|Back: "May 18, 1969--Dad would have been 80 on this Sunday. We went to pick up a few last things in the house."|
What was the ultimate treasure were some pieces of paper stapled together in my grandma's handwriting. Here she told of her courtship, marriage, and the immediate move to a Texas shack 100 feet from a railroad track. Someone on the passing train would toss them old magazines since they couldn't afford subscriptions and had no radio, let alone electricity. She had brought the top of their wedding cake with them, but the rats--who had chewed through the roof and were often on their bed--had eaten it.
|1940 Chevy or Ford? First of nearly two dozen cars.|
Though there's still a lot to go through, still much to fit together in an old ceiling fan box, one thing is clear--Grandma wrote this down for me. At the beginning of her story she asked how my cat was. If I went to church. That being a missionary would be a rewarding life. Somehow, she knew I'd become a quasi custodian of the remnants of her life, and would dine feverishly on the ashes of my ancestors. Maybe it was because I was the only male grandchild--I'd often get perks because of this. But is this memoir genetic or grandmotherly? Nature or nurture?
It is so overwhelming to me, this inevitable book, being the caretaker of fading echoes, piecing together scraps to form some half translucent image that is only 1/1,000th of the truth. But this is becoming my truth, a sort of gift evolving through a distance of time and place I'm always loathe to travel. Grandma knew, or she willed her knowing. And now I have another box of images and handwriting that seem like a second skin. Without me, I feel, nothing of this will last. Yet with me, the truth of these objects will change. Which makes our lives more unrecognizable? Which makes them more worth living?
If you'd like, read more about my book project via my trip to Oklahoma last spring.