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Writing Memoir -Childhood Story

June 26, 2018


In my first Writing Memoir post, I wrote of my intention to record the writing exercises, as I work through them, from Patti Miller’s book, Writing True Stories. I will be recording both the exercises and on occasion, the process of writing with the aid of Patti Miller’s advice and exercises.  These exercises are meant to be draft and not fully edited pieces of work. 

Exercise 1 Page 32 – Childhood Story

Write an experience from your early childhood”

From about age 3 to age 5, we lived in St. Georges Road, Shepparton.  My strongest childhood memory from this time, is of the Italian family who lived across the road from our house. They had a son named Rudolpho, who was my age. We played together most days, riding  our trikes along the footpath in front of our houses.

Even at this young age, I was aware that this family were different from us, though I didn’t really understand it. I did wonder why my friend’s parents spoke in a strange language.  Even though his Mum didn’t speak English, she always made me feel very welcome in the house, and seemed happy to see me. There was no need for words, as her attitude and big smile were enough for me to know this was a safe and happy place.

I remember that I loved going to their house to play.  There constantly seemed to be so much going on there. Rudolpho’s Mum always seemed to be in the kitchen, stirring something in a huge pot, that smelled very yummy. I can remember thinking that I’d never smelled anything like it coming from our kitchen. I can also remember that big, big, pot, and that I was in awe of it. It seemed so huge to me. I had never seen a pot that large on our stove, and wondered what could be in it.

Looking back on those days, they were very innocent. It wasn’t at all unusual for a small child to wander over the road to a friends house, as unimaginable as it sounds today. This was in the very early days of immigration in Shepparton, so families from different countries were much smaller in number than they are today. I’m fairly sure that most people thought of the immigrants as exotic.

Shepparton was, and still is, a fruit growing area. Many migrants came to the area, to work in the orchards or on the tomato farms. I have no idea at all, what brought Rudolpho’s family to Shepparton, as his father was a tailor, with a shop in town and a great reputation.

When I was 5, and in grade prep, we left the street and moved to the other end of town. I then changed schools and didn’t see my friend again.

As I grew up, Rudolpho’s father always remembered me, and seeing me in the street would stop to say hello, and ask how my parents were.  I was very shy in those days, but was always happy to see him.

I can remember exactly what Rudolpho and his father looked like, but am vague about his mother, even though I remember her well. There were also other children, who I cannot remember at all.

Until this exercise, when given the prompt to write a childhood story, I had completely forgotten this memory. But I have now made a mental note to ask Mum about her memories of this time and of the lovely ‘exotic’ family who lived in our street. My memories of this time are very sketchy, probably due to my young age, so I’m hoping that Mum can fill in some of the gaps. Now that I seem to have recovered this memory, I would love to be able to  add to my memories of that era.

The writing exercises in this series are from Patti Miller’s book – Writing True Stories, published in 2017 by Allen and Unwin

From → Family stories

  1. I really enjoyed reading about one of your earliest memories Jennifer. Well written and what a great idea. After reading a few more of your examples I may try to follow suit. Curious about Rudolpho’s Tailor father’s surname and whether I recognise it.

    • Thanks for your interest Kerryn. I thought of you as I was writing it, thinking you would know St. Georges Road. Rudolpho’s surname was Mammone, a famous surname in Shepp, so I’m sure you would know it. His father’s Taylor shop was upstairs in the laneway where Lindy’s was/is on the corner.

  2. What a lovely idea Jen. I am doing something similar as I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I can remember we walked to school and Dad would take us because he worked night shifts. We always passed a house where an Italian family lived. ‘Auntie’ couldn’t speak any English but always had a smile and a wave for us as we passed. I remember Dad always saying it costs nothing to say ‘hello’ and smile. Those were such innocent times, weren’t they? xx

    • Love your memory Sue. Looking forward to your post re The Artists Way. It’s coincidental that we seem to have similar ideas sometimes

  3. I don’t know this book, but I love the idea of doing exercises guided by an author. I think it is interesting to see what the exercises will bring up- more memories like that of Rudolpho that you had forgotten about. Enjoy the process!

  4. Loved your story Jennifer. It’s true how we bury our memories but all it takes is a prompt for them to come tumbling out. Looking forward to reading more 🙂

  5. Hi Jennifer,
    I so enjoy reading posts written in response to creative exercises provided by some authors.Thank you for sharing yours.
    I haven’t read Patti Miller’s book yet, but will be ordering it today. #MLSTL

  6. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thank you, Chris

  7. Molly Totoro permalink

    I love this memory – and even though the memory of Rudolpho’s mother is not complete, you captured such amazing details that I can actually see her stirring the pot of ragu.
    How wonderful that you can ask your mother her perspective of this memory. I have so many questions I’d love to ask my mom…

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