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?

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