviewed about the bookstore and movie theater on KTTN, the local radio station. You go, Maggie!
The Magic of Online Connections:
After several years of following Linda K Thomas’ blog,Spiritual Memoirs 101 and reading her memoir,Grandma’s Letters From Africa, I had to pinch myself. We were able to arrange a meeting in the tiny, quaint town of Carrollton , Missouri. Pure joy! When we met at the Main Street Restaurant for lunch, I felt like I was reconnecting with a dear, longtime friend not meeting someone for the first time. Real people do exist behind the blogs, Facebook messages and tweets and they are every bit as warm and wonderful as they seem online. It really was magical, Linda and so wonderful to meet you in person!
There’s No Such Thing As A Stranger:
After Linda left, Mary Sue and I walked around the town square and ended up in Julia Goetting’s Antique Shop.
Julia was on her cell phone but as soon as she saw us, she told her caller,
“Gotta’ run. These two ladies got their check books out, ready to buy me out.”
Before we left, we knew Julia’s religious and political persuasions, how far she had walked to school as a child, how many children and grandchildren she had and that she was The Cornhusking Queen of Missouri in 2011. She never stopped smiling. Julia’s lovely paintings were displayed on every wall of the shop. I bought the musical score to “Mother’s Rosary of Love “by Leonard Wood and Eddie Dorr, 1919 which I will frame. The Rosary shows up in my memoir,too. I left feeling richer for all the connections.
Honoring the Roses-
Rose and I met at church many years ago and had maintained a close friendship through our faith and Italian heritage. Over the past several years, Mary Sue and I had started a tradition of cooking a traditional Italian meal of spaghetti and meatballs and inviting Rose for dinner. Rose died in February, two months before my Aunt Rose died, bringing a bittersweet tone to my annual visit. I miss both my Roses very much. This year we upheld the tradition and toasted the Roses, clinking our glasses of Cabernet and telling Rose stories.
Chillicothe, The Home of Sliced Bread and The Arts-
Passing through Chillicothe, another small town south of Trenton, I stopped to take a picture one of the murals -one of many-a local artist had painted in exquisite detail on a building on our way to the fantastic Grammy-nominated Dailey & Vincent Blue Grass Show at the Dickinson Fine Arts Center.
As a last hoorah, on Saturday morning I attended the North Central Missouri Writer’s Guild at the BoJo Cafe. I met several very interesting people, one of whom was a multi-talented Episcopal Pastor, William Bellais, an author of several novels, a poetry book and an artist of watercolor paintings. He brought his current work-in-progress manuscript for us to review. I could tell he was a professional writer by his use of dialogue and sensory detail. I asked him to critique one of my vignettes which I read from my iPad. He told me to add one more sense to the scene and it would be fine. It was wonderful to sit among a group of strangers and feel an immediate bond through our writing.
These are just a few highlights. There’s not enough time or space to include all the friends I reconnected with, shared memories with, laughed with. Precious moments.
Thanks for the moments and memories of good times and good people, Trenton. You are truly the “heartland” of America!
How about you? Do you have special memories of times and places that tug at your heartstrings? If you are a memoir writer, will these moments and memories end up in your memoir?
I’d love to hear from you. Please comments below~
Next Week: Memoir Author and Coach Linda Wisniewski will discuss “The Pen is Mighty: How to Be Brave While Writing Your Memoir.” Linda will give away a free copy of her memoir, Off Kilter to a commenter whose name will be selected in a random drawing.