Every few months I have an experience - either on my own or through my kids - that transports me back to a long-ago moment or a period of time that in some way shaped the person I am today. I want to write about these experiences, to document how they make me feel today compared to how they made me feel when I was young(er), and have decided to tie them into the theme of Chasing Roots because while they are not necessarily Midwestern or Texan, they are decidedly a part of my roots.
So that all those who visit can find something of interest to read while cozied up in bed on cold, Wisconsin winter nights, a shelf in my parents' guest room holds a wide variety of both fiction and nonfiction books. On my most recent visit, I grew bored with the novel I'd brought and turned to the bookshelf in search of something more interesting.
I skimmed titles until I came to one that seemed familiar but that I couldn't place: Queen Anne's Lace: Poems by Genevieve Smith Whitford.
As a writer and lover of words, I feel guilty admitting that I despise poetry. I read one - and only one - writer's poetry (I read and enjoy almost everything this lovely friend pens, poetry included) and that's it. But this book of poems called to me so strongly that I pulled it off the shelf, dusted off its book jacket, and opened the cover.
On the inside of the front cover my grandmother - Grandma Hallie, after whom my Gal Hal was named - had written "From Brenda and Paul, 12/1/87". Below Grandma Hallie's recognizable handwriting was the author's signature.
The notation and autograph didn't explain why I felt a pull toward this particular book though, so I began flipping through the poems in search of a title that seemed familiar. On page 37, I found it: the poem I read at Grandma Hallie's funeral more than 13 years ago.
Mother, you have joined the angels now,
left your withered flesh,
your faltered step,
the deaf ear,
the tongue that no longer spoke for you.
In our hearts and minds
you are restored.
You stand tall again
and your voice is clear.
We recollect the love you gave
the force you were,
the strength we have derived from you.
We our tears we baptize you
and give you immortality.
My parents - Brenda and Paul - gave the book to Grandma Hallie for her 63rd birthday, and after Grandma Hallie's funeral, it seems the book made its way back to my parents' home. 13 years later, the book, the poem, and the memories of Grandma Hallie as a mother and a grandmother made their way back into my life.
Today would have been Grandma Hallie's 90th birthday. She was a strong, beautiful woman, and through her son, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter, her name - and her beauty and strength - live on.