Where did I come from? Which relatives do I look like?
I was 12 when I first met any of my dad’s family. Raised in an orphanage, Daddy was separated from his sister and brother around 16. But he had persevered in his search for them, and in 1958 he found them living in Florida.
Daddy’s sister, Lucinda (aka Lucy), her husband, and their daughter lived in Tampa, FL, and his brother, Fred and his wife and daughter, lived in Orlando. We traveled to meet them all.
Our first stop was in Tampa at Aunt Lucy’s. In the back of my mind, I assumed Aunt Lucy would look like most of my relatives–slender and petite. Even my dad was small in stature but then his health had been poor since before I was born.
The slender and petite rankled my near adolescent mind as I was what I considered a “chunkette.” I despised how I looked, especially at family gatherings. Based on my dad’s slight build, I assumed his relatives would be the same.
I’ll never forget as Aunt Lucy opened the door to our ringing the doorbell. There I stood with a few decades added on. I’m not sure if my gasp was audible, but I felt it. My existence as a “chunkette” was affirmed! Aunt Lucy was the relative I resembled.
That evening Aunt Lucy and Uncle Tom’s daughter, Jean, and her two daughters joined us for dinner. Jean was a lovely woman nearer my mother’s age than mine, but she was my cousin despite the age difference. The second cousin relationship was explained to my brother and me as Jean introduced her daughters, Barbara and Sherrill.
Barbara was beautiful! Diminutive in size, blonde and tanned, and blue eyes, she could have been a model except for her height. At first, I could only focus on her with envy. Then Sherrill entered the dining room.
It happened again–I saw myself taking the chair beside me. We looked alike, both in facial features and stature. Our hands were almost identical in shape and size. Our names were even similar! How gracious God was to bring me two images of what I’d look like at Sherrill’s age, then 22, and Aunt Lucy at 62.
I gloried in this new-found glimpse of people whom I favored. My gene pool could most definitely be found on Daddy’s family tree. This was a happy moment.
Just a matter of time–all good things come to an end.
As time slipped by and we moved to Oregon from Tennessee, farther away from Florida and family, I kept in touch with my cousin, Jean. Not only a lovely woman but also gracious, Jean has always stayed in touch with me over the years. Her husband was killed in WWII leaving her with Barbara and Sherrill. When her parents left Kentucky for Florida, she moved her little family with them.
Over the years both my Aunt Lucy and Uncle Tom passed away, and Jean’s girls married and began their families leaving Jean in the spacious house in Tampa. Aunt Lucy’s life ended at the same time Barbara’s young daughter was killed in an automobile accident and shortly afterwards, Barbara ended her life.
This meant Jean and my second cousin, Sherrill, were my only family members left on Daddy’s side. His brother Fred had also passed away and his family chose not to stay connected with us.
Jean had mentioned in letters Sherrill’s poor health over the last almost seven years. Yet she never mentioned specifics, and I didn’t ask.
Knowing I owed Jean a letter, I laughed when Bob handed me another letter from her in Friday’s mail. I was certain she was reminding me of my tardiness. As I opened the envelope, a clipping from the Tampa newspaper fell out. Only it wasn’t just any clipping. It was Sherrill’s obituary. Now, she too is gone. My mirror images have faded away in Aunt Lucy and Sherrill. But my memories of them have not faded. I’m so grateful for the few images I have of Aunty Lucy, and somewhere (don’t ask!) I have a photo of Sherrill and me.
At 100 this month, my cousin, Jean, is my last living relative on the Adams side of my family history. I spoke with her by phone on Saturday, and we laughed over my adolescent need to “identify” myself with some family member. We agreed I couldn’t have chosen two more delightful women to look like and with whom to share common interests.
Whatever you do don’t waste an opportunity to stay in touch with family.
Time is short. Days fly by. We get busy and think about people, especially family, but often it gets lost in the next task or errand. I had not seen Sherrill since 1976, and our lives had grown apart due to age difference and lifestyles. Not a good reason not to try to contact her now and then.
Because time flies by, don’t waste an opportunity to write, email, or call that family member who just crossed your mind.
Is there someone you should get in touch with sooner than later?
Perhaps the title sounds a bit familiar. The words form a phrase from the song, “Do Re Mi“from The Sound of Music.
