`Do you suffer from indecision?` asked the doctor.
`Well. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don`t.` This was a joke repeated countless times by family members, during my childhood. And indeed, I sometimes did, and sometimes do still. I am coming to the end of editing my short story collection. Sometimes I look at a story and feel pleased and proud; at other times, I read through something and have an urge to expel it from the collection forthwith. But overall, I will soon be free to move on, and need to make a decision. Last year, before Peter Gimpel of Red Heifer Press offered to publish my short story collection, I started a novel. The title: Ten Letters. The background? A true story – though one hard to believe. Shortly before that, I began to make notes for a new play – the first play I will have written for several years. It has a title. The Cottage. I know the characters well – and no they are none of them direct facsimiles of any one real person- alive or dead. But I am also turning over another project,inspired by the fact that my sisters and I have spent a year or so editing our mother`s memoirs. More than that, my sisters worked together to translate the memoirs from English to Hebrew. Our Mother`s Memoirs will be published by us in Israel in a matter of weeks. Exciting. Available on Amazon, and all that, I think.
And, the notion of writing memoirs intrigues me. Here is my first draft of an introduction.
I was born on November 18th, 1944, at St Brenda`s Maternity Hospital, Bristol. My sister Judith was almost two, my mother Betty Yoffey (nee Gillis) was twenty-six, and my father, Joseph Mendel Yoffey was already forty-two. He was sixteen years older than my mother.
I was small – weight 6 lbs. I was breastfed for four months, and then graduated to drinking from a cup. No bottle. This my mother told me.
My parents chose to call me Deborah Ruth, until they realised the initials DRY might be a cause of teasing, as I grew up, so they called me Ruth Deborah Yoffey, but addressed me as Deborah. Since adulthood, I have been Debbie.
I set about writing memoirs with great trepidation, and countless questions and uncertainties – but with one gift to launch me on the journey.
My mother wrote memoirs. She wrote them in English, and over the last two years Judith and Naomi, my sisters have worked to translate them into Hebrew. Shortly we will be publishing them. Not only does our mother give a clear and fascinating history of her life, as she chose to describe it in words – but even better. Our parents were first cousins. So instead of four sets of greatgrandparents, I actually only have three.
The remarkable clarity of our mother`s account relieves me of a great deal of research, but aside from that I view my own attempt at writing memoirs as a difficult mountain to climb. Here is a list of obstacles to my producing anything I might be satisfied with!
1. I believe my upbringing was unusual. I have not met anyone who had such a kind of upbringing.
2. I know that almost everyone in the world believes the same about their upbringing.
3. My childhood was full of paradoxes.
4. I discovered early in life that I had the ability to spot paradoxes where other people often didn`t. To judge myself harshly – I might have built myself an overimaginative version of reality.
5. Or, I might not.
6. My problem (or gift) was, as my mother pointed out to me one day, that I had an ability to see two sides to almost any question.
7. I don`t know whether she meant this as a compliment or a criticism.
8. Certain people in certain contexts made me feel angry, disappointed, jealous, unhappy, hurt, lied to, and mistreated. I might have been imagining some of this. I can`t have been imagining all of it. If I give way to the urge to produce memoirs, I may need to describe some occasions where I felt hurt, shamed, insulted, abused, even betrayed. For the record – I do not blame any of the people I may write about, but neither do I blame myself for being an unhappy teenager and a profoundly uncertain young adult.
9. At the time of writing, I love, like or respect almost every person who will be mentioned. But that is the grown up me.