My childhood memories are rich and varied.
I loved visiting my grandma’s apartment, with its fringed window shades and faint smell of eucalyptus. Her desk drawers, lined in green felt, spilled over with card decks, cocktail napkins, and golf tees. Every door in the house was fitted with wobbly crystal doorknobs. The bathroom smelled of Listerine.
My brother and I would sleep in the small bedroom off the kitchen—the very room our mom shared with her own brother growing up in the north side of Chicago.
I can picture myself reaching way down into Grandma’s frost-filled chest freezer for the ever-present box of Eskimo Pies. Her well-stocked pantry and doily-covered tabletops contained loads of delectable treats I was often denied at home: pastries, chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies, and delicate bowls of jellied orange sticks and other candy.
This was the 1960s, long before big-box stores came on the scene. Together Grandma and I would walk to the corner of Roscoe and Broadway, where we’d explore the wonders of Simon’s Drugstore, Heinemann’s Bakery, and Martha’s Candies.
Those childhood memories of my grandma are largely synonymous with food.
In my mind’s eye, I can still picture driving from Illinois to Wisconsin beneath a canopy of crimson leaves against an blindingly blue sky. I remember Passover dinners with a million Jewish relatives in the basement of some wizened old uncle’s apartment building.
Other childhood memories recall the mysteries of new baby brothers coming on the scene, building a hideout among the branches of a fallen tree, and giving my best friend’s parakeet a ride down the stairs in her aqua Barbie convertible.
It’s good to write down our recollections. As vivid as the moment seems at the time, memories fade. These prompts will help jog them. Invite your older children to participate. They’re in closer proximity to their memories, and can usually remember the details more vividly.
There are no rules: Jot your thoughts in snippets or write them out diary-style. Either way, do your best to recall the sensory details that made the moment important, for it’s those little things that keep the memory alive.
22 Writing Prompts That Jog Childhood Memories
- Describe one of your earliest childhood memories. How old were you? What bits and pieces can you recall?
- Who was your best childhood friend? Write about some of the fun things you used to do together.
- Can you remember your mom’s or grandmother’s kitchen? Use sight and smell words to describe it.
- Describe the mostunusual or memorable place you have lived.
- Did you have your own bedroom growing up, or did you share with a sibling? Describe your room.
- Were you shy as a child? Bossy? Obnoxious? Describe several of your childhood character traits. How did those qualities show themselves? Are you still that way today?
- What childhood memories of your mother and father do you have? Describe a couple of snapshot moments.
- Write about a holiday memory. Where did you go? What did you do? What foods do you remember?
- Describe your favorite hideaway.
- Did you attend a traditional school, or were you educated at home? Describe a school-related memory.
- Think of a time when you did something you shouldn’t have done. Describe both the incident and the feelings they created.
- Have you ever needed stitches, broken a bone, or been hospitalized? Describe a childhood injury or illness.
- Do you have quirky or interesting relatives on your family tree? Describe one or two of them.
- Describe your most memorable family vacation. Where did you go? Did something exciting or unusual happen? Did you eat new or unique foods?
- Did you grow up with family traditions? Describe one.
- Books can be childhood friends.What were some of your favorites? Why were they special?
- Describe a game or activity you used to play with a sibling.
- What were some of your favorite television shows as a child?
- What was your most beloved toy? Describe its shape, appearance, and texture. What feelings come to mind when you think of that toy?
- Think of a childhood event that made you feel anxious or scared. Describe both the event itself and the feelings it stirred up.
- Write about some sayings, expressions, or advice you heard at home when you were growing up. Who said them? What did they mean? Do you use any of those expressions today?
- What are your happiest childhood memories? Describe one event and the feelings associated with it.
What’s one of your most vivid childhood memories? Share a snippet in the comments! And if you’re looking for a resource to help you write a longer memoir or autobiography, check out Stories Kept for some excellent ideas!
Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
Copyright 2013 © by Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
Photo: Lisa M, courtesy of Creative Commons.
This survey concentrates on a refined corner of life writing and poetics – writers of various genres talking and writing about what and how they write. It considers the implications of the relationship between narrative and memory within life writing and fiction practice, reviewing potential connections between creative writing, critical theory and theories of mind. It focuses in particular on the under-explored borderland between fiction and autobiography, and uses illustrations from writers who are both novelists and memoirists. Writers often suggest that it is impossible or undesirable to narrate the creative process – while paradoxically trying to talk about it. They resist using theoretical terms about their work, yet their considerations often reveal an idiosyncratic technical eloquence, together with an intimate, sometimes paradoxical relationship between writing and remembering. Some writers experience elements of déjà vu, as if they find or recall, rather than make, some part of what they write (a character, a voice, a situation); part of the writing process is willed, part not. Other writers declare paradoxical ways in which memory and imagination are deployed in their writing. This essay reviews the notion of writing as an act of memory. The discussion looks at narrative and recall in tandem, referring to relevant theories of consciousness and memory – including those put forward by Adam Phillips in On Flirtation and Henri Bergson in Matter and Memory. The main focus is on writers’ testimonies. Authors discussed include Jean Paul Sartre, Paul Auster, Hilary Mantel, Graham Greene, Lorna Sage, Andrew Cowan, Richard Holmes and Jenny Diski. The essay uses fictional and autobiographical illustrations and transcripts from recorded interviews with writers. It examines the collaboration between narrative memory and associative memory in the writing process, as well as suggesting possible future lines of research into the borderland between fiction and life writing.