Our phone seldom rings. A couple of days ago, I was a bit startled by its sudden intrusion.
I looked at my phone and saw the caller was my older brother. Since I’d not heard from him for several years, I was stunned. Thoughts came to mind that he’d just passed his 87th birthday. Maybe something was wrong.
Thinking back it was funny that I reacted so quickly with the idea it might be bad news. In fact, it turned out to be the opposite. He said he needed to talk to somebody who could remember back to the 1950s or 1960s. The next words out of his mouth were to the effect that I was the “last one left” to help him figure out a few things.
How could I be the one? He was 14 when I was born. How much could I remember about his life? We went on talking about the past and the people in our lives. It’s not clear to me whether I ever answered his questions or not. We shared stories and what we could both remember made for a great conversation.
He ended our call by saying he’d be calling again soon, and he apologized for not keeping in touch. Those words were a beautiful gift.
It’s amazing what you can remember if you have someone to talk with who also might remember a time or a place. But with 14 years between us, I never thought it possible.
Buy the Little Ones a Dolly: A Memoir by Rose E. Bingham Published by HenschelHAUS Publishing (December 1, 2017) Genre: Memoir/Family Relationships/Mental Health Source: Purchased Format: Kindle, 260 pages ASIN: B077KDHXFK
In a small, close-knit Wisconsin community, a mother goes into town and never returns. It’s 1952 and Rose, at 15, is the oldest of seven children, the youngest of whom is only 3. As hard as Rose and her father tried to keep things together on the home front, with the help of kind relatives and sympathetic neighbors, in 1954, the children were ultimately placed in an orphanage, and later split up into five different foster families.
“Buy the little ones a dolly” were some of the last words Rose received from her mother in a Christmas letter, sent without a return address. Rose made it her lifelong mission to maintain contact among the siblings. Rose intimately escorts the reader on her journey through trials, tribulations, joy, and love. The mystery surrounding her mother’s disappearance comes to light 59 years later.
The first sentence in the synopsis above is almost unfathomable to most parents, especially mothers. However, it is something that happens more often than we probably know. Given the time frame, it likely happened frequently in a family the size of Rose Bingham’s. It was this sentence that caught my attention because of its similarity to an incident in my mother’s family history.
When I picked up Buy the Little Ones a Dolly, I had no intention of giving up everything else I had on my to-do list. If I remember correctly, I carried it to the kitchen while I prepared our evening meal that day. Yes, it’s that compelling.
Not only is Rose Bingham an exceptional writer, she tells a story of rising up at the age of 15 to the role of mother of six younger siblings, a role which takes courage, strength, faith, and a positive outlook. Rose tells her story with sincerity and authenticity. I continually found myself wanting to sit down and visit with Rose, and since I couldn’t, the book was an excellent substitute for real-time conversation.
In addition to caring for her siblings, often in the absence of their father as well, Rose dreams of solving the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and where she is. Occasional letters bear no return address. Rose is blessed with pluck and hope and eventually, the mystery is unraveled and revealed to her readers.
Be sure to keep tissues handy. They’ll be useful.
Meet the Author:
Rose Bingham is a retired registered nurse. She graduated from St. Francis School of Nursing in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and received her BSN from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. She has always enjoyed writing poetry but has written a memoir. Rose’s memoir is about moving on after the disappearance of her mother. A three year study by Lynn Davidman, a professor of sociology, of men and women who had lost their mothers, discovered many go on to careers such as nursing. There are four nurses in Rose’s family.
Rose and her husband, Mike, reside in Wisconsin Dells, Wi. They have six children, seventeen grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren, and a spoiled dog, Rylee.
I’d like to introduce you to Janna who blogs at All We Need Is Love…. Janna is writing a memoir and I’ve found some of her posts, including this one, fascinating and well written. Please visit her and read some of her work.
As Thanksgiving approached, our family plans were somewhat up in the air. Our son’s family consists of some adult children who have a million directions to head in on any holiday. Plus we have one family member that won’t show up if others are going to be in attendance. Too much hinges on that one individual. But not our call.
So I started out Thanksgiving Day in gratitude for a scheduled lunch out with our son, Craig, and his wife, Gigi, at a local seafood restaurant. Before you gasp, they were also serving a traditional turkey dinner. Three of us ate seafood while our son couldn’t resist stuffing and mashed potatoes. It was all beautifully prepared, and we enjoyed a quiet foursome catching up on several weeks of work changes, health issues, and what was going to happen on Friday.
