Life's passages inspire Forest Grove resident Nancy Bond to self-publish her memoir

It’s one of the saddest statements Nancy Bond has ever heard: “I wish I had asked my mother (or grandmother, or whoever) about their life,” friends and relatives say, over and over.

“Memories too often die with their owners and time too often surprises us by running out,” Bond said.Nancy Bond's memoir.

That realization sparked Bond to begin recording her childhood memories eight years ago. At the time, she didn’t expect her scribbled lists and stories to produce a hardbound, 375-page memoir. But last November, 50 copies of her self-published book, “Lemonade Under the Lilacs,” arrived on her doorstep.

“The UPS man brought five big boxes to the front door,” said Bond. She opened one on the spot, spied her name on the cover — and the delivery man became the first person to congratulate her.

Bond’s intended audience is more personal: her children and grandchildren. She, like others of her generation, senses that the simplicity of her childhood is foreign to modern youth.

Bond started her writing efforts in Forest Grove with Mary Jane Nordgren’s five-week Older Women’s Legacy course, which leads women older than 50 through memoir writing exercises.

She followed it up with a life storytelling class from Angela Zusman, a California writer and editor.

After that, “Nancy basically took every class I offered,” Zusman said.

Three years ago, in the throes of organizing her book, Bond presented her work at a Writers in the Grove meeting.

Nordgren, the “de facto leader” of the group, read Bond’s memoir in one sitting.

“It’s a gentle book, but it’s enormous inner strength — it’s Nancy,” Nordgren said. “It’s deceptively ordinary, but she’s really an extraordinary person.”

Bond said her book has inspired others to pick up forgotten writing projects or record their memories for posterity.

Her own story centers on each of the eight houses where she lived.

“You have to take it in manageable chunks,” she said.

At her childhood home in Baker, for example, Bond noticed “the heat waves rising from the front walk, the lazy blowing of the mill whistle and the droning of grasshoppers” — and the way Gwilliam’s Bakery made one whole end of town smell like freshly baked bread.

As a young woman in Eugene, working in the Anthropology Department at the University of Oregon, Bond writes of learning about Carbon-14 dating, “the newest method for dating the Ft. Rock sandals” and watching a professor “clean the sand from the teeth of some Mastodon.”

In Forest Grove, she describes her experience of the Columbus Day Storm in 1962, which blew down the black walnut tree in her yard.

Since publishing, Bond has led a writing group in Palm Desert, Calif., (her second home). And she taught a short program in Forest Grove last week. She encourages would-be autobiographers to join a writing group and shed their inhibitions.

“Get it down on paper and don’t worry about punctuation or even some of the words,” she said. “Just get it down, then go back and re-read it.”

Forget the pressure to write sequentially, she said, and let each story lead to another. Memories will arise along the way.

Bond’s memoir is the largest project Zusman has completed, and it took about two years to organize, edit and publish.

Zusman wrote her grandmother’s life story almost 10 years ago and presented the book as an 83rd birthday gift. Her grandmother’s response still inspires her: “I just want to know I’m loved and going to be remembered.”

“A lot of people think they don’t have a story to tell,” Zusman said. “I’m constantly trying to combat that. Everybody has a story.”

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