LBCC Student Finds Memoir-Writing Class Life-Enhancing

Maryke Desjardins
Marÿke Desjardins was eight years old when American troops from Camp Adair, Oregon liberated her small South Holland town from five years of German occupation at the end of World War II.

“The Timberwolves liberated us October 30, 1944, and we were so happy! I handed out apples to the soldiers as they marched through our town. For so many years after I moved to America, I looked for a soldier who was there that day,” said Desjardins.

Desjardins moved from Holland to New Zealand, then to Arizona, Minnesota, Montana and finally Oregon. “When I moved to Albany, a young man in one of my Bible classes said, ‘My dad was in the Timberwolves and he was in the Netherlands.’ I said, ‘Oh, I have to meet him, if he’s still alive.’ And he is; he still is today. The family took me to lunch and we talked. I brought them some tulips and Dutch chocolates. He showed me papers from the 104th Infantry Division, and there was my hometown that they had marched through. It was very exciting! My grandson Kenny started asking me questions about my life from the time he was ten years old, so I wanted to write a book for him.”

Insecurity about her English and lack of computer skills held Desjardins back, until she took Sharon Waldman’s Memoir Writing Class at Linn-Benton Community College, held at the Albany Senior Center.

Attending the Friday morning class for the past five years, Desjardins now has a book of her trials, triumphs and travels around half the world that is 167 pages and still growing.

“It was so wonderful to find Sharon, because I didn’t have good teachers in Holland,” exclaims Desjardins. “After joining LBCC’s class, my English and spelling greatly improved. Each week Sharon comes up with clever ways for us to remember things from our lives that we had forgotten. Every time I think I have nothing else to say, she’ll make sure that I do!”

One terrific thing about the class, says Desjardins, is that Sharon tells her students that whatever personal things they reveal in class will stay in class. “It was actually a little bit like being guided to feel better and get it out of your system, whatever bothered you. We talk about very personal things, and it is really nice, because now you don’t have to pay for a psychiatrist. It’s very therapeutic.”

Waldman requires each of her students to write something about their lives every week, and then they read their stories in class and discuss each other’s work with the goal of helping and encouraging each other. The feedback helps improve their communication skills.

“I would recommend Sharon’s memoir-writing class to anybody, because she’s a good teacher,” said Desjardins. “If you don’t understand something, she’ll help you. She makes you feel very comfortable. Being able to write my life story for my family has been a life-enhancing experience for me.”

For more information, see the LBCC online schedule at www.linnbenton.edu, or call Linn-Benton Community College Albany Community Education Center at 541-917-4840.

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