Memory From Good Old Days

Once, when I was a young girl at the age of nine, I dreamed I wrote a book. When I saw the title on the cover with my name beneath it, I was amazed! For days afterwards I would try to remember the title, but couldn’t. Although the dream had planted the idea in my mind I told nobody about it. I believed it was foolish to even think I could do such a thing. Others would shame me if they knew of my conceit, that I even dared to dream I had written a book! Who was I to think I could write something others would want to read?

Forward thirteen years to age twenty-two. I had recently married and was also expecting my first child. I confided in my new husband, telling him I’d always wanted to write (the first time I’d ever dared to tell anyone!). “Then why aren’t you writing?” he said, as if what I’d said was not outrageously ridiculous! Duh! Don’t ask me why I didn’t know that if I wanted to write I should be writing! Perhaps it was the result of an inferiority complex. But after that I began taking pen to paper. When I later read what I’d written I blushed with embarrassment. The writing was full of cliches. As much as I had read, and I’d always been an avid reader, I knew too many cliches meant poor writing.

Forward to age thirty-three, the mother of four young children, all in school. I dared to enroll in a writer’s workshop. We had this wonderful teacher who had us put our writing on a large blackboard and the class would critique what we’d written. Thankfully, sharing our writing with the class was not required. Perhaps Mr. Young (bless his heart!) knew I was very insecure about my writing and did not draw attention to me or pressure me. I remember thinking one evening that my writing was just as good as some of the other writings on the board and I began posting mine.

That’s how my first written piece (besides all the ones I’d rejected and thrown away, of course) was written. Mr. Young told me it was publishable and to send the mss to Good Old Days magazine, a nostalgic publication. My piece was called “The Log Train,” a short story about my siblings and I watching for the log train to come out of the hollow where we lived in the Kentucky Mountains, how we played in the meadow beside the old tracks and called “Log Train’s Coming” when we heard the screeching of the iron wheels on the metal tracks. It was during a glorious yet short time in our young lives after our dad had died leaving a widow and eight children, the older children caring for and providing for the younger ones, my baby brother age six and me age eight.

March 1973 Issue

I cannot tell you how that short piece of writing, taking up only one page in the magazine, changed my life. No, I didn’t become a “writer”, so to speak, except for a few pieces here and there and finally a family book in 2006 called “Stories of a Kentucky Mountain Family As Told by Two Sisters and a Brother,” in which I also included many of my eldest brother and only sister’s writings.

Back to the day I received two copies of the March 1973 edition of the magazine: I hadn’t heard back about my submission until the day I received the copies. My little story was on page 11 (my birth path number in numerology). I looked at the printed page in wonder (I later received a check for $9.00). What it did for my self-esteem was unimaginable. As if it confirmed to me that I was still alive. And I still marvel at the change it made in my life, which is too much to go into here. But the latest thing that’s happened regarding the outcome of the story of The Log Train may be hard to believe. Although I saved the magazine for a while, during several moves and interruptions it disappeared. I had lost track and forgotten how important it had once been in my life.

Click image to read the story

This July (2019) 4th my daughter Teresa, her husband and two of my grandchildren went to Des Moines to celebrate the 4th with my son-in-law’s family. On the way home they stopped at a place called Brass Armadillo Antique Mall in Altoona, Iowa, and were browsing. They came across some Good Old Days magazines and Teresa called me to find out what year my little story The Log Train was published in the magazine. I can’t believe it took me awhile to remember (I’m getting old so I had to dig deep!) but I finally timed it because I suddenly remembered that when I began studying Astrology I learned I’d had a progressed New Moon that began the very same month the story appeared in the magazine, which was March, 1973.

Teresa learned someone on eBay had the Good Old Days magazines for that year. She bought them for me. I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to hold the copy with my story in my hands. I hadn’t realized fully until now how such a “small” thing (in many ways) had changed my life for the better. It’s also amazing that Teresa, who was only nine years old that year remembered that pivotal time and that she sensed how important it was to me. I am blessed in so many ways.

Serendipity?

What a shame that you found out your parents had feet of clay – horrors!  They did stupid things when they were young!  How could they!  Didn’t they know that some day they would have children who would be embarrassed by them!  Just a thought for the day.  Think about it.  Give your parents a break.  They were young once too, just like you.  If you’re entitled to do stupid things to be overlooked by the next generation then so are they. 

Bragging Rights

Bragging Rights

Since this is my blog it occurs to me I have bragging rights.  Today I want to brag about my son Justin.  Not only is he a wonderful son, father, brother, etc., he started out life with a great attitude, that he was born with the ability to make his own choices in life.  He realized this at a very early age.