When thinking of ways to make my blog focus more memoir-centric, I kept going back to the beginning. My beginning. When I started out in this life.
It was 1946. February 10 the day. My parents had agreed on having no more children. Between them, there were already three–my mother’s son and my father’s two daughters–from previous marriages.
A short honeymoon in Chattanooga, TN, changed the course of their lives, and I entered the world a little over nine months later.
When I was born, my parents were living in an upstairs apartment on 17th Avenue South in Nashville, TN. Not a large space, the apartment became more crowded following my birth, or so I’m told. A view of the street, as it looks today, is seen here:
The address where my family lived is now home to the RCA Victor Recording Studios. The street was renamed Music Row as part of the entertainment district in Nashville. It looks quite different from the building housing my folks’ apartment.
Sometimes I jokingly tell people I was born on Music Row. If they put a recording studio on the site where you were living immediately after birth and rename the street, you aren’t to blame, are you? And it’s my story, right?
While living there, Mama stayed home with me and Daddy went off to work as a linotype operator. His apprenticeship for a newspaper in a small town south of Nashville seeded his ongoing love of printing and publishing.
I have no idea what life was really like in that apartment and among the three of us. But I want to believe it was a happy time. Here’s a photo of Mama and me when I was about six months old. It looks as though it might be in a nearby park in the area or on the campus of Vanderbilt University.
Now you know that I hail from Nashville. You know my birthdate which means you also know how old I am. And you know that the first house I lived in was torn down and replaced by a recording studio.
Memories, even bittersweet ones, are better than nothing. ~Jennifer L. Armentrout, Onyx
These are my beginnings. As barefoot as I am in this photo, barefoot I would be every chance I got until I was much older. Wearing shoes is so un-Southern.
I hope to bring you more tales from Nashville as I move on with completing my memoir and begin the publishing journey.
What about you? Where were your beginnings? Is the first house you lived in still standing? Any memories you’d like to share? Join in below–I’d love to hear more about each of you.
Today I have the pleasure and honor of welcoming Anne Peterson, author of Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival. Anne has graciously prepared a post recalling how she came to write Broken and what the process of that writing was like. As I prepared Anne’s post for publication, I was struck by many of her words and their combined power as an affirmation of the healing benefits found in writing. Please join me in welcoming Anne!
I knew it would be hard. I just didn’t realize how hard.
When I started writing my memoir Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival, all sorts of challenges met me head on. You don’t write painful events without reliving them. And in my case, it was a full length movie.
Loss is hard
Loss has been a recurring theme in my life. I was actually introduced to loss when I was a little girl. Our neighbor called out for her son. Into the street he ran after his ball. He just never came back. All night long his mother wailed through open windows on that summer night.
But that wasn’t the only loss. They would come one after the other for years upon years.
Why write a book about loss? It’s what I’ve known.
Experiences are great teachers
We are products of the experiences that make up our lives.
We don’t have control over many things that happen to us. But we do have control over how we respond to them.
I found as I continued to pour my life into the pages of my book, I found healing. It’s not the first time I had shared these stories. For years, I’ve shared them to various groups of people. Highlighting how God taught me about his character through my pain. And what was the benefit? Apart from pain, I would never know God’s comfort. Continue reading “In the Rubble by Anne Peterson, Guest”→
Starting August 14th, I begin distributing bi-weekly my first-ever newsletter related to this blog. The purpose of today’s post is to remind you to sign up, if you haven’t already, using the link in the image below or in the right-hand sidebar.
This post also includes a small peek into what you can expect with each issue of my newsletter.
First, I’ll be providing tips and advice learned in the past seven years of drafting my own essays and memoir as well as writing advice provided by others well versed in the craft of writing.
Additionally, trending news tips related to the business of publishing and marketing your book may also be found.
And finally, allow me to introduce you to my newsletter partner, Miz Grammar. She will be assisting with making sure each issue includes a grammar tip or rule or two or three. I want to warn you Miz Grammar is strict with respect to using proper grammar so you want to stay on her good side.
In the near future, I will be offering to all my subscribers, free of charge, an e-book on the healing benefits of writing. So, don’t miss an issue if you want to know when that is available.
Miz Grammar and I look forward to seeing you on August 14th for our inaugural issue!