For my mother without whom this story would not exist. And for Erich Korte, a man of patience and wisdom, countered by an infinite sense of wonder. My friend, my mentor, and my stability during parts of this story; may you rest in peace.
“No matter how hard a writer strives to get the details right, a memoir is always just one of many different true stories that can be told about the same events.” Lad Tobin; The Permission Slip, published in The Sun, November 2015
The story that follows is one that I cannot tell without weaving myself into it. The prodding of countless friends—both hers and mine—has produced this, my best effort to tell the story of my mother’s life. Yramiris. Iramiris, Yry, Yri, Iri, Eirie. She had as many personas as she had names; being my mother was one persona and, of course, the most important one to me. The pronunciation and the spelling of her name vexed friends and acquaintances throughout her life. Rather than fighting the inevitable, my mother embraced her many identities and even added to her mystique by occasionally writing under noms de plume like Ruth and Patricia and perhaps others of which I am yet unaware. She was not just an unusual person, she was ephemeral. Her flair for the dramatic, paired with a fear of intimacy and exposure, resulted in a wake of similar, but never matching stories of her past. I studied letters and journals from her childhood and youth, I coughed up memories of things she’d told me, I milked the memories of stories she had told various friends. Rarely did these stories match in their entirety, but there was always a thread that tied them together. It is that thread of her being that I hope to capture.
Memory itself is ephemeral. And when we doctor our stories to fit predefined mores of society, it is easy to inhabit those stories as our own truths. The lines between truth and fiction are a murky pudding. In trying to make sense of my mother’s pudding I’m sure I’ve gotten some things wrong. But hopefully I have captured the complex nature that drew people to shake their heads in wonder and sometimes in disapproval, but to love her just the same.
“A true story, a story based on real life, can never be written completely, anymore than an entire river can be carried in your hand.” Ann Patchett
“If you ask me and my sister to describe our mother, you’ll get two totally different mothers, and neither one of us is lying. Memory is a form of fiction, and we can’t help that. So we are very much the creation of the stories we tell ourselves. And we don’t know we’re telling stories.” Michael Ventura, We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy – And the World’s Getting Worse.”
As novelist, Colum McCann, says: “Who owns history? Who has a right to tell it? What about the smaller, more anonymous moments? Aren’t they the glue of history? What about the little guy?” My mother will always own her own history. As all of us do, she played a role in the larger history of the events of her time.
A note on navigating through these posts: All posts for this story are collected in the Menu Category, My Life with an Enigma, found at the top of screen. By clicking that menu item, you will always find the most recent chapter. To begin at the beginning of the story or to continue reading from wherever you left off last time, you can click the Index – My Life with an Enigma. This menu category lists all the posts consecutively. In addition, at the bottom of each post you may click “continued” which will lead you directly to the next consecutive post or chapter. Feedback is welcome and encouraged, particularly if I have veered abruptly in a new direction without providing enough transition.