I was talking to a friend one day having one of those conversations that started with, “Did you try that recipe for pizza?” and ended with, “That would make a great story.”
I was recalling a day with my great grandfather. In his nineties when I was five or six, he had Alzheimer’s but to me he was just as normal as anyone else. He sat on the swing in his front yard one spring day in his dirty grey bowler hat, jacket zipped up to the collar. His beautiful whistle echoed across the yard.
That morning I was drawn to my great grandparent’s house next door and I asked Doda to teach me how to whistle.
A glimmer of recognition came to his face. In broken English, he said, “Nunda, make your mouth like this and blow.”
I did but only a weird howl came out. I was born with a birth defect that stole any chance of whistling away but still, Doda tried.
As suddenly as the swing moved backward, his memory slipped away.
That was the story I recounted to my friend followed by a tale of Doda’s migration to the United States as man in his late twenties. Bringing along a fifteen year old bride, arranged in marriage by her parents, Doda and Babbie used all their money to purchase one way ships passage to America.
More than sixty years later, children, grand children and great grandchildren that included me, Doda lived a full life and seemed content to sit on that swing under the big elm tree in the front yard of his one bedroom house that sat on the lot next to ours and, in his lucid moments, he told stories to me.
And I paid attention because, even when I was young, something inside said those stories were important. I knew I had to remember the excitement in Doda’s voice as he spoke of his first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. I knew how lucky I was to be born into a family where my great grandparents were alive to tell me stories that seemed so foreign and unimaginable. My great grandparents were like living storybooks, as old as their tales and as wise as their words portrayed.
The day during the conversation with my friend, she added the story of her family. Ancestors she didn’t know migrated to the new land. From which country, she had no clue, but she knew of the baby they found on the edge of a river. His parents killed by people they supposed were Indians, the baby left to die in his massacred mother’s arms. By the prodding of what I can only guess was Gods lead, the infant survived and, when he was old enough, he married their daughter and took the family name.
Covered wagons, harsh winters, disease, struggle, love, commitment and the will to make a better life was the goal of the immigrants and I combined all that I was lucky enough to hear as a child to write my historical romance Travis Pass Series.
I presented my friend with the first chapter of Travis Pass and she read every page right then. With tears in her eyes she said, “This is amazing. You should try and get it published.”
So I did. For her, and Doda--and my own children who grew up with their own trove of stories told by my grandmothers, their great grandmothers, who lived into their nineties. Many times my children sat listening to bohemian accents flavoring each sentence, wrinkled hands gracing the air as if movement could open a curtain to the past.
And maybe someday, my great grandchildren will ask about my life which, as the past makes way for the future, may seem so strange to them that something will draw them to take notice. Perhaps they’ll be inspired as I was.
Visit my website and read the essay I wrote about Doda’s whistle and learn about the rest of my work. http://annettesnyder.atspace.com or my unique blog which includes writing talent and promoters -Fifty Authors from Fifty States http://annettesnyder.blogspot.com