notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Stuck

I have finished the first draft of my new novel. Yea for me!

It is off at the editor’s and now I am stuck.

Stuck between that story and whatever come next.

Because I can’t quite shake that story. I’m still in there.

The story is set in 1968 and the main character is a junior in high school. Which is an amazing coincidence, since I just happened to be a junior in high school in 1968. The story isn’t about me though, except that the kid is funny and smart and oh-so-ready to trade the Funny and Smart for a little dose of Pretty.

And like me, my protaganist is stuck. Stuck between wanting to fit in and wanting to stand out. Wanting to be like everyone else and wanting to be unique.

I think I am stuck there still. Maybe everyone is – throughout their lives.

Writing about high school more than 50 years later is an amazing experience.

Because it all returns. It’s not coming out of the mist. It’s tangible. It’s yesterday. I’m there.

I remember the corridors and the sounds that lockers make when they slam. I remember the smell of the heavy curtains in the auditorium, the worn spots in the middle of every step in the staircase. The display cabinets of trophies, the scratchy PA systems.

I remember every outfit I ever wore, and which ones were my favorites. I even remember specific outfits my friends wore. I remember my friends’ shoes. I remember the emphatic gestures of my French teacher. I remember everyone closing their books thirty seconds before the bell rang. I remember who sat with who at which table in the lunchroom. I remember hall passes and study halls, and pop quizzes.

And love and almost love and crushes.

And now that I have spent months writing about it all, I’m stuck there.

It makes me wonder about memory in general. My memories are so vivid, but does that make them true?

I have some friends from back then who are still my friends. One in particular spoke recently about a high school memory. It was a memory of ME. But the weird thing is that I didn’t remember the incident at all. How in the world can a memory of me exist apart from me? It’s like I’m starring in someone else’s movie.

But there’s no way I can tell my friend, No that didn’t happen, when her memory is as strong as mine is nonexistent.

Now why would that one little incident leave such an indelible print on her and didn’t take up even one cell of my own brain? I believe the answer must be based on what any experience means to you. So then, this little moment meant something to her, and not to me.

But then again, she doesn’t even know what it meant. Because it only meant something to her at the time, when the memory was made; not now. She doesn’t remember the why of it, only the what.

And here’s another crazy piece: Now, just a week or so after the conversation of the memory/memory lapse – I can’t even remember what the incident was. What were we even talking about, and what was this memory that she shared? It’s gone. All I remember now is being surprised that I couldn’t recall that moment. And now I can’t recall THAT moment, if you know what I mean.

How can I not remember the specifics of a conversation that happened a week ago? I remember 52 years ago, jumping up from my seat as the bell rang, and catching my skirt in the spiral notebook of the boy in the seat behind me, and how I lifted my skirt really high so he could unsnag me. How we were both embarrassed and delighted at the same time.

Yes I was stuck then too.

And yes, that scene appears in my new book, but in writing it, I let a friend have that little scene.

Let her wonder why she doesn’t remember it.

High School Me

15 Comments

  1. sclaire53

    I was class of 1971-so not so far from you. Unfortunately, I have no good memories of high school, I hated every minute of it. Wish I could go back and make it better.

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    • Oh, I’m not saying I liked it; just that I remember it,

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  2. I think the reason high school memories are so very vivid for a lot of people is that there isn’t a whole lot of stuff prior to that, as in years of memories, that we have fifty years later. I find myself wondering what I had to eat half an hour ago, yet I remember my first Banana’s Foster at Brennan’s in New Orleans when I was … fourteen? vividly. Breakfast with adults on Saturday morning. No idea why we were having breakfast there, or what they had. Or my first adult drink outside of the house where I had occasionally had a glass of wine with dinner or champagne for New Year’s. Well, that was a special night. Went to a Crewe ball (that’s all mixed up with New Orleans and carnival and parade crewes and stuff) and walked into the over lay of my dress, and afterwards I had a Brandy Alexander … walking to the car with my parents … meanwhile, what was I talking about with my friend on Skype a week ago? Who knows? Good thing it records everything! Sounds like you’ve had a good time writing the book and hope the edits are light so you get it to your public soonest! {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

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  3. Hmm, disappearing comments …

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  4. Best of luck!

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  5. I was a senior in college in 1968. Best years of my life! I love your writing, paintings and your dogs!

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  6. Great post and I’m looking forward to reading your newest novel. Please keep us posted when it’s published and where to find it!

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  7. I was reading an article about memories just the other day. I’ve forgotten what most of it said! Short term memory is always the first to go! The gist was that our memories are not as reliable as we think they are. Now I recall that the author talked about why eyewitness accounts can differ over time and offered some examples related to 9/11. Many of them could not remember exactly what had happened and their stories differed from the accounts they gave at the time. I am sure we all have memories in our heads that we are not sure about. Do we remember it happening or did someone tell us it happened or did it actually happen to someone else?
    My mother would always tell us very detailed stories of her younger days but when she and her sisters got together they would argue fiercely about some aspects of their childhood as each of them remembered things differently. Quite likely each of them had some of it right and some of it wrong. That is probably what happened to you and your friend.

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  8. Forgot to say that I am looking forward to the book.

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  9. HelenG

    Like you I remember my high school days very clearly. It’s such a period of angst, uncertainty, highs and lows. I would like to have a talk to that awkward young woman and tell her to go with her gut and be fearless in her determination to succeed. The only thing is I’m pretty sure I needed to experience some of life’s difficulties in order to look back so sagely and offer this type of advice.
    Your blog is always a thought provoking delight.

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  10. Being stuck isn’t always bad just annoying at times and will pass

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  11. One question. Did the novel have a fine or a finale? Does it have somewhere to go? It might be a thing to explore while waiting for the edit to come back.

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  12. Best of luck on the editing process. Congratulations on getting as far as you have on the publication of your high school memories. I commend you. Only you can tell it as you do and remember it as you do. Others have their memories… and the fact that they’re different is okay. That’s just the way it is. That’s what makes you unique! I’ll be glad to read your book and pass it on to my 50-some-year-old “children” …. They’ll probably relate!

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  13. I read not long ago that memories are formed during defining moments in our lives. High school contained a LOT of defining moments for most of us. Like you, I remember a lot of what went on in high school (but less of what occurred in the years afterwards). I’ve had myriad discussions with my sister (who is 2 years older than me) where she remembers things one way, and I remember them completely differently. We concur on some memories and, surprisingly, on several things we’ve both forgotten (a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Montreal to visit Expo ’67 – neither of us remembers anything except one minor incident; how weird is that?) I love reading people’s memoirs but often wonder how much is ‘truth’ and how much is ‘fiction’ (I suppose it really doesn’t matter; its the intent that’s important). Can’t wait to read your new book.

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  14. Memories are a tricky thing. I grew up with 3 sisters that had the exact same experiences I did, up to a certain age. Each one of us remembers events differently. Sometimes my little sister swears something happened (with great detail) and I can’t believe her because I have no memory of it. In turn I may go on about something and one of my sisters will say, “I don’t remember that.” It’s a heck of a thing trying to fact check some of this stuff 😉

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