Community Voices: Anita Beckstrom

Over the years, Write On has held a number of memoir-writing
classes for community elders in a variety of settings, including
senior-living facilities, churches and libraries. Participants have
ranged in age from 70 to more than 100. Some were born and
raised in Door County; others moved here after marrying a local
resident or fulfilling a dream of retiring in our community.
Something wonderful happens when people who do not consider
themselves to be writers are encouraged to share their stories on
paper. Last month, Nancy Fishman, a fiction writer from Oakland,
California, was one of our writers-in-residence. As her community-
service project, she led two sessions about writing life stories at
Scandia. One participant declared she was a lifelong reader but not
a writer, yet she produced some beautiful short stories about her
childhood. Responding to one of the prompts Fishman had given
the group, another woman said, “Being encouraged to write about
something brings back other memories, so I’m happy to be here.”
Our writing programs for seniors will continue this fall with a four-
week program at Trinity Lutheran Church on Washington Island,
and more are planned for Scandia and ADRC. If you would like to
volunteer to lead sessions or offer other support, email

Here are two memories written by Anita Beckstrom during her
time in Fishman’s program. I encourage you to use either of these
prompts to write your own story.

Prompt 1: A recent memory that makes you smile

My daughter was visiting me and had made plans for us to see two
of her cousin’s daughters who were in their 30s – my grand-nieces
from my husband’s family. One of the girls told me that she had a
picture with her that I had painted for her grandmother, my sister-
in-law. It was of her children, when I first met the family. She wanted me to sign it. I did not remember doing this painting, but when she brought it out, I recognized my style and knew it was mine. It was amazing!

Prompt 2: A family tradition

We lived next door to my husband’s family. All of them. They
usually got together on Christmas Eve to open gifts, eat. We had
three daughters, each a year apart, and it was not convenient to
take small infants out, so we decided to do our own “Santa Came
Last Night” routine. Then on Christmas Day, with two families to
celebrate, we went to my parents’ party for Christmas breakfast
and my husband’s family for Christmas dinner, which they kindly
held at 1 pm instead of noon. My daughters grew up surrounded by
grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second-cousins. When they
were in college, they met fellow students who barely knew their

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