Book Ten: The Memory Palace

Dad and Lydia sledding

Christmas break almost always involves a marathon reading of at least one book, a can’t-put-it-down, block-out-the-family, full on obsessive read.  I started and finished The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok in about 36 hours with breaks for skating, sledding, eating, and sleeping.

The Memory Palace is a beautifully composed memoir about the relationship between the author and her schizophrenic mother, complete with the complex range of emotions you would expect from a difficult family relationship– fear, anger, guilt, hope, and love.  Bartok writes without an agenda.  She tells it like it is and lets the readers decide how they should feel about mental health care, homelessness, and her mom, along with the various family relationships.

In addition to the story line, Bartok interweaves her own artistry and uses the building of a “memory palace”– the construction of artistic images that trigger powerful memories otherwise lost by brain trauma or plain old forgetfulness — in order to structure her memoir and explore vivid and important events on the timeline of her mother’s disease and her own growth and relationship with her mom.  It is both heartbreaking and redemptive.  A beautiful book.

I also received Wild by Cheryl Strayed for Christmas from my dad-in-law, and with any luck, I’ll read that over the next few days as well.  I think this completes my goal to read ten books for 2012, especially if I count a few poetry books I didn’t review here.  I ended up not reading a couple of the books on my to-read list but read others instead, which I suppose is to be expected.  I liked having this list in the back of my mind for the year, though.  It was good to have some goals and expectations for myself for the year, even if I didn’t meet them all.  Maybe on a quiet evening in the next few weeks I’ll set another goal list for 2013.

Lyd in her Disney dress-up gown

Christmas was such a blast this year, with many lovely gifts given and received.  The kids are particularly enjoying a wooden train table, an American Girl doll (I bet you can’t guess who got that), and Star Wars figurines and spaceships.  Brandon has been playing his new guitar whenever he can, and I’ve been sporting a new pair of cowboy boots, something I’ve wanted for years.  It was particularly fun to see how excited the kids were about giving the gifts they picked out for people this year.

Our Florida family arrives today in Akron, and we’re all excited to be with them for the next week or so.  I took Lyd ice skating for the first time yesterday, and we hope to get Granny, Kelly, and Macy out on the ice rink this week if we are able to make it happen.  It was a magical hour and a half with her, laughing and falling and spinning and falling, and falling.  And falling.  🙂  I was worried she would get discouraged right away because it was hard for her to even stay up let alone make forward progress, but she is so determined and pushed through, and by the time we were ready to leave, she was skating without holding on to me or the rail, even trying to do a few spins herself.

We’ve also gone down the big sledding hill a few times now.  I’m grateful that we got a good dumping of snow.

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is linking up with old friends, and last night we went out with the Stalters and Newmans for pizza at Luigi’s.  As Nikki said, it was as if we picked up our last conversation right where we left off years ago.  Today, I met up with friends from high school for lunch, and it was just like old times… except for all of the mortgage/job/kids talk 😉  I guess we’re adults now.  I’m glad we were able to get together.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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