|Grandma's school bell and quilted pillow|
"A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls or very small babies, or perhaps not even born, Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin."--Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie
My grandmother never wrote on the scale of Laura Ingalls Wilder (and of course there would only be one Laura anyway!), but she did write down the story of her childhood. It is recorded in a little 22-page booklet for her descendants to enjoy. Yes, though she was grandma to us, she, too, was once a little girl. In her story she tells of mischievousness (my grandma, really?), escaping the 1913 Marietta flood, loss of loved ones in the 1918 influenza epidemic, and dashed dreams--including the fact that she wanted to be a teacher but, except for Sunday School teacher, never achieved that goal.
My sister collected bells, mostly U.S. state bells, but we also found the little gem featured in the photo above tucked away in her collection. The label affixed on the inside simply reads, "Grandma's Bell." I often wondered about its history. Was it Grandma's inspiration, reminding her that even if she had not attained a teacher's degree she could still be influential? Had it been a gift? Did a one-room schoolhouse teacher who knew of her dreams bequeath it to her?
Two things happened recently that prompted some of my reminiscences. My 5 year-old granddaughter started reading the Little House on the Prairie series (yay, Angelica--another generation to be warmed and inspired by Laura!), and my cousin Amy floated a pretty neat challenge at the first of the year that seems to have exploded. Let me explain.
Amy is a certified genealogist. We have her to thank for the details of our family's genealogical tree on my mother's (and her father's) side. Amy blogs at No Story Too Small, "Life is Made of Stories." In her profile she says she doesn't think she's been to a cemetery she hasn't liked. She is seriously good at what she does.
Well, I have to brag on my younger cousin. Amy proposed a challenge for 2014 to her readers: "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks." Not only is she posting about her ancestors once a week (some mine, but she writes on both sides of her family), but she's also running a recap each week of those who have accepted the challenge and are posting about their ancestors on their blogs. As of week three, she is up to 242 links! What fascinating reading. Oh, imagine multiplying our own stories by those of each person around us, enlarging the circle, generation after generation. How many Little House on the Prairie series could we collectively write??? Amazing information at No Story Too Small. You can get lost in the links each week.
Amy's first of 52 posts featured, ta-da, our grandmother--along with photos and little details even I didn't know about. She started with Grandma because, as she says, she credits her for instilling in Amy her love of family history and genealogy. Funny, but I've credited our grandmother for instilling the love of writing in me (though I suspect Amy got her writing talent from her, too) since Grandma not only wrote that short history of her childhood but also poetry.
See, Grandma, you were a teacher after all.
And so I share this for all who love stories, history, genealogy, and just plain old inspiration to get out there and do what you love, and love as you go. Along the way collect your stories, pass them on. Who knows, maybe someday someone will say, oh, yes, she was a little girl once and what a neat story she lived to tell.
Love you, Amy--and if you're reading this, watch your mailbox. I think Grandma would want you to have the bell next :-)
Have you traced your family tree? Any stories pop up that you would want to pass on to those who follow after you? Has anyone in your family written about their childhood that gets passed down generation-to-generation?
"And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see--or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read." --Alice Walker