As the new year approaches, we start making all those great promises to ourselves about what we want to do and accomplish in 2017. But I like to look back and see what this past year has brought. For me, it’s been a ton of medical expenses, and it’s not over yet. I think that has made me want to erase a few things from my mind, because I really don’t want to think about them or dwell on them. So I started to look even further back and that brought me to heirlooms.
When I was little there was a trunk. It was large. (Hey, I was little, who knows what large really was.) It was made from wood and covered with leather. The top was rounded. The inside was papered and somehow pink stands out in my mind. The trunk went to my oldest brother so who knows what happened to it. Anyway, it was filled with notions, and other sewing supplies. Nothing Mom actually used. And somehow I wound up with that stuff. All I know about the trunk was that it had come over in the boat from Germany when my great-grandmother was 8 years old, and it contained all of her worldly possessions.
There was black velvet ribbon and white velvet ribbon. Many a time I cut a length of it and tied it on my girls’ pigtails, knowing I was tying their past to them. There was also all this fascinating flat lace. I still have the lace, and I’ve never figured out how I might use it. It’s beautiful. I also have no idea if it’s from the 1900’s or earlier. Part of me worried that if I used that it might be somehow destroyed. It’s so old – would it survive? (All suggestions appreciated!)
I knew that great-grandmother, not well, but I remember her. What I remember is much too long for a blog post so I’ll save you. 🙂 But I’ve thought about her quite a bit because when I wrote A Rancher’s Woman, I realized my grandmothers would have been the same age as the teens in that story making my great-grandmother the age of Alisa Coleman. Oh would I love to pick my great-grandmother’s brains now!
I only know bits and pieces of my maternal great-grandmother’s story that my grandmother passed to me. I also have all sorts of things in my house that once belonged to her including several pairs of her earrings. So I guess her legacy lives onward. My father’s grandmother… I know very little about her only my father’s stories about her and growing up on that farm.
Mentally I moved though time to my lifetime. I know this might sound silly, but somehow over the years I’ve collected coffee mugs. Not just any mug but mugs from friends who have moved away. One of the last mugs I have is from a dear friend who loved giraffes . The giraffe’s neck makes the handle. I use those mugs when I’m lonely. Somehow mugs seem to hold that person. It was her favorite mug and she gave it to me when she moved. I gave her my favorite mug.
Seems we collect odd things in life. Sometimes it’s physical, and sometimes it’s not. The stories that I’ve gathered from sharing a pot of coffee with neighbors/friends, often wind up in my stories. My head is filled with such things. If I had another 150 years to write all those stories, I still would not run out of them because we seem to collect more of them along the way.
When I wrote Loving Matilda, a historical western, I brought the heroine back to the area where I grew up. I didn’t grow up in Germantown, but very close to it. I was familiar with the land. I had been in the house where my father was raised and and stepped onto the widow’s walk where I could still see Ben Franklin on top of Philadelphia’s city hall. I didn’t use the school where he attended, I used Germantown’s. My father attended a two-room schoolhouse. And often the farm kept him at home. But his grandmother who raised him never let him slack off. By the time he was six, he could read the Bible without stumbling over words. He left school at the end of sixth grade. But I could bring home calculus problems and he’d look at the “gobbledygook” that I did to answer the problem and tell me if I was right or wrong. Of course, I couldn’t figure out how he solved the problem, but he was always right. He’d just shake his head and comment about the crazy stuff we were learning. By the time my granddaughter was bringing home math problems in sixth grade I was totally stumped as to what they were teaching her. (HUH? What is that nonsense they wanted her to do? Of course today, they don’t use slide-rulers.)
I love tucking bits and pieces of “real ” life into my stories. It doesn’t matter if they are contemporary or historical novels. So I tuck things into the stories and keep going, because I’ve learned that no one is alone. No matter what anyone has experienced, someone else has been in those shoes.
So pouring a cup of coffee into a friend’s mug is like sharing that cup with with my friend even though we might be separated by two or three thousand miles. Or wearing a great-grandmother’s pair of earrings, somehow brings me closer to her. Bridging the gaps in time, seem to hold a special place in my heart. Maybe the past, be it distant or near, holds meaning as we look forward.
As I face a new year and make plans for 2017, I don’t make resolutions, just plans, I find myself bringing the past with me. It’s embedded in my genes and a part of me. So I’ll raise that darling giraffe to my friend as I once knew her for today she is battling Alzheimer’s. That mug will mean nothing to my children and it doesn’t need to mean anything. It’s my way to remember my friend and the wonderful times together. My family that came before me is here in my house in my possessions, a constant reminder of my roots.
I had a tough year, so did a lot of people. Many have faced more difficult battles, and I’ll admit so have I. We all seek an artificial goal of perfection that none of us will ever obtain. Maybe we need to learn to accept our pasts and move from there. I can’t make my past go away anymore than I can stop my hair from going gray – I can hide it, but I can’t stop it. I can’t change who I am. But I can strive to be a better person while knowing that I’ll never be perfect.
There’s nothing wrong with making resolutions and if that helps someone face the future with a positive attitude, go for it! Maybe I just don’t put a date on it or attach any sort of time restraint to what I do. But somehow what goes through my head is change what you can, accept what you can’t, and cross your fingers that you have the wisdom to know the difference. I swear that often the most difficult thing to do is to change something. Habits can be ruts and climbing out of the them is possible – not easy but possible.
I know I have a few very bad habits. Everyone does! I’m not going to say I’m going to change all those negative things about myself this year. But I’ve made plans to seriously work on a few of them. Maybe this year I will succeed! What makes me think that this time it will be different? Maybe, just maybe, I’ve hit that point in my life where I’m honestly ready to let go of that bad habit. Maybe this year I can finally see myself making a few changes in those areas.
If the roof doesn’t need total replacement, and everything else goes as planned, I’m going to Wyoming this year. I keep threatening I won’t come back. But one look at their winter temps and I know I’d never survive that cold!
Anyone here live in Wyoming? Hit the contact page and tell me about it! I’ve heard I should go to Cody and the museum there. Any other recommendations? Yep, Sheridan, I know you’ve changed in the last 120 years. For a the first time in ages, I think it just might be this year that I get there.
Change will happen. Every passing day we change. Everything we do changes us, and the things around us change. We cannot stop all the changes. But we can control what we do and how we face whatever comes our way. So I’m putting a smile on my face and looking forward to this new year. I’ve got some great plans and I don’t want the things that I can’t control getting in my way.
One major habit to break, another that needs to be, shall I say, modified, and an overall plan to continue to make gains where my health is concerned. My intent is become a better me. Plus, there’s a few things with this old house that I’m hoping to fix. And I really want to take a trip to Wyoming. So that’s my plan. Camera, toothbrush, laptop, and I’m out of here!
There’s a new year coming and I’m ready for it! Are you?