Cedar Street Times 4-22-2016
by Patricia Hamilton and Joyce Krieg
Recipe for MAGIC: Take 15 or so strangers and seat them in a small room. Mix in pencils, pens, and plenty of lined writing paper. Add a pinch of writing prompts on the theme of “My Family, My Self.” Let simmer 40 minutes, then generously share with all present.
This, in essence, was the formula at the free introductory Guided Autobiography class, co-sponsored by Park Place Publications and the Pacific Grove Public Library, this past Saturday at the Little House in Jewell Park. Sally Ann Hance Sirocky of Pacific Grove was one of the participants and demonstrates the power and satisfaction of writing and sharing our stories with this tribute to her beloved grandmother.
Raising an ‘Instant Family’ in the Depression
Grandma and Grandpa lived next door when I was growing up. They had purchased a 32-acre poultry ranch in the 1940s and, after my father returned from World War II, my parents purchased a few acres from them to build my childhood home. Our family’s new home was modern compared to my grandparents’ farm house. Dad was a craftsman who began his career as a cabinet maker, so the home had many built-ins and new furniture. I remember my grandmother once telling me she had never had a new piece of furniture in her life. I didn’t believe her, but I later realized everything in her home was handed down or a found object.
My Grandma’s mother had died in childbirth after 12 children. And being the eldest girl child it became her responsibility to raise that infant. When she married my grandfather they had an instant family which included that infant, Aunt Ella, and two of the younger brothers. Together they raised five children of their own during the Great Depression. The family moved from Kansas to California when my mother was 15. They had first gone to the Central Valley working in a tomato processing plant, later moving to Lake County to work on the poultry ranch they later purchased.
Wringer Washers and French Braids
Grandma put in long hours each day, washing and candling eggs, doing laundry with a wringer washer, and hanging clothes on the line to dry. She helped my grandfather grow fresh fruits and vegetables on over two acres of land, and took care of me when I returned home from school each day. And yet, with all these chores, she still had time to teach me piano and voice, fix my blonde locks in French braids, and show me how to take pictures with her Brownie camera.
Then one day when I was nine years old, my grandparents went to a neighboring town to visit one of their other daughters, one of their twins and her family. They were to spend the night and return the next day. But no one shared these travel plans with me. So when my mother sat me down to tell me that my grandmother had died the night before at Aunt Carolyn’s of a cerebral hemorrhage, I was shocked and angry. Why had she not told me of this trip? We shared everything. I would have stopped her or at the very least gone with her and stopped her from dying. How dare Aunt Carolyn want to share my grandmother? She was mine and mine alone.
“The Time I Shared with Her Was Priceless”
Oh how lucky I had been; I was to later realize. The time I shared with her was priceless. Her children were grown with families of their own and she had the time to dote on me. I attended a family reunion recently and was told by one of my older cousins that everyone knew I was her favorite … her sweet Suzie Q. I owe so much to those magical years. A time of simple pleasures and sunshine. Miss you, Grandma … you are and will always be an integral part of me.
Patricia Hamilton and Joyce Krieg urge our readers to discover the power of writing our life stories and sharing them with others. To find out more about the writing, editing, book design, publication, and marketing services offered by Park Place Publications, and for a free consultation, contact Patricia at 831/649-6640, firstname.lastname@example.org