Family Story

November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. Last year I used it to finish the rough draft of the novel I have been working on. I am still muddling my way through edits and rewrites, mostly because it is a daunting task and I have a tendency to put it off.

This year I am shooting for a somewhat easier project. I am going to write the tale of one my early ancestors and his journey to America.

Losing everything he owned in the Great Fire of London, John Perry had few options left to him. He could return with his father to the ashes of the city and try to salvage the scorched  fragments of his life and rebuild, or he could turn his back on the past and look to the colonies across the ocean for a new start. The black smoke hovering over the once great city merged with the gray clouds. The steady rain had finally turned the tide of destruction and conquered the flames. The smell of ash and charred wood clogged his every breath. Nothing remained of his life, his dreams. No, there was nothing left for him here. The colonies of the New World held the promise of hope and forgetfulness.

John Perry (the Younger) joined his parents, John Perry (the Elder) and Johannah Holland Perry on the trip to Watertown, Mass in 1667. There he married Sarah Clary within the same year. I can find information about births, deaths and marriages, but little else so many years later. I know bits and pieces and some stories that have come down through the family. My people were there during the French and Indian war, the Revolutionary War, Civil War and other important times in our country’s history. They were farmers, teachers and preachers. Simple people who grew up, loved, laughed and sorrowed just like we do today. They lived the history we learn about in books.

Their blood flows through my veins. It is enough for me to want to know them. Are they like the living, breathing family that I know and love? What parts of them have been passed down to me and my children?

Years ago, before I had any idea of being a writer, my Grandpa Perry and I sat together on the couch gazing out the window. He was telling me stories of his parents, aunts and uncles, their travels and their coming home. At fifteen I was keen to know who I was, where I had come from. As we talked about the ones who had gone, he said to me.

You should write a story about our family.

At the time, I eagerly agreed. I loved my family, I was fascinated by our history. I neglected to mention to him that I hated to write.

Years later he passed away, lost in the fog of Alzheimer’s syndrome. I was 1500 miles away and unable to get home. My biggest regret was that I never got to say good bye, second to that was that I had never fulfilled that request.

Still I waited. Now he has been gone more than ten years. I have been thinking about it more and more and have come to a conclusion. 4023864_origIt is time to grant that simple wish.

NaNoWriMo is coming.

Are you ready?

 

Seasons of Change

I’m not as young as I used to be. I know that may come as a shock to some, but it it true. Middle age has caught up to me. I keep telling myself that I will grow old gracefully, that I will embrace the changes to come. But I still find myself fighting each wrinkle, each gray hair and each new ache in my body.  I cast sly glances toward my sisters and friends; are my wrinkles deeper, do I have more gray under the fresh coat of color? How old to I look compared to them?

It’s sad but true. I am vain. I can’t seem to help it.

Today I went for a walk. The fall colors are at their peak and the weather is supposed to be wet and windy for the rest of the week so I wanted to enjoy one last autumn walk. I walked to the hill behind my house. I have enjoyed the colors from my windows, but today I wanted to be out among the blooming trees. I walked along the edge of the field where trees formed the boundary between our land and a neighbor’s. I had not walked that trail since . . . well, it has been a long time. What I found humbled me.

The border of trees was barely 50 feet wide, but inside that limited space, the trees had survived and grown old. All along the field, I found trees that had survived against all odds.

Forgotten Fence

 

 

In their younger years, the trees had doubled as fence posts holding up barbed wire fences. The fence and whatever it had held were long gone. All that remains is the wire, rusted and broken. The trees had grown around it and made it an irremovable part of itself.

Other trees had been damaged by wind, rot and lightning. Yet contorted, scarred and shattered, they still live and even thrive.

Is It DeadThis tree looked dead when I walked up to it, but when I walked to the other side, a single branch  projected from the trunk. That single branch was too big for my hands to wrap around. Supported by its neighbors, that single branch flourished. The Living Branch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw so many trees that bore scars and wounds. Far more than were whole and sound. Each one was unique. Each one accepted its imperfections and lived

Strong Survivor5 Strong Survivor6 Strong Survivor3 Strong Survivor2 Mismatched Couple.2 As I walked, I learned their silent lesson. We are all scarred, all imperfect. We all have wrinkles and gray hair, (or will someday). We can take the parts of life that cause us pain, embrace them and with time, love and effort, we can turn them into something that makes us beautiful and one of a kind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each one of these trees, although horribly scarred still lifted their branches to heaven and shared their beautiful colors with the world.

 

 

 

 

Strong Surviver

They’re Just Things

“It’s mine.”

“No, it’s mine. I saw it first.”

Does this sound familiar? It should to anyone who has had toddlers or worked with them even seen them fighting in a store. The whiny, cranky voices grate on the nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard.

The sad fact is that we don’t necessarily grow out of it. Sometimes we merely hide it under polite phrases or even nonverbal cues.

There is something I want. I will find a way to get it.

