Several weeks ago I was honored to be named a finalist in this year’s Katherine Paterson Prize at Hunger Mountain. The story I submitted, DANCING GRANNIES, I wrote to celebrate four of the most amazing women I had ever known- my grandmother and her sisters. These ladies survived the Great Depression, the loss of their mother to TB at very young ages (my grandmother was 8 when her mother passed), WWII, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, race riots, the Cold War, countless recessions, and for some, had witnessed 9/11. But somehow, through all of it, they never lost their sense of humor or their love of music and dancing. My grandmother and her sisters- Mama Glad, Granny Grace, Aunt Julie and Aunt Rhody, could make music out of anything and clog the biggest mountain buck dancer under the table. They cooked, cleaned, worked, grew their own vegetables and canned what they cooked. They made cakes that were lighter than air and tasted like heaven, and biscuits that melted in your mouth. The joy of their lives was their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A few months ago my 92-year-old Mama Glad came to live with my parents.
She had remained independent after my grandfather died, and was proud of being able to make it on her own in her little mountain apartment. But when her health started to fail, she came back to Michigan. My children got to hear her tell stories. We laughed together and remembered. We sang some and talked some and I watched her smile and it was so good. But in the past few weeks she’s gone down hill quickly. It happens when your 92.
I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m a little shy about sharing my work with my family. I had never read DANCING GRANNIES to Mama Glad. So I took my computer down to mom’s house one morning to work and sit with her, and I finally read her my story. I had to speak loudly, and it made the story funnier and more lively. Every time I got to a line with her name in it, my Mama Glad smiled, laughed and said, “Well!” I read, and we laughed and this unplanned, incredibly special moment with me, my mom and my grandmother just happened.
And I’m glad it did, because a few days later she was admitted to the hospital. Now when I go to see her, the light in her eyes is fading more each day. If I read the story to her today, I don’t think she would hear very much of it. It’s a time when moments of recognition are few, and she’s spending as much time resting and listening for voices on the other side of the veil as she is to those in her hospital room.
But such is this journey we call life. We live, we work, we love, and then we graduate to something so much more. I’m glad I looked for that just-right moment to share and took it when it came. You never know when those moments will be gone.
So this Holiday Season, I encourage you to look for special moments. It’s hard with all the busyness, but they are there. And finding them and holding them tightly is the best gift you’ll ever receive.
Sensibility- Look for special moments during the holidays that feed your soul and your writing life.
Sense- Balancing work and life during busy times of the year takes effort. Plan your writing day so there is time to reflect and time to celebrate.
What special moments do you remember from past holidays?