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In this consideration of memoir writing and truth, I return now to the seven year-old child and the forty nine year-old trying to attach her to the page.  Another verity surfaces in the pond. Not only are the seven year-old and the forty nine year-old not the same, but it is impossible for the forty nine year-old not to overshadow the little girl in the embroidered, white-cotton Chinese pajamas, with her head on the pillow, listening to her father’s voice.  As I have already noted: I have been unable, as a writer, to give you the actual seven year-old, or the twelve year-old skating after a Dutch boy on a pond in The Hague, and exactly what she said back then.  I have only been able to give you the ripples of emotion that stayed in her body as it grew: how she listened, holding her breath in the dark, for cues in her father’s voice, how she drew the covers over her head to go back to sleep—and to make something out of those flashes of feeling.  The girl on the page could only possibly be the girl as seen through the gauze of adult perception.  This carried the risk of the girl seeming smarter and more insightful than she was at the time.  These book kids are always wise beyond their years…

At the same time, as the writer, I tried, with all my urgent heart, to put words to the dumb, foundering, young feelings I had back then.  And I say, to seem a little wiser than I was (or even a lot wiser: I have seen some of the mortifying letters I wrote back then!), is a compromise worth making.  Wouldn’t you rather hear the adult rendition over the bashful, inert stammers of the tongue-tied seven year-old or the slangy clichés of the bluff-sassy twelve year-old?  Back then, I was simply in the hands of it all, just living it, not thinking about it and how it made a story.

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