Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: DIARY (05/16/19)
TITLE: Aunt Marty
By Jennifer Warren
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Aunt Marty graduated from Mississippi Women’s College in 1920 and quickly landed a reporter’s job at the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, MS. She worked there from 1920 to 1922, until her boss encouraged her to move to Atlanta for a staff writer position at The Atlanta Journal. He had a colleague there who had agreed to hire Aunt Marty if she would move. Once again, these opportunities didn’t often come along for young women. After a lot of prayer and with her boss’ and mother’s encouragement, she moved. She worked as a reporter for the The Journal from 1922 to 1926.
In 1925 she met Hamilton “Hank” Coolbroth, an adventurous photojournalist, at church. For the next 37 years, they lived throughout the world. Although the moves followed Hank’s assignments, Aunt Marty struck out on her own to find reporting or writing positions wherever they landed.
Without their own children, Aunt Marty and Uncle Hank treated Mom as their own daughter. They visited us every June. Aunt Marty regaled with us stories of their adventures. We sat rapt. We hounded her to tell us one story after another. She recounted the tales so vividly I could see the people, smell the smells, feel the emotions, hear the sounds.
In 1958 they retired and moved to Jackson. Uncle Hank took up gardening and … Aunt Marty somewhat retired. She occasionally wrote stories for magazines and devotions for a missions magazine. In late 1962, Uncle Hank caught new pneumonia and died unexpectedly.
In 1976 I got a call from Mom. She had gone to visit Aunt Marty as she did every day and found Aunt Marty slumped over an article on her desk. Aunt Marty died as she lived: writing.
My sister and I went to help Mom and Dad sort through things. Having finished the rest of the house, we came to the living room. Mom opened the window seat. It was a treasure box of memories! Among old photographs and newspaper articles were Aunt Marty’s diaries! There were 17. Certainly there were more somewhere we had missed – after all Aunt Marty was 78.
I took out the diaries. “Mom, do you mind?”
Mom chuckled. “Not at all. We need a break.”
We grabbed some snacks and iced tea and gathered around Aunt Marty’s diaries.
“I’ll bet we’ll see some stories she never told us!” Dad exclaimed.
I couldn’t