Sunday, February 25, 2018

Like a poorly written novel

The stories we don't tell. This history hidden away in diaries and old letters. Scattered remarks that make you want to know more. However, sometimes we do not realize until it is too late that there is no one left to fill in the blanks.

Our family had so many stories with no followup. We had our share of black sheep and shady history. Not that our family was all that unusual (well, maybe it was).  My parents' day and age was tougher. There were fewer people and maybe strangers on horses passed through, stopping at a grandmother's door asking for a meal. Maybe a relative had a terrible accident falling off a chair, hanging herself. Funny thing that the chair was against the wall.

Sometimes I think I should delve deeper, visiting archives in order to find out what I can about those incomplete stories. These things sound like some poorly written novel, but then it was a rougher time. In many homes and neighborhoods women had no voice and children were not cherished. The generations of settling things consisted of a rod, a whip or maybe even a fist. Gentleness was considered weakness and free thinking was unheard of. So stories were written. A woman found at the bottom of the basement stairs. Oh, found by the husband at the top of the stairs. A woman found dead in an outbuilding after days after the postman tried to deliver a registered letter. A theft and a war. A history where no one talked. Not in the home. Not to neighbors. Children terrified to be in the house. Children terrified to leave the house. It was a different time when the family stories were buried beneath silence and fear.

As that silent child who heard everything, I learned about the history of the neighborhood along with the gossip. The secrets covered up so long ago surfaced. The adults around me laughed and told more details, according to the age they were when events happened. A new history, one not written down, came into my life. It was colorful and sometimes disturbing. Still I did not ask the questions that now my sister and I debate. Maybe this is part of the reason I write. I open those doors and look for answers. Maybe I even challenge you to do the same.

 In one of my mother's journals, she relates a story that I heard over and over in my childhood. My Aunt Iva was Mom's oldest sister and just about as wild as they came (according to the family). I think I would have liked her, but I never had a chance.  She died in 1940 under suspicious circumstances.

Mom's journal entry:

After my sister Iva graduated from grade school, she went to Dayton and got her a job. And she met a man from Chicago. She would come home sometimes on weekends and one Saturday she came and was in a Chrysler car and we had never seen them. Her beau asked me if I'd like to take a ride and I said yes. When we were riding, he told me his name was Bugs Moran, a Chicago gangster. I didn't know what that was. So after they went back to Dayton, I asked my dad what a gangster was. He never brought Iva home again.

Colorful and crazy. I think perhaps my family was a bit more colorful than most, but then, what's a writer to do?

Monday, February 19, 2018

You can do it

Canasta. Euchre. Uncle Wiggley. Scrabble. Games. We all grew up with them, didn't we? Well, let me tell you that being the youngest was not all that great back the lane on Neff Road. Coming along late in life, I was often alone. Had it not been for my relatives and neighbors, I would not have known what it was to play a game or to have an adult play with me. Mom and Dad were great parents, but they were busy with the youth group and my older sisters. I was the tag-along.

However, I was given a wonderful gift by this alone time. I developed a wonderful imagination. And, by tagging along, I learned to observe. See, being shy has advantages. You get to be invisible thus giving you opportunity to learn by what you see. You pick up little things that outgoing people miss. You learn to listen to adult conversation. You learn to play independently. You learn to create your own world of imagination.

I didn't really realize this wonderful gift I was given until I became a parent. It was then that I found my voice. It was then that I opened that box of wonderful ideas that had hidden so deeply in my past. My home filled with musical instruments and no holds barred on the handling of them. I gathered art supplies for everything from coloring and cutting to painting and creating. Those observations I had as a child showed me what I missed. I determined that my children and theirs would never lack for creative outlet. They have been exposed to concerts, plays, museums and other events. Throughout all of this, conversations and a closeness develop. With stepping into a world of creativity, windows are opened into what is possible.

I was at the end of the kid line in our family, but the experiences (as well as lack of) made me into who I am today and gave me insight to offer my family more.

What has made your heart sing? It is never too late, you know. Those of you who worked hard all of your lives and put off trying something new, do it now. Maybe you  were shy and silent. Find your voice. You can't fail. You only fail when you don't try. Too old to try to paint, write, draw, sing, dance? No, never too old. The beauty of being older is that you learn that you cannot embarrass yourself. You do not need to be perfect. You can try anything you have wanted to try and not go through life wondering if you could have done it. You can open doors for the children in your life by your example.

So today, I hand you your dream. I challenge you to take that first step. Perhaps it will be a new beginning. I know you will find joy. Go for it!