A personal historian helps the client identify what in fiction writing would be called precipitating events. At what pivotal points in one’s life did a surprise event from an illness or a relationship or a tragedy or a redemptive second chance cause dominoes to slide in a sweeping cascade?
In my life, one of these was a phone call from my friend and freelance writing partner, Mimi Wilson. “I’ve just assembled 30 dinner entrees and frozen them,” she said on an afternoon in 1981. “Why don’t you call the Denver Post and see if they’d like us to write an article about it?”
Well, I thought she was crazy. “Why don’t you call the Denver Post,” I replied. At the time we were each mostly at home mothering three young children, and had to use a paper city map when we subsequently had to go to downtown Denver to meet with an attorney who drew up a partnership agreement for us.
The Post sent a photographer and a reporter to Mimi’s house within the week to do a Wednesday food feature. Bam! There went the dominoes toppled down her kitchen counter.
Within a year we had written a book on “the method,” titled Freeze and Save. Mimi’s husband called it Thaw and Chaw. But no one laughed for long, because it was the right thing at the right time–who knew? Soon there was a video production of Mimi demonstrating the method, taped in mid-July in my kitchen, at over 100 degrees without air conditioning and food rotting on the counter. We kept revising the book, eventually settling on the title Once-a-Month Cooking. Next–so cutting edge–came a CD-Rom version.
A radio interview on Focus on the Family radio in the early 90’s sent sales sky-rocketing. We hit the Denver Post’s local best-seller list, and that evening I ran barefoot from house to house in our neighborhood collecting the page for anyone who subscribed.
Mimi and I set to writing a companion book, Table Talk, about the time she and her family moved to Quito, Ecuador, where her husband worked with Ecuadorian doctors to establish the practice of family medicine. Of course I had to visit her–a business expense–so that we could write, at a hacienda in the Andes. During that visit I accompanied Mimi to a speaking engagement at the edge of the jungle, flying in a tiny plane with three seats and the pilot. I remember thinking, My boys wouldn’t believe what Mom’s doing now.
We’ve soared, we’ve fallen, we’ve done it together. The adventure continues. Mimi still speaks on “the method,” even in Rwanda, Ecuador, Dubai. (Truly I can’t imagine, but she does.) As empty nesters, Mimi and I are far from needing to cook a month’s entrees at a time in our own homes. So when Focus on the Family radio re-aired our most recent broadcast of theirs this week, it was time to celebrate again a precipitating event–a friend calling with one mom’s good idea. Precipitating events can be quiet ones.
What are two or three of the precipitating events in your life?