Haiku, memoir and the Easter bunny

(This is not my tooth.)

[Spoiler alert: If you’re merrily awaiting the arrival of the Easter bunny, please stop reading here and close this page.]

I’ve always appreciated haiku poetry, but recently it occurred to me that haiku could prove a useful tool for exploring memoir.

Two of the challenges of memoir writing involve determining which memories to include and how much about each event or topic to share. Does anyone care about this scene except Aunt Hilda? How much background information is necessary to explain this part of the story?

This is why starting to write about a memory can feel like molding clay into a nice little bead … and then adding onto it and onto it until it resembles something more akin to a cowbell.

Haiku, in its spare splendor, offers an opportunity to carve away at a memory. How few words, how few syllables can I use to give the reader a taste of my memory?

I’ve begun to see haiku as memoir-shorthand. Or should I say memoir-gardening? I plant a few syllables, and when I reread them later, a whole story springs up around them.

Here’s one I planted last week:

mitten in my mouth
a snowflake falls to the ground
taste of blood—my tooth! 

When I read this haiku now, it reminds me of the day I lost my first tooth—and with it the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Here’s the longer version of that story:

After playing in the snow one morning, I was ready to go inside. But when I tried to open the door, my heavy winter mittens kept me from getting enough grip to turn the knob.

I grabbed one of my mitts between my teeth and pulled it off my hand along with—pop!—a tooth, the first I had ever lost.

This was very exciting, because I was the last of my friends to lose a tooth. I was jubilant! My parents told me to place it beneath my pillow, so the Tooth Fairy could come and take it.

I had heard much about the Tooth Fairy from my older, more experienced friends and knew I would probably find a quarter or two in place of my tooth come morning.

But I was a sentimental sort and wanted to keep that tooth. I didn’t want some fairy running away with it. Teetering on the verge of tears, I explained my concerns to my dad. He assured me that he would instruct the Tooth Fairy to leave my tooth under my pillow along with whatever prize she brought.

I had not imagined this as a possibility, so I grew suspicious. I asked whether he was the Tooth Fairy. After a brief pause, he nodded yes.

With that, the other companions of childhood legend began filing through my mind. “And the Easter Bunny?” Yes. “And … (gasp) … Santa Claus?” I still remember my dad’s answer: a gentle but truthful “Ho ho ho!”

While losing my first baby tooth brought a surprise farewell to some mysteries of childhood, it also was an important moment in my relationship with my dad. I learned he would respond to my difficult questions with the truth.

mitten in my mouth
a snowflake falls to the ground
taste of blood—my tooth! 


Ready to share your memories? Try a haiku! I’ll share a prompt on this blog before long and in next week’s e-newsletter, “The Same Loon.”

I can help you write your memories in classes and coaching. Check out some options here.   

string of pearls

Write your memories

I’ll help you — check out my coaching & classes.

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Pearl beads image by TheAnnAnn from Pixabay

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