Instead of marking #52snapshots as a 2021 done deal, I decided for 2022 I would follow Sonja Livingston’s 52 prompts exactly as laid out in Fifty-Two Snapshots: A Memoir Starter Kit. By the end of the year, I should have 52 pieces I can play around with. I am committed to writing about the process and posting every Friday.
Today I followed the first prompt about the derivation of my name. I suppose I could have written about the name Krasner, most likely a name to describe someone from the town of Krasnoe in Russia. At least that’s what name expert Alexander Beider told me years ago. Instead, I chose to write about what I consider my real given name, Bryna Dobra. Although my parents debated whether to give me an American name of Bonnie or Barbara, they never questioned that my paternal grandfather requested I be named for his mother, Bryna, and his oldest sister who died in the 1918 flu pandemic, Doba. I think only one other of Bryna’s descendants was named for this woman who immigrated to Newark at age 60 (or so) and died around the age of 97. I should only be so lucky to live such a long life, although Bryna certainly had her troubles: she outlived three of her four daughters.
Process wise, writing about my name was an easy entry point into writing memoir. The key is to keep the writing focused on yourself and your insights.
Within Livingston’s introduction, she mentioned writing about a favorite pet. That actually sparked another piece of writing while I was reading. I typed in Notes on my Kindle about the pets who lived on our block in my hometown, about how I knew all their names and the names of every family on the block of forty or so houses. How I can’t say the same now. I’ve lived in my house for thirty years and if I hadn’t had surgery in October, I would never have received a get-well plant from my neighbors who put their names on the gift card.
What these first prompts do is begin the excavating process, of bringing that drill to the bedrock of memory and cracking it wide open. I hope some of you will join me on this journey of 52 prompts for 2022!