Sometimes the claims are right and just. We have certain rights as human beings and it is not wrong to claim them. We have rights as Americans, as children of our parents, as parents of our children, even as homeowners and renters. We have rights.

But what if claiming those ‘rights’ infringes on the ‘rights’ of another? As a parent, I have the right, the responsibility, to discipline my children. As my children, they have the right to be sheltered and protected. Sometimes that line is blurred. Sometimes I don’t discipline enough and sometimes, I confess, I have gone too far. Sometimes I actually hit the mark. It is one of the hardest jobs for a parent.

My parents are already planning what to leave behind as an inheritance for my sisters and I. Until we get to heaven, death is a part of life, but I hope they don’t leave for a long, long time. With their planning, they are trying to shelter us from the upheaval that will come.

I have seen it in other families who have lost parents. Arguments over who gets what. Fighting over little details, a bit of furniture or jewelry escalates to horrendous proportions. The battles can last for years, sometimes for a lifetime. Huge chasms of pain and anger tear families apart. Sometimes forever.

I can see glimmers of it, the seeds of discord within my own family. A few years ago I would have said it was impossible. We love each other deeply and would never cause that kind of pain just for things. I fear I may have been wrong and it fills me with sorrow.

I have the memories of my parents, of our family through the years of both sorrow and joy. No one can take them from me. They are my inheritance. The things, the items linked to those memories are not important.They are a pale shadow of what is real. My parents are striving to disperse the things in a way that is fair and compassionate. Sometimes the division of things will not be perfect, there will be things that more than one person wants. That is bound to cause some hurt.

I grew up knowing, beyond the shadow of a doubt that I was loved by my family. I was not always understood, my choices are not always the right ones. But I have always been loved. That is such a precious gift that few other families can claim. The more I see of this weary old world, the more I treasure what I have had without question, without doubt. I pray (it has become a fervent prayer) that my family will remember the priceless possession that we already have before they give in to the hurt of things.

We have each other, don’t let the things of earth make us forget that. I would rather go through life with nothing than lose what I have with my family. 081

Now I See

I love fall. I think it is my favorite time of year. My love affair with Autumn probably got its start because my birthday is in fall. All those years of anticipating parties, presents and cake affected my mind. Now, even when I can’t say I look forward to that proof that I am no longer young, I still love fall. Now it has more to do with clear, crisp days, bright colors and frosty nights.

Sometimes I stand outside in the warm golden sun, and wonder what it would be like to not see the glories of the changing seasons. What if we could not see the faces of our loved ones, the obstacles on a crowded street? Those questions and a hundred more led me to write the story of Bartimaeus.

I drew in a deep, spice-scented breath and took a step, then another, stepping wide to miss the open drain. Hadar’s hand slipped a bit, but he tightened his grip and held on.
The clamor of the market was disorienting. I could barely hear the buzzing echo but I continued to shuffle forward. No longer sheltered by the wall, people brushed against me on all sides. With every step, my heart pounded harder. I held my hands out before me, hoping to encounter anything that might help me find the way to safety. All I could feel was the shifting wall of people. My fingers touched rough material and smooth skin. A strong hand grabbed my own and twisted.
“Watch it, old man.” The deep voice snarled above me. “Are you trying to steal from me? Trying to take my purse?” Another hand gripped my throat. Hard calluses scraped against my skin as a strong hand lifted me off my feet. I gasped for air, clawing at the hand that held me.
“Bartimaeus, where are you? Don’t leave me!” Hadar sounded terrified, but I could not offer comfort. My feet twitched as I dangled. The man holding me aloft dropped me. I collapsed to the cobbled street and lay gagging, trying to force my bruised throat to work.
“You are fortunate that I don’t want blood on my new robe, thief, or you would be dead. If I ever see you again, it will be the last time. Now go.” Something hit me in the ribs, further hampering my efforts to breathe. Small hands helped me to my feet. Hadar sobbed quietly in my ear as we stumbled a few steps. Laughter broke out around us and we fell to the ground again.
“Come on, thief, try to take my purse.” A sandaled foot connected to my hip, agony stabbed down my leg. More blows fell; I couldn’t tell if they were from hands or feet. I huddled on the ground trying to protect my head and belly from the blows. Dimly, I heard the sounds of a wounded animal whimpering. The sounds came from me.
“Stop, he is not a thief. We are trying to get to the gate.” Hadar was still there his voice shrill and scared. I wanted to tell him to run and hide lest they turn on him next. How was the boy to find a safe spot? Was anywhere safe?
“To the gate? A beggar then!”
“Come on, beggar, are you hungry? Here’s some fruit for you,” something wet splatted on my head, the juice running down into my ear. The smell of overripe melon washed over me. More rotting fruit and bits of spoiled meat rained down. Anguish and humiliation like I had never known raged through me.

coverRead the rest of Bartimaeus’ story in Now I See, an e-short sold on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O4CWK3U  This story is free to download until Tues. Oct 7 after that it is still a bargain at $0.99. check out my other e-shorts The Gift of Her Son and In His Right Mind.