Story Telling
Written by
Louise Nayer
September 2010
Written by
Louise Nayer
September 2010
My parents were burned in an explosion when I was four—and I grew up during the silent fifties—the era of pop tarts, toaster ovens, Maytag washer/dryers and frozen dinners--when little was talked about since so many were coming home from war and America wanted to forget the pain. In a poem I wrote, I called America a “kiss it and make it better country—and the children wanted band aids on everything even the slightest scratch—band aids with stars and stripes.” We all wanted to cover our pain. We watched Lassie and Father Knows Best. We all loved happy endings. Over the past few weeks I’ve visited book clubs, been interviewed in a wonderful on-line magazine(Style/Substance/Soul)—link below to the interview—and I’ve been amazed at the range of questions I’ve been asked about my memoir(Burned). I’ve also exposed myself in a way that I don’t usually do. Many people have asked how it feels to talk so openly about “the accident”. As a veteran from many years of therapy—I’ve probably “overshared” at times—all as a way of combating silence. But I can still get tired with the onslaught of these tidbits of memory that course through me. So when I hear from people that knew me through elementary school and had no idea of the enormity of what my parents and my sister and I went though(I didn’t start that school until 3rd grade—about the time my mother’s operations on her face ended) I’m struck by how little we all know of each other. Of course if we’re in a therapy group, or in a relationship, or attend AA our deepest feelings and thoughts spill out into the world. We find people to hug, to cry with—people who know about our childhoods. But even in families, so much is held in, protected. So doing these interviews is not only a way of getting my story out into the world but also a way of saying it’s okay to do that. I haven’t withered, melted into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West—I haven’t severed relationships with anyone through the telling of this story— But these interviews help me to hone in on what is important: that many families triumph over terrible and tragic events. That I love to write. That children who have gone through trauma need early intervention. That parents need help as well. That we all have stories to tell. In the words of James Baldwin “Because the tale of how we suffer, how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it must always be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.”

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  • Vicki T. Lee

    You know, I was adopted to a mother, father and sister who all had the same concept of sharing inner pain - they didn't. And of course that made me - someone who felt deeply and needed real, not just perceived, closesness - the odd man out. In public, I was expected to conduct myself in the manner befitting a middle-class environment, two teachers for parents and church on Sundays. The reality was that we were a disfunctional family - a fact I didn't get til I'd totally screwed my relationships with my own daughters. I can't rightly equate my emotional pain of never connecting with my birth parents, my adoptive family, or my three daughters with the emotional and physical trauma you must have suffered, but I definitely understand that what we see on the surface of families in many cases is cosmetic, covering an expanse of scarred tissue underneath. I hope that your book has been cathartic for your life.