Friday, January 08, 2010

A Preface to a Memoir

I was born on December 6, 1962. At least that’s what they tell me, “they” being my parents and the authorities involved in documenting my emergence into the world. Although I believe my parents and those authorities, I have little choice but to take it on faith that the date of my arrival is accurate. Since I cannot remember that day, those that followed and especially those that preceded it, I am also obliged to rely on the words of others to relate what the world was like in those halcyon days. Many might recall the late fifties and early sixties as troubled, but in my little world all was calm. It would not remain so…

My parents met in Southern California in 1961 and married in January 1962. I came along ten months later followed by my little brother in November 1964 and my sister in September 1966. I do not remember my brother’s arrival (but the evidence that it happened, like my own birth, is overwhelming), but I do remember when my parents came home from the hospital with my little sister. It was among the first handful of sketchy memories I have from my early childhood. When my sister came along, we were living in the home that all of my formative years from about the age of three on would occur. The geographic stability I enjoyed as a child was unusual then, almost unheard of now.

Shortly after my parents married, my father was offered (and accepted) a job in Northern California. Raychem Corporation was located in Redwood City, just south of San Francisco and was an ideal place for a young research chemist to ply his trade. He worked hard and before I was four years old, he and my mother were able to purchase our home in Los Altos, not far from where he received his Ph.D., Stanford University. We were located in what would become Silicon Valley, but at the time the development of the semiconductor was just in it’s infancy – the Santa Clara Valley was better known for its fruit tree orchards and mild climate. By the time I entered Kindergarten, I was able to start remembering my life from personal experience; and for many years that experience was good.

If it remained good, there would be little else to write about. I would simply say: “I graduated high school; went to the college of my choice; got a good job; met a wonderful woman who became my wife; we bought a home; had 2.3 kids; and lived happily ever after.” Isn’t that the American Dream? It used to be. Now is not the time to get into how that dream has evolved, but suffice it to say that my story did not follow the script. However, as chaotic as my life grew in my late teens and the many years following high school, and as bad as I imagined it was, and as much as I held disdain for the abject unfairness of my fortune, I can look back retrospectively and retroactively change the vision of how bad or unfair my life was.

The genre of “memoir” has experienced some degree of disgrace lately. The liberties some memoirists have taken with the “truth” have left some, myself included, with a healthy skepticism for what many claim to be real, calling it instead the “essential” or “emotional” truth, all the while telling us that embellishing details or outright fabrication is fair game when telling their story. It is not, but for this reason I hesitate to call this a memoir. But it is not an autobiography, per se, either. I will not bore you with every little chronologically organized detail of the 47 years I have lived thus far. I am not that important nor am I that interesting, however, I am a formerly miserable human being who is not anymore. Ever. And that transformation could be of use to others. To that end, I have little choice but to document sections of my story – to present pieces of my life that illustrate how it went from a storybook childhood to an empty aimless existence and, most importantly, how I came out of it.

This is a story about how to change the past.

2 comments:

Dulce said...

How interesting... How similar... and how different because it's YOUR life and not mine.

I'll be waiting for chapters 2, 3, etc

Belizegial said...

Mike,

An interesting beginning. Hope to see more of your book as it evolves.

One of my daughters and you share the same date of birth, December 6th.