My brilliant son at the tender age of five came home from his third day in kindergarten.  “Well,” he said with satisfaction, “I learned all I want to know.”  I explained that he had only begun his education and there was much more to learn.  He was still insistent that he “had learned all he wanted to know.” He had no intention of returning to school.  I didn’t want him to feel he had no say in the matter, that school was something which was forced on him.  I wanted him to see it was a journey just begun and look forward to learning more.  To be honest I was bewildered.  It was one thing, I thought, to hate school as some children may say they do, but another to think they have learned all they wanted to know after three days in kindergarten.  I wondered if I’d given him the impression that school was like Tot Lot, which he’d attended for a few weeks the summer before. I talked to the Principal and he thought my son may need some special attention.  He would come offer him a ride in his little red sports car.

My son did not act impressed when the Principal came but agreed to go with him.  I don’t know what the Principal did or said but my son did return to kindergarten and became a happy brilliant student. He grew up to become a wonderful adult with a career in the Air Force, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.  He recently returned to his hometown and began a new career.  You can see why I breathe a sigh of relief.  For an intended kindergarten dropout, he has done exceptionally well.

A Ghost Story

Have you noticed all those ghosts walking around? They used to be mothers, full of life, full of warm, nurturing love. Babies snuggled up in the curve of their necks, their soft sweet skin smelling of Johnson’s baby powder. The babies grew and grew and learned to walk and talk and make their mommas proud when they said her name. As they began to explore, they outgrew their infant needs, becoming self-propelled. They began to learn grownup things. Like who to love and who to hate and some even learnt who to blame when things go wrong. Be it their teachers, the government or their mothers.

They used to be ordinary people like you and me before the miracle of motherhood changed them into bright shooting stars that lit the heavens with happiness for an all-too-brief moment that continues to warm their memory as they grow old.

Have you noticed all those ghosts walking around? The ones with their failing eyesight and tender smiles who fade into the background, soft-spoken and undemanding? They had their moment in the Sun and are content to watch the seasons change and the years fly by.

I hate to say it but they are not me.

Oh, how I loved my time of shooting stars, yet I refuse to be a ghost.

Make Room for Joy

A positive attitude can improve the quality of our life, often leading us to heights of joy. However, in finding our way as human beings, we are also vulnerable to emotional pain; even on the road to joy we become derailed by times of sorrow. One day when I asked my elderly mother a question about the past, she said, “I don’t want to remember the past, honey. It hurts too much.”

Now that I’ve reached my own twilight years and more fully understand my mother’s pain, I’ve also discovered something else. The things that hurt the most to remember now are the pains I numbed myself to when they were fresh. Even though I had this terrible ache inside, I refused to grieve. I told myself that, like Scarlett, I would deal with it tomorrow.

Some hurts I even denied, burying them so deep I’m shocked when they release fresh arrows of pain from the past into my heart. Others I rationalized by telling myself how lucky I was, that the hurt could’ve been far worse. That I had no right to feel pain because other people had it so much worse than I did. Counting my blessings.

I do believe in counting my blessings. Not by denying or ignoring my pain but doing so while also acknowledging that I have a right to grieve for my loss even while I feel grateful for my blessings.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5
So, when your heart is heavy it is better to allow yourself to experience and express the grief until it has wrung itself out. The tears of grief are cleansing your soul, making it ready to once again receive joy.

Find Your Own Truth

To be a person of truth, be swayed neither by approval nor disapproval. Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are. — Rebbe Nachman

It sounds simple. To be a person of truth, be who you really are. But what if, one day, you realize what you’re reflecting is other people’s truth, not your own?. First it was your parents truth; you were thrilled by the light of approval in their eyes. Well, of course! What are parents for, after all, but to teach us their own truth. We have to start somewhere.

But deep inside us is our own truth. Which may conflict with our parents truth. You are not your parents; you are growing into your own person. Only you can know the truth of who you are. And the only way you can know your truth is by examining your beliefs. Where did they come from? Do they have the ring of authenticity or are they things you were told and accepted without question?

If you find some shreds of old beliefs that don’t have the “ring of truth” do you dare to explore the possibility they are wrong? Are you willing to modify them into what does ring as true to you? And then are you willing to resist being influenced by other opinions?

Rebbe Nachman says “Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are.” The key word is “work” because finding our truth is not easy for most of us. We have to dig for it, defend it, even suffer for it.

But in the end, to know your truth is to know pure happiness.

How do I Offend Thee? Think on What I Say

(With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

How do I offend thee? Let me count the ways.
I offend thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach when I say good riddance to your
Shackles of propriety. You say I’m not allowed
To have beliefs that differ from your own. Even though such
Beliefs come from my heart and mind only to guide my own life,
Not to inhibit yours. I offend thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. That America
Is the land of freedom to believe as one’s conscience allows,
Not as others say. I offend thee with the breath, smiles, tears,
Of all my life! And, if God chooses, I shall offend thee until death.