“The Ugliest House in the World,” that’s what my kids called it every time we drove by on the way to visit their grandma and grandpa.It was on Route 2 in North Adams, and hard to miss, an ill-kempt Cape Cod painted electric blue—badly. There were places where you could still see the dirty white clapboards underneath. The weedy, dirt-packed front yard was only two feet wide with a retaining wall that bulged towards the busy road like a pouty lower lip. An out-of-proportion, makeshift addition to the right had floor to ceiling windows, but they were always covered by crooked Venetian blinds, so you couldn’t see inside. To the left of the house was a collapsing one car garage with crumbling asphalt shingles on the roof and a broken tricycle beside it. There were no bushes, no flowers, no apple tree to soften the blow. Zooming by at fifty miles an hour, its ugliness hit you in the face like a two by four. We never stopped for a closer inspection. So why, out of all the houses I’ve passed on the highway in my lifetime, do I remember this one above the rest, this neglected property screaming for attention until it was blue in the face? Because I always wondered who lived there. What child called this space home?
The more specific a story, the more universal. I love memoir because it's willing to face the truth. No matter the topic, if it's true, it reveals what needs to be known by both author and reader.