A few years after my grandmother passed away and my grandfather decided to move in with my aunt and uncle, I was given a large box containing Grandma’s belongings. In the box were several binders and papers in loose folders containing her writing. Grandma loved to write.
Grandma was a woman strong in what she believed, grounded in her Christian faith, and never afraid to speak up when she thought someone was doing something to hurt themselves. One of the things I loved most about her was her love of life and her ability to make delicious lemonade out of the rotten lemons that life sometimes delivered.
This week while on vacation, I have had the opportunity to archive Grandma’s writings, all 500 or so pages. One volume contains her typewritten memoirs about growing up in the twenties and thirties. Her biological father died when she was eleven months old, leaving her mother to try and raise Grandma and her siblings on her own. In Memories of Past Times, my Grandmother wrote:
My father built the house we lived in, which sat near the river in Georgetown, Illinois. He was a carpenter and also worked on the railroad repairing tracks. He made all the furniture in the home. Each piece was done with tender loving care and finished just right, as it was a gift to his family. He also made the cradles we slept in as babies.
When my father passed away, my mother lost the house my father had built because of back taxes, and had to go to work in a second hand store to provide food, clothing and shelter for her family.
In addition to pages of her memories, my grandmother left behind two wonderful treasures. The first is an undated handwritten letter titled To all our Grandchildren. Even though I had perused these same writings when I was first given her writings, this was the first time I actually saw this soul-revealing letter. She talked about the difficulty of her own life and her spiritual journey and then provided her own advice to living a good life. I transcribed this letter and today sent it to all my cousins.
The second treasure has to do with a story my grandmother told her children while they were growing up. From what I understand, it was a serial story that she spread over several nights, maybe even months. My aunts all loved to listen to Grandma’s adventure and were disappointed that she never wrote it down. Well, just yesterday I found a faded handwritten copy of Leilani in the Jungle. It is difficult to read but I think I can transcribe it for future generations.
When I was asked to be the family historian, I was not sure how to organize our family history. Now, I have created a small library containing stories, poetry, and Grandma’s genealogical research, as well as other things that were special to her. I hope that my family will find as much joy from reading her memoirs as I do.