A Unique Form of Memoir


It began with a book received from her son last Christmas… “Blank, recycled paper that is truly beautiful, with a wonderful leather cover and a tie to close it up. I intend to turn it into a treasure, with sketches and words of wisdom.”

Those were the words of my Aunt, recorded on her Nonie Vogue’ Flickr webpage on January 1, 2010, along with a photo of the first page of the book that has become one of three such treasures. Every page is filled with carefully selected quotations, illustrated with her own sketches and watercolours. Once she filled its pages she went in search of a second book. Within two months she had filled it and moved on to a third. From January to October she posted 227 photos from three full books (not just 227 pages, because some photos display two pages at a time). That in itself is a remarkable achievement. These books are indeed treasures.

But she isn’t done yet. Having run short of quotations to showcase, and in between knitting dozens of toques and mittens for the homeless, and tiny baby toques for the hospital’s nursery, she has started a fourth treasure book, this time sharing glimpses of her family history. The unexpected interruption of a three-week hospital stay delayed but hasn’t deterred her progress. She is producing a beautiful and uniquely personal memoir with handwritten anecdotes accompanied by her original art, photographing the pages as she goes, and posting them to share with friends and family on Flickr.


Page about Family Home in Vogler's Cove*

She would probably tell you she isn’t “a real writer”, but memoir is a recognized genre and in my books she is both artist and author. Her determination and commitment to the task set an example for me, and for all writers who all too often procrastinate about recording family information that could be a legacy for future generations.

Oh, and did I mention that she’s well past her 87th birthday? She knows that it’s never too late to start. So what are you waiting for? It can be as detailed as collecting family names, dates and occupations in a notebook, or as simple as recording random memories. Or it could be a beautiful “treasure book”, although I think you’d have to go some to match this one.

Are you interested in genealogy? Have you written a memoir? As my Aunt might say, “If not, why not?”


2008 Birthday Photo*

* All photos “borrowed” from Norma McGuire’s Flickr pages


Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

14 thoughts on “A Unique Form of Memoir

  1. As my grandmother would have said “you’ll never learn any younger.” She had the same “start something new now” spirit that seems to have endowed your aunt with this formidable talent. I’m off, now to Nonie Vogue’s Flickr page. But if your appetizer here is any hint, I expect to be feasting for days to come. Thank you for sharing. Hugs for None Vogue.

  2. Oh, you know I’m definitely interested in genealogy! For some people this seems to become more important as we age, I guess our youth is spent trying to discover who we are. Later on we look to see where we came from.

    What a lovely thing for your Aunt to be doing.

    Other than the memoir piece I wrote for Country Roads, I haven’t written anything since. Why not? Most of my memories, to me, don’t seem that interesting. I don’t consider myself much of a story teller when it comes to my own life. My memories feel rather vague.

  3. What an inspiration. Looks like charm, talent, and determination run in the family. This is the kind of woman that sets me on my toes. Thanks so much for sharing her, Carol. Merry Christmas! Did you see the site where you can turn your blog into a book? That seems like a kewl idea too. I may just look into it.

  4. What an incredible surprise! You made me cry, first thing in the morning!
    I do not consider myself a “writer”, as you know… but my life story just might inspire someone else to leave a legacy for their children. … and it tells of a different time, one that could easily be forgotten if we don’t write it down.

    Thank you, my very dear Carol I love you soooo much.

  5. Judith – Your grandmother obviously thinks like my aunt! Nonie also started a small home business, creating hasti-notes from her paintings and selling them under the label, “Never Too Late”.

    Laura – I think many of us enjoy reading memoir pieces. But even more important is recording some of our “uninteresting” memories to share with future generations of our families. As Norma says, “It tells of a different time, one that could easily be forgotten if we don’t write it down.”

    Joseph – You don’t need to draw to make your memories come alive. If you don’t feel your words alone will do it, how about filling those adjoining pages with photos?

    Dave – You’re a man of many talents. You’ve never hinted at your interest in painting before. I oil paint, but I’ve never managed to master watercolour. I’m in awe. 😉

  6. Joylene – I don’t know about those traits running in the family, but she’s definitely a gem. 😉 Yes, I have that BookSmart application on my computer although I haven’t used it. iPhoto also allows you to make coffeetable-style books from photos and limited text, but I haven’t used it either. One day maybe….

    Aunt Norma – As I’ve said, you may not think so, but you are indeed a writer… writing words that will be a precious heritage for your family. I didn’t tell my readers that along with everything else you do, you are the family historian, maintaining a record of the important dates and details of our family tree. 🙂

    Carol Ann – I think it’s beautiful, too. Her talent is also evident when you see the many framed paintings on her walls.

    Kristen – My pleasure. I hope others are inspired to get busy and record their stories now, too.

    Julie – Thanks for your comment, and for visiting here. I hope you’ll be back again.

    1. That’s so true, Ellen. The written word can convey a lot, and when the words come from earlier family members we sense a special bond that goes beyond mere history.

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