Memoir can be a face-squinchingly embarrassing practice. One runs the risk of looking pathetic and banal. However, human beings are--let us face it--pathetic and banal compared to the animals, let along the angels, and yet God loves us. And sometimes there is beauty in the pathos--or at least a salutary lesson.
For example, yesterday I buried our wedding cake. In old-fashioned British-Canadian tradition, a bridal couple saves the top tier of their wedding cake for the child's baptism. This, traditionally, is fruitcake, and a proper fruitcake is edible for years, let alone nine or ten months after it is made. The Christmas cakes you will purchase in December may very well have been made last winter, and it is no big deal.
Since I was determined to follow whichever old-fashioned British-Canadian traditions would not shock our guests, I certainly kept the top of our wedding cake. Alas, we never had a child, so this cake has hung around in an old ice-cream container for almost a decade. My mother says we should have served it at our fifth anniversary, but I hadn't given up on the baby yet and, anyway, it was starting to dawn on me that nobody really wants to eat old fruitcake. The fruitcake had become a symbol, really, like when I didn't move out of the choir loft for years because my plan was to leave when the baby arrived. Leaving before the baby came meant giving up on the baby.
Now it's understandable that this is all very sad. The question is, Is it socially acceptable to write about?
I wonder because after I buried the wedding cake yesterday morning, there was a minor crisis when the movers took off with a bag of things I actually wanted to keep, and I burst into tears. As an Ikea bag of wooden hangers and a shoe rack is not really worth crying about, the issue was clearly the cake. The only things to do to get over it, I thought, was to have a good cry in the bathtub (as close to sound-proof as anywhere in the new flat) and then write about it.
However, it was now 11 AM and time for work, so instead of writing about it on my blog, I wrote about it for LifeSiteNews, adding some trenchant thoughts on the evils of IVF. I fear the readers of LSN are going to think I'm a real moaner, given that my LSN blog pieces tend to be about such domestic catastrophes as "My husband has a brain tumour." But I also feared someone--a non-fan--would write it, "Being childless is your own fault for having got married so old, you stupid woman. Why don't you adopt? Oh, you can't afford it? Well, that's your own fault too, isn't it? Stop whining."
The non-fans of my imagination are really mean.
The slings and arrows of outrageous non-fans are risks I'm willing to run in order to say what I want to say in print. The question of fitness may concern the motive: unhealthy self-absorption ("Everyone must feel my pain!) or solidarity with other childless people? Or a warning to young married couples that if they leave child-having too late, they will never have children?
Personally, I thought that there was a certain grandeur in a middle-aged woman (any middle-aged woman) burying the cake she hoped to eat (or at least look at) at her first child's christening. It was certainly more respectful to the concept of motherhood than throwing it in the bin.
Update: So far one "Why didn't you adopt?" type comment and one "That was HER choice. I'm Catholic, I used AID [Artificial Insemination with Donor--I looked it up], I don't regret it" Oh my. You do have to have a tough skin in this Op/Ed business.