Recently during a cleaning frenzy, I found buried deep within my closet an envelope labeled “grandma”. I think I brought the contents of the envelope home after she died in 1993 at the age of 86. It’s only now that I realize how incredibly sweet it was for her to write down the memories of her childhood.
My grandmother was in her 80’s when she found an old notebook from the 60”s at the bottom of the drawer by her rocker and oxygen tank. She numbered the pages as she wrote in shaky, cursive, old-fashioned script. It tells a small piece of her story, the story of her early years on the “homestead” in North Dakota. I read these, intrigued with how the themes of life rarely change.
She wrote about:
“When my sister, Lydia was 18 years old, she told our dad she wanted to become a nurse. If he didn’t give her the money, she would borrow it. He had grain in storage in Butte. It was to pay off the mortgage on the homestead. He sold the grain and gave her the money instead. I never asked my folks for any money. I want my share.”
Oh so honest! Reading that touched me so much. Who hasn’t from time to time felt that sibling competition?
“We finally got a well with some water, it was very hard, you couldn’t wash your clothes in it, but it sure made good coffee.”
Can’t you just taste it?
“We didn’t have a pump we used the old fashion method, had a bucket on a chain that you let down with a crank.”
Vivid imagery of a time passed.
“ When I was 13 and 14 years old, I used to get cramps real bad with my period. When I would get far enough away from home behind a hill, I would get off my horse and get down on my knees and make different movements until they would stop. What I didn’t realize, I was really doing the knee and chest exercise that starts the flow and the pain stops. We didn’t have anything to read on healthcare.”
I might have wanted NOT to remember this, but how progressive. I think now it’s a yoga move we call “cat and cow”.
“In March, 1914, we went to our homestead. Dad built a 2 story 14 ft. by 14 ft house, which was my home until I left Oct. 3, 1925 to get married. It was truly a very good home.”
Losing it can make one want it more.
What the journal doesn’t say is that she eloped with the ranch hand, was disowned by the dad she loved so much and never saw her dad again.
The journal doesn’t say how much she regretted not keeping her youthful impulsivity in check. The course of her life was forever changed with the decision to run off. I know this from her oral history. I also know she accepted it and made the best of it.
Journaling is an old-fashioned art form. Today we call it blogging. Blogging, journaling, story telling, whichever form it takes, it helps to make sense of the past and understand the humanity of our family on a deeper level.
Journaling. What does your story say?