This weekend we welcome to the blog Leighton Gage, who writes the Chief Inspector Mario Silva investigations ("South America's Kurt Wallander" -- Booklist), set primarily in Brazil, where he lives with his wife. His latest book, EVERY BITTER THING, was recently released by Soho Crime.
I live in a little town called Santana do Parnaiba, about thirty kilometers from São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. (And the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.)
But this period between Thanksgiving and the New Year always transports me back to my childhood, in America, well-over half a century ago.
So, rather than writing, today, about this exotic place where I’ve chosen to spend most of my life, or indulging myself by telling you about my métier (Brazilian crime novels) I’m going to make this post a bit different.
I’m going to make it about me, and my mother, and maybe, a little bit, about you.
And a story goes with it.
When I was a kid, my reading matter at the breakfast table was cereal boxes.
In the afternoon, after school, I’d move on to more serious fare: comic books.
But, in the evening, if I wanted to keep that bedside lamp on for just a little longer, there was only one way my mother would agree to it: I had to crack open a real book.
One of those books was the collected short stories of Damon Runyon.
These days, Runyon is probably best-remembered for the hit musical Guys and Dolls.
Based on two of his tales, it was brought to the screen in 1955, with Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra in the title roles.
Runyon had already been dead for almost a decade by then, his ashes long-strewn over his beloved Broadway by Eddie Rickenbacker, racing car driver, WWI flying ace and longtime head of Eastern Airlines.
But I digress.
A Story Goes With It is a title Runyon gave to one of his best.
And also a phrase one could apply to every life ever lived.
When I was a kid, my mother would occasionally drop a remark about her youth.
Like most kids, I wasn’t interested.
“Someday,” she’d say, “you’ll want to listen. And, anyway, I’m going to put it all down on paper.”
Someday never came. My mother never wrote her book.
And I, who have lived almost all of my adult life outside the United States, moved far, far away. Our face time together became short. Her calls and letters concerned themselves with current events, never referring, even once, to the life she’d lived before I came along.
Parents, and grandparents.
We’ve all had them.
Children and grandchildren.
Some of us are (or will be) blessed with them.
And, sooner or later, mostly later, the younger generation comes around to wanting to know about the youth of those who’ve gone before.
By which time it’s often too late.
Wouldn’t you love to have a memoir on your bookshelf right now, an account of the youthful experiences of your grandmother?
And don’t you think your grandchildren are going to feel the same way in fifty years’ time?
So why not do your offspring a service and get cracking on those memoirs?
Don’t envision wide publication.
Expect payment only in terms of the gratitude of your thankful progeny.
But write it.
Every life: a story goes with it.