One of the blessings of my life is that I usually sleep well at night—and frequently in the daytime too. But last night about three o’clock, I woke and then my busy mind kept me from falling back to sleep. I’ve been known to write great fiction at such times, but the story line either disappears or falls apart when I try to reconstruct it in the morning. Last night I wanted to remember everything.
For years I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a memoir, but I never could wrap my mind around it. The closest I came was my first cookbook, Cooking My Way through Life with Kids and Books. I divided my life into four cooking phases, although now I’d add a fifth. But ten years ago, the phases were childhood in Chicago with a British menu of meat and potatoes, Texas and two new foods—Mexican and Jewish, the casserole years when I raised four children as a single parent with little money to spare, and the years of the empty nest, when cooking really became prominent in my life as I experimented and entertained often. Today I’d add the years of the hot plate, because as most know, I cook on a hot plate or in a toaster oven these days. But that really was a book about food, not my life.
I’m not convinced my life is interesting enough to recount, though others seem to think it is, with raising those four children alone as the central adventure. And maybe it was interesting, and I just didn’t recognize it as I lived it day to day. There were of course gray days but there were many more filled with laughter and even silliness. Warm memories.
I’m in a small, close-knit online writers’ group where the women mostly write memoir, and one thing I’ve noticed is that most memoirs deal with overcoming a serious problem—frequently addiction or the addiction of a child. We have one woman writing about losing her husband too early to a brain tumor, and another whose ex-husband stole her children. I look forward to those books, both of which are headed to print. But my life pales in comparison. I just haven’t had any big major problems.
So last night I hit on an idea: My Life with Dogs. For too long I lay awake, creating a list in order of the dogs who have meant something in my life. I came up with close to twenty—a pretty good record for eighty years. Oops, I just thought of one more and added him to the list, a dog I had less than a month but one I will never forget. And then I had to memorize the list, so it didn’t get away from me in the morning. That of course might well end up a book more about dogs than me, but it’s worth exploring.
My mind progressed to blog topics and came up with two—you’re reading one now, and the Lord willing you’ll read the second tomorrow night. There was a list of emails I should make today, and again I had to memorize it so that it didn’t get away from me. I am pleased to report that I have committed the list of dogs to a computer file, put the blog topics on my calendar, and sent the emails.
All of this deep thinking took until well after four, but I have a trick for those rare nights when sleep eludes me. I get up and go to the bathroom, whether I need to or not, come back and take two Tylenol. That somehow seems to break the cycle of sleeplessness. True enough, this morning it was 6:40 before I knew it and then I only knew it because Sophie wanted to go out. I got her safely back in the cottage, and next thing I knew it was 8:15—more than time to get up and write down all my three o’clock thoughts.
Excuse me—I think I’ll go take a nap.