It was in the fall of 1984 when I wrote my first full-length novel. I was sixteen at the time. The story was written in a red wire spiral bound notebook. I don’t remember the title, or even most of the story line. I simply remember that I carried around this notebook and added to the story every day. As we go through life it’s what most people do – add to the story every day. My Grandmother kept detailed diaries from the time she could write. Every significant event in the family, precious thought she had, or perhaps thoughts she hadn’t intended on sharing with the world were neatly penned on the lines between the covers. Yet, when all was said and done and the diaries cracked open by the prying eyes of those she had left behind, a whole world opened up to us. In those numerous diaries, that covered some eighty years, were the additions to her story that she had faithfully recorded every day.
I often wonder if Grandma had spent time re-reading her diaries. Had they served a purpose for her, or were they merely recordings of a woman who once was as if to say, “I had lived, and in these pages are all days of my life.” Grandma was a writer by nature and as the saying goes comes by it honestly. Her grandmother was Mary Jane (Jennie) Strawn, a most amazing poet and writer, who was originally from Ohio and moved with her husband James Parker to Minnesota in the 1800s. Her grandfather's brother was her Uncle Samuel Parker who wrote for a small magazine, The Call, in the 1800s. Grandma also wrote for the Mountrail County Record for a number of years. She was a columnist writing about the society of our small home town.
Grandma passed the writing gene on to her son, who was a reporter for the Minot Daily News in the 1960s. After Grandma’s passing, stacks of articles he had written were found yellowed with age, neatly stored in the crawl space in the eaves of the house where she had lived with Grandpa. He had reported on some of the historical moments in North Dakota history, to include the building of the Garrison Dam and creation of the Sakajwea Reservoir. He is still living and is an avid reader. I suspect he has always been an avid reader.
There are some mighty big shoes to fill in the family when it comes to writing. I will always be grateful for Grandma’s insistence on perfection when it comes to reading and writing. When I was in upper elementary and junior high, I would send letters to Grandma in Arizona over the winter months, and with her reply she would send back the ‘edited’ version of my letter to her. As the years went on, the amount of red on the paper diminished. Grandma was a different sort of person. In all her years, sometimes she had been cold, hard and unyielding, especially when it came to the children, but I choose to believe that her heart and intentions were always in the right place. Anything less would be a travesty.
Sometimes we come by our talents naturally, but most often I think we come by them honestly through the time honored traditions in our families. For me, it is writing at the unwitting instruction of my Grandmother. For others, it may be the arts, or science, or some other vocation. No matter your vocation. No matter the tasks required if you come by it naturally or honestly then it is good.
Monday Musings: Are you naturally talented; or do you come by it honestly?