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Life stories

Memoir-writing group shares individual memories

Created date

July 10th, 2017
Ruth Ralph (left) and Marcia Zubretsky are the coleaders of a memoir-writing club at Linden Ponds.

Ruth Ralph (left) and Marcia Zubretsky are the coleaders of a memoir-writing club at Linden Ponds.

Family stories can be passed down from generation to generation in conversation, but if you really want to preserve your personal history, you’ve got to write it down. That’s why a group of residents at Linden Ponds meets every other week to share stories they’ve written about their lives.

The group, Memoirs Unlimited, has been going strong for over a decade. 

Sharing inspiration

Club cochair Ruth Ralph says about a dozen neighbors typically attend the meetings. 

People can write about any topic they choose, and they often draw inspiration from one another. Since the group members are around the same age, they have lived through many of the same historical events, so one person’s story may spark an idea for someone else. 

Periodically, Ruth and her cochair Marcia Zubretsky will suggest a topic to jog people’s memories or to help them overcome writer’s block. 

“For example, [we were] getting close to Mother’s Day, so we [asked] them to remember Mother’s Days in the past and write about that,” Ruth says.

The structure of the group is relaxed, but regular meetings help to create some accountability for people who want to commit to writing their memoirs. 

Ruth enjoys writing about memories from her childhood in South Dakota as well as family holidays and her adult life with her husband. She says she has shared some of the pieces she’s written with her family.

“Yes, my family members have enjoyed it,” Ruth says. “You have to be sure to write it down because what we have lived through was a lot different from what is happening now.”

Bonds of friendship and trust

Marcia moved to Linden Ponds about seven years ago. She previously lived in Cape Cod, where she belonged to a memoir-writing group through her church. She was happy to discover a similar group in place at Linden Ponds, and she joined it shortly after moving to the community.

Marcia says she often writes about significant historical events such as 9/11 or presidential elections. She has also shared the stories she’s written with her daughters. 

“I’ll go back to stories when they were all living at home, so it’s things they remember too,” Marcia says. “So, they might get a little laugh when they read it or maybe it’s a little sad.”

Marcia says the size of the Linden Ponds memoir group is ideal because it’s large enough to stay interesting but small enough so that everyone has time to share their stories. And since the members share intimate details about their lives, trust and deep bonds form. 

“We can all share our stories, and we can talk about them,” Marcia says. “Whatever is said there doesn’t leave the room—it’s not a topic of conversation at dinner. We trust each other because some of the things that come out are very personal.”