The day after Thanksgiving, more commonly known as Black Friday and not a day celebrated by our family, was originally going to be the day our family would come together at our son’s home IF we knew what that one individual was going to do. On Thursday evening, we learned she wasn’t coming meaning the rest of us could make our appearance without fear of a haranguing in the middle of dinner.
Craig’s wife, Gigi, and her daughter prepared a turkey, a ham, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, hot rolls, appetizers, and desserts. I added to my gratitude list that I was two days into Thanksgiving celebrations and still hadn’t cooked a single item. Score for Mom!
When we arrived we were greeted by hugs from our three great grandkids, one of whom we seldom see because of…you’ve probably guessed who and/or why.
Although she doesn’t know us well, three-year old Parker realized her cousins, Kylie (9) and Everett aka Buddy (6), were wrapping arms around us.
Obviously, this clued Parker in to the fact we were safe and loving. She too joined in sharing hugs! Our hearts soared with this welcome. My gratitude list was growing.
When it was time to eat, there we were…my husband Bob and me, son Craig and his wife Gigi, Gigi’s daughter Alyssa and her son Tyler, and those adorable great grands. How could anyone top this on your gratitude list?
Well, we could top it only if we’d had our daughter Suzanne (living in South Carolina) and her son Kory and her brother Steve, his wife Amy, and grandson Mikey with us. The table would have been complete. But not all things are possible.
Everyone ate their fill, and Alyssa’s delicious pumpkin cake had to wait until later. Leftovers were packaged up for all to carry home, and I’ve still not cooked a meal since last Tuesday! Cover that with gratitude too.
What did you experience over the days of Thanksgiving that brought gratitude to the forefront of your celebrations? Share below, won’t you?
What if you woke up one day, living with a family member who had changed into an entirely different person? What if she were an older sibling you had always admired and strived to be like? And what if you were an insecure preteen when it all started? What would that do to your life?
Martha Graham-Waldon’s memoir entitled, Nothing Like Normal: Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia, chronicles the trajectory of her sister’s thirty-year battle with schizophrenia. Two years younger, the author watched her beloved sister descend into madness, nearly pulling the author down with her into a shadowy and baffling black hole of despair.
Nothing Like Normal: Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia by Martha Graham-Waldon Published by Black Opal Books (November 14, 2015) Genre: Memoir/Family Relationships/Mental Health Source: Author Format: Kindle, 278 pages ASIN: B017H5E5S8
FCC Disclosure: Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book.
In her memoir, Nothing Like Normal: Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia, Martha Graham-Waldon shares the story of her family dealing with an insidious mental health issue. The author was a younger sister who had shared her world with her sister, and then watches her sister’s long battle with schizophrenia. Life changes for both in drastic and intense ways.
Graham-Waldon allows her reader to share in the most intimate of scenes the deterioration of the relationship with her sister and the impact not only on the family, but the greatest struggles clear in the author’s life.
With eloquence and artistry, the author takes us on a journey most of us have not experienced. Or perhaps in our family, the journey has been held secret. In either way, we come away from reading Nothing Like Normal with a birds’ eye view of what a life lived in the midst of the downward spiraling of a victim of schizophrenic experiences, all the while impacting the relationships once held dear.
As a reader and writer of memoir, I appreciated Graham-Waldon’s honesty in her writing of Nothing Like Normal. Writing the truth in a story with such traumatic experiences is not easy. The author accomplishes this well.
I highly recommend this book to those confronting the experience of living with or caring for a family member with mental health issues, specifically schizophrenia. The author’s insights in living with and growing up faced with the dramatic and hurtful changes in her familial relationships are revealing and first-hand.
Meet Martha Graham-Waldon
I am a writer, spiritual entrepreneur and armchair activist who happily resides in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California with my family and a menagerie of pets. My articles have been published locally, internationally and online. I am a winner of the Women’s Memoirs contest for a vignette from my memoir in the eBook Tales of Our Lives. A member of the National Association of Memoir Writers, I love travel, the outdoors, Jazzercise and music. My debut book, the memoir Nothing Like Normal—Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia was published by Black Opal Books on November 14, 2015.