As a kid, I helped my aproned Grandma Longenecker pick strawberries in her garden close to Anchor Road. As a teen, I packaged bologna at Baum’s Bologna company near Elizabethtown, PA. During my sophomore year in college, I worked as script editor for WEMC, the station broadcasting for Eastern Mennonite College, VA.
None of these facts appear in my first memoir, MENNONITE DAUGHTER. The strawberry-picking, bologna packaging, and script-writing were some of the details not included in the Story of a Plain Girl. If you’ve read my first memoir, you can fill in the gaps of my growing-up years with many more details, but not those.
Memoirs, because they are selective, do not include every itty-bitty detail from our lives. That’s the job of an autobiography. In My Checkered Life: A Marriage Memoir, a tale of our married life, I mention that husband Cliff, for a good chunk of time, crisscrossed the country presenting art & music shows in public schools (1985-2015).
As soon as the wedding bells stopped tolling when our son Joel married Sarah, we made big plans to tour Europe. Cliff’s Delta Sky Miles had accrued thousands of points, because of his flying home weekends from doing multimedia art shows. Points equated to dollars. We could use points instead of dollars to fund our flights. In 1996, the year our youngest child left home, Cliff had been doing shows for over twelve years, creating and booking his own performances under the aegis of American Art Assemblies. In those days, SkyMiles could expire, so we had to take advantage of the window of opportunity while Delta points were still valid. Besides, we felt a pause in our parenting. Both our daughter Crista and son Joel had made it through four years of college, and both had found suitable mates. We celebrated their weddings. Our children had flown from the nest. Why, we were empty nesters. Now it was our time to fly! London, Rome, Paris . . . here we come.
Excerpt From: Marian Longenecker Beaman. My Checkered Life: A Marriage Memoir, Chapter 27
Cliff emerging from the plane at gate in Jacksonville, FL, when security allowed (circa 1990s)
Career-wise, I have always taught English. But when our children were young, I taught reading half-days to elementary and junior high students. Such a schedule meant I could bring our little tots, Crista and Joel, home from kindergarten after a morning of teaching, a great arrangement for a young mother: one foot in the work world, one at home with children.
In the 1970s, speed-reading was all the rage in education. In some schools, reading machines were part of the equipment designed to keep students’ attention on the page—and, it was hoped, be able to improve reading speed and comprehension. A story filmstrip roll was placed in the projector and the words shone up on the screen. However, only one line of words was displayed at a time, with a light moving across the words from left to right. The teacher could adjust the speed of showing each line and word, ensuring speed would not sacrifice comprehension.
Below I’m demonstrating how it works with a group of elementary students. My observation: This technique seemed most effective for reluctant readers, especially some boys who preferred hearing the whirr of a machine before turning the pages of a book.
We go through stages in life beginning with infancy. If we are fortunate, we end with the elder years, my stage now.
Shakespeare was well aware of the human life cycle. The Bard of Avon expounds on the Seven Ages of Man in his play “As You Like It.”
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages
He enumerates one’s life cycle in stages from birth to death.
First age: Infant
Second age: Schoolboy
Third age: Lover
Fourth age: Soldier
Fifth age: Justice
Sixth age: Old man/woman
Seventh age: Death
A stained glass vignette from the Folger Library in Washington D.C. depicts these stages, a reference to this particular Shakespearean play, As You Like It. You may notice, the progression below includes nine figures, not the seven as the play enumerates. Puzzling . . . !
I myself am well aware of the clock ticking off years, months, weeks, and days at an accelerated pace.
This year is galloping by. It seems as though it will be Thanksgiving in ten minutes.
Time on the hourglass of my life is sifting faster and faster too. Certainly more of life lies behind than before me, and so I reminisce.
This reflection today, a result.
Did this post help pinpoint an earlier stage in your life, one you may have forgotten about?
What value do you see in a former life stage, or in the stage you are in now?