I never meant to share my reflections with the world. I wrote for my family, in an attempt to make sense of it all, to seek out the vanished past that left its faint footprint in the present. But as I began to open locked doors and allow the past back in, more and more memories, more scenes, more scents and sounds of a lost world swelled into being and jostled in my mind for attention. There was a profound satisfaction in feeling that I was rendering homage to those who came before me, and laying a path for those in search of themselves to follow. I began to see myself as a mere fragment in time, the sum of choices made by unknown ancestors, in a distant past.
Each memoir is both unique, and universal. I learned that each personal memoir holds truths and commonalities way beyond those experienced by the writer. Every life, whatever the circumstances, turns out to be a universal tale of reversals and transformations, shaped by the storms of politics, economics, wars, and losses; the prism through which each tale is viewed is what bends the experience into widely differing shapes for each individual.
In striving to make sense of our own lives, we are drawn to read about the lives of others. Whether those lives mirror our own or offer a taste of exotica or trauma we have not shared, we enter them for a brief time, taking pleasure or pain in the sharing, and always finding a common humanity.