When my cousin got wind of my endeavor to write this book she emailed saying:
Don’t forget the story about …(I’m leaving the details out here as they will come in the book). [Your mother] told me the story before she married your father. When I reminded her of it years later, she did not remember it or how I had known. Then we confirmed it with Margaret. If you need it, it is embedded like a movie in my memory.
This is a story that my mom told my cousin when my cousin was 10 years old. It is interesting as it shows the many stages of remembering and forgetting that can happen. Here are the basics:
Mom told the story in 1958 or 1959.
Years later (late 1960s) my cousin brought it up in conversation and mom didn’t remember it at all. Not the telling of the story, and not the story itself. So they went together to my grandmother for corroboration and got it. Yes, it had happened. And my mother’s mother offerred some new details.
Fast forward again to present day: My mom tells the story as if she has never forgotten it. There are the memories, and they are entirely hers. Most of the original story is there, but the details that my grandmother supplied in the 1960s are now gone. When I ask mom, she doesn’t know, but admits that those details are possible.
So what is the memoirist to do? Include the fuzzy details? Go with the memory of the protagonist? Use the recounted memories of the family member? The rule book isn’t clear on this one as far as I know.
While I’m asking questions: Since I’m not writing my story but my mother’s, am I a memoirist? Or merely a biographer? Or a pseudo-memoirist? Or something else?
Opinions and answers are welcome.