Sunday, October 18, 2009

I Remember When.........

About twenty years ago I asked my mother to tell me about her life. Since we lived far away from each other she would type up a couple of pages about different subjects and send them to me. At the time I put them in an album titled I Remember When.

I asked John's mother questions about her life whenever we would go to visit her.

Every Sunday morning for at least 10 years I would troop across the street, in my old neighborhood, with either a dog or baby in tow and sit with Myrtle, my elderly neighbor, for an hour or so. We had toast and coffee and she would tell me stories of her life.

I am a keeper of stories. Perhaps I am a story teller too. That's a nice thought.

Myrtle loved her mother and had a understanding of her father's failures.

The first he couldn't help but he wasn't Norwegian. Myrtle's mother's large extended family were.

Second, he was unsuccessful as a farmer in Wisconsin so he moved his family to Texas to grow fruit. He didn't do much better down there.

He moved his family back to Wisconsin.

Myrtle at age 18 left home for North Dakota where a call had gone out for teachers. I don't know where she got her teaching certificate or if she even had one. I know that when I would look at this quiet, tiny, little old lady with beautiful snow white hair, pulled up into a twist, with a tiny little bright, red bow. I had a hard time picturing her just getting on a train with her carpet bag and going West into the unknown.

What brings this story to mind is the frost I woke up to this morning. It covered everything.

Myrtle told me that when she got to the town where she had been hired they didn't have a boarding house so the teacher had to stay a week at each student's house for the school year. In many houses she had to stay in the attic space. She said she would get ready for bed and one of the parents would climb up the ladder and then throw a heavy, cleaned hide over her.

She would wake up to the nail heads coming through the roof, covered with frost.

She told me about her life, her marriage, her children. She shared herself and her stories with me.

We bonded over her stories.

Or perhaps it was because she once had a daughter that shared my name.

When her daughter was ten she was playing with her brother and sister in the barn and fell out of the barn loft and died.

Or maybe it was because I was the only one that was interested in her life.

She was a gracious, loving, talented woman who once told me that she was in a restaurant when Frank Lloyd Wright came in, tossing his cape grandly around the room. She snorted and said, "That man never paid a bill in his life."

She watched over me like a grandmother. She rocked my children when they were babies, especially Mary when she came into our lives. She kept cookies in her red, apple, cookie jar and graciously gave them to dogs and children alike.

People tell me their stories. I guess you could say I am a keeper of stories.

Like my love of old barns, weathered doors and windows I guess I love these stories too.

And, so good reader I shall pass them on to you because that's what story tellers do. :)Bea, create it's good for your soul


  1. Nothing like a good story, and my daddy was a good story teller too. :) Mama was the writer and I'm glad she wrote things down as I would never remember them.

  2. You know, Yvonne, I would have enjoyed sitting by the fireplace listening to your Daddy tell stories. I can almost see his profile and grin. :)Bea

  3. These days, I think people are too in a rush to stop and listen..
    Beautiful memories, by the way!

  4. Thanks Kim for stopping by and sharing some time and stories with me. Your visit was appreciated and I do hope you come back again. :)Bea

  5. Hi Bea, I found you via Trudi at Two Dresses Studio and I'm so glad I did!

    You have a lovely gift for storytelling...the story of Myrtle is so very touching and poignent...thank you for sharing this. What a treasure trove of history and stories you are the keeper of!

  6. I love peoples stories, can listen for hours. thanks for sharing this story

  7. Good day to you Kate and I'm so glad you took the time to visit with me. :)Bea

  8. Hello Mim, some people have very sad stories and some can't seem to put theirs in words but we've all got them. It's what makes up this human fabric. :)Bea

  9. Kewlness.

    Wish we did this when my grandparents were alive.

  10. I know what you mean, G. I wish I had done this with my grandparents and my aunts and uncles. They lived through difficult times and I would love to have known their stories. :)Bea

  11. Jim and I were talking about this today, strangely enough Bea. I wish with all my heart that I had written down the details of my mother and fathers' lives when they told me tales of their past. But I didn't and now they're all a bit muddled up. Jim is the same about his family. When we're young we don't think we'll forget. My Granddad was a wonderful story teller in his dark resonant Yorkshire voice. My Grannie used to say 'Will, or Dadda, they've heard it before', but we never tired of his stories. I have thought I must write down my stories for my children, because, like me, they will forget.