In the past week, I’ve been contacted by people who were touched by my book, Replacement Child, my writing here and on my Psychology Today blog. Some are replacement children, and we seem like long lost relatives when we compare notes. Some have had relatives who were challenged physically, or disfigured in some way. A brother, a father, a sister. Some are struggling to dig up memories that illuminate their own memoirs.
I am grateful for these connections for many reasons. First, for the growing community of replacement children that seems to be springing up like multi-colored wildflowers; distinctly separate but of the same seed. We talk about our families and at some point in the conversation there is always one “aha” in our experience that we share so completely that I get goose bumps. A mother’s overprotection, a father’s rejection, a dream un-pursued, a love lost to indiscretion or withdrawal.
People who are the “other” in their family, for whatever reason have a great deal in common. An adopted child, now an adult, tells me she still feels that otherness in her life. And, those of us who assign ourselves as protector of a loved one who is different – whether physically or mentally, know that we can’t always lay the reeds down flat in the grass for them to pass unscathed. We, nevertheless, keep imagining how we could have done a better job at it.
The writers of memoir are all wrestling with synapses of memory. Molding and ordering disjointed scenes into a sculpture that reflects their journey. Discovering where the journey began and where it has led is sometimes the function of their writing, as it was for me. I offer some tips to anyone who asks, things that worked for me while writing Replacement Child. But, always with the caveat that everyone needs to find their own method. While some writers need a strict schedule, others recoil at that discipline. Many like outlines; others would rather put a pin in their eye. One constant, I believe, is to have other eyes evaluate the work and give advice. I’ll stick to that one.
As I start to have some book related appearances in the coming months, I am looking forward to talking to more of you who relate to my story, or are writing your own. Come talk to me if you are in the audience at any of these conferences or bookstore events coming up. Or write to me here. I promise you I am interested.