Childhood Memoir Essay
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.
Childhood Memoir: Baking With My Grandmother
Growing up in a small, rural, agricultural based town located east of San Diego and fifteen minutes from the U.S./Mexico border-was difficult for me. My environment was not a very stimulating place to live, having the highest unemployment rate in the whole state California. The majority of the people who lived in my town lacked the ambition and motivation to achieve anything above a high school diploma. Being is that type of atmosphere, made me very grateful for having my grandmother around during my childhood upbringing. She encouraged me to succeed and has been one of my main motivators in life. Whenever I think about my grandmother, my mind tends to flood with flashes of vivid memories of us baking pan dulce together.
I remember one particular day very distinctly. It was on a Sunday morning, I was twelve years old, and I was suddenly awakened from my deep sleep due to the loud noises I heard coming from my grandmother's kitchen. I could hear the clank of my grandma's high heels as they hit the tile floor, the squeaking sound of the cupboard doors opening and closing, the clatter coming from her mixing bowls, and the ringing of pots and pans. I glanced at the clock, and it was 5'oclock in the morning. I made my way to the kitchen and asked her, "Why are you up so early today nana?" She looked at me and smiled; her eyes were radiating with happiness, and said, "We are going to bake your favorite dessert today, pan dulce."
As my grandmother explained how to make the pan dulce to me, we carefully measured out all of the ingredients. The pan dulce was made according to a very simple recipe that was handed down to her from her mother, who was from Sinaloa, Mexico. It had the perfect combination of ingredients that made this simple bread taste extraordinary. As the pan dulce baked in the oven, the temperature in her house would rise slightly and a lovely sweet scent would penetrate throughout her home. This delicious smell would make my mouth water as I waited anxiously for the bread to cool down so that I could devour it. The color of the bread was usually a beautiful golden brown tone and had dab of granulated sugar sprinkled on top. I remember closing my eyes while I would take my first bite. I wanted to taste the full and complete flavor of the bread and savor the moment. The bread seemed to melt in my mouth and the texture was very light, airy, and fluffy.
My grandmother and I ate the pan dulce together with a glass of warm hot chocolate at her kitchen table. As I was nearly finished eating the pan dulce, my grandmother looked at me with a very serious expression on her face and proceeded to give me some very significant advice about life.
"Mija, get an education because it is very important and it will help you to...
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