Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Before the Title, Past
A Nonfiction Column
By Willie Elliott

Thinking About Memoir

Abigal Thomas's small book Thinking About Memoir explains how flexible the approach to the memoir can be. It can span an entire life or it can consist of selected memories along life's journey. I prefer the selected memories.

Thomas, a writing teacher, assigns her students writings based on certain situations. Two examples taken at random are Write two pages of whatever you remember about something being born and Write two pages of a fading memory—something you have to squint to see.

The book is divided into sections but like most writing one section leaks into another section. But the most powerful aspect of the book is the burst of memories that emerge as one reads the remarks on the assignments. This is where the leaks occur. An event, not necessarily related to the assignment, come rushing back.

As I read, two events under the heading “things I regret I didn't do” came to mind—not taking advantage of R&R when I was in Vietnam—but that will have to wait for another writing. The one I will include is about missing both my junior and senior prom in high school.


I went to the prom this past week. I was thinking how ironic it was that thirty years ago during this very week I didn't go to “my” prom. Oh, I have done several proms since I have been teaching. But doing a prom as a faculty member is not the same as going as a student. If any of my classmates have two proms, give mine back. You are allowed one per student.

If you are around a school or if you are the parents of a high school junior or senior, you know the kind of week they have. They act like teenagers all week and get by with it. Some people say the students are bonding. Well, I'm in favor of bonding, but I can't remember one thing about prom week. What did I do that week? Memorize the periodic chart or learn the square root of all numbers from one to a hundred. Now, I want the whole week back—not just prom night but the whole week. I know things are basically the same as back then. Well, we didn't mortgage the house to get that are now deemed necessities (maybe it was because we didn't have a house to mortgage) and we didn't build the event up to such high expectations that it could never deliver. After all, when all is said and done, it is just a dance. But it is a special dance—one that has to last for a lifetime. I didn't get mine. I want it back. Someone has my junior prom and I want it back.

I can remember some special times when Glenda Morgan, Kennith Akers and I did the junior prom. One time we had the prom at the lodge, and we took a group of kids to decorate. We went to Druthers for lunch and the kids gathered and around and called us “mommy” and “daddy” and we all signed the napkins and generally we were having a good time. I have photos from the 70's. 80's and 90's, but I want the ones from the 60's. I bet the Fonz went to his prom.

For all these years this has been “no big deal.” Now it is a big deal. Is there such a thing as staute of limitations on getting your junior prom back? How do you tell your children you didn't go to the prom? That would be like telling them you didn't fight in the war. That brings up a point: why didn't I go my prom? Didn't have anything to wear. Couldn't have been that because I didn't have anything to wear last week and I went. It wasn't spectacular. It doesn't need to be.

I know this is a little late to bring this up, but I really do want my junior prom back. I thought being being faculty sponsor for the prom for four years or so would make up for it—it didn't. And now I down to the point where I probably won't be doing that chore anymore. I remember honor banquets, senior trip, and graduation. There is a big vacuum in my whole package of rite to adulthood.

Students, as you go through school, do the whole nine yards or as many of them as you possibly can. They won't be earth shattering (and again they may), but you will have them. I am reminded of what Billie Jean Osborne was always telling her students: “Go for it.” Go for it and years later you won't be wondering what it would have been like. In the meantime, if you find my junior prom, send it to me.

2013 Past Columns

© MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved.