Monday, August 16, 2010

Feel the Smile and "Remember When" Pot Luck with nutty sandwich


I was just reading the online newsletter of a fellow teacher of life story writing. I'm not going to mention his name because I totally disagree with what he has to say in his newsletter today. I disagree with him that writing about one's life is hard, arduous, psychologically painful, delayed gratification, and generally very difficult and unpleasant. According to his theory, we are all hunkered behind the flowers of our life like the woman in the picture. (Who is that woman, anyway?)

Here's a little experiment. Think of a favorite meal your mother made for you when you were a child. Think of your first bike or skates or sleepover.

Now, do a face-check. Are you smiling? Probably so.

Sit with a group of peers and say, "Remember when . . ." and mention something from the past. For example, "Remember when ladies wore white gloves and hats?  Remember when we slept outside in summer? Remember when we got a new movie theatre in town?"  Is everyone smiling? Are people talking?

Quit hunkering in fear. Step out. Pick up your pen or sit at your keyboard and write exactly what you were thinking or saying. There you have it. You have begun writing your life story. (Oh look, the woman in the picture is smiling.She's no longer in hiding.)

Okay, I admit, I am simplifying -- but not much. Recently I have shared here about writing about some unhappy and uncomfortable experiences from my own life. So I know we all have memories that are miserable, and we all have endured pain, heartache, betrayal, and illness. "Remember when  . . . Dad got drunk and crushed your favorite toy?" That is part of our story too.

How did you survive those times? What sustained you? Who held your hand, held your head, or held your heart? "Remember when . . . years later when you were an adult, your mom bought you a toy just like the one your dad destroyed as her way of saying 'I remember, and I'm sorry.'"? Write about that and you cannot help but feel strong and joyous, and somewhere, somehow, some part of you will smile.


Make a list of "remember whens." Remember when -- women went to the beauty shop every week, we wore can-can slips, men wore neckties and tie clips,  we played music on turntables and then the smaller 45 records were the newest thing, we used typewriters and they weren't electric, you got your first microwave oven, first cordless phone. Remember when Sally Field made her You-really-like-me Oscar acceptance speech or the time Kanye West took the microphone from Taylor Swift when she received a VMA award?

Make a more specific list of "remember whens" -- things that apply to you personally. Remember when your parents agreed you could have ballet lessons? Remember when you got your ears pierced?

There you have enough topics to have fun with for weeks. Pick one, write ten minutes or longer, put it away, re-write, polish, add to your notebook.

And -- keep smiling.


Have a Remember When pot luck. Bring a dish from your past. Here is something yummy from Ronnie's past that she  brought to the summer gathering of the Advanced Life Story Writing Group. (Thanks, Ronnie.)

First a little history of Chock Full o'Nuts, the source of Ronnie's recipe. (No, the recipe doesn't include coffee.) According to Wikipedia, the Chock Full o'Nuts chain was founded by William Black (1903-1983), a Russian immigrant who sold nuts in Times Square to theater-goers. In 1926, he opened a store on Broadway and 43rd Street, and began selling coffee and sandwiches. By the 1960s, the chain had approximately 80 restaurants in the New York City area. Hygiene was a selling point, with the sandwiches advertised as "untouched by human hands". Cooks used tongs to assemble them.

Their signature "nutted cheese" sandwich, made of cream cheese and chopped nuts on dark raisin bread, cost a nickel with a cup of coffee when the company was founded.

By the time Ronnie, as a young girl in NYC, was enjoying the sandwiches, the price had risen to thirty-five cents, still a bargain. Here is how Ronnie made the sandwiches she brought to our gathering.

Chock Full O' Nuts Sandwich

Mix softened cream cheese with honey to taste.
Stir in coarsely chopped walnuts.
Spread liberaly between slices of raisin bread.
Cut sandwiches into four triangles.

Since our goal here is all things chocolate, I think it would be delish also to stir in some mini chocolate chips. Enjoy your sandwiches with a cup of Chock Full o'Nuts coffee which is availabe in some local supermarkets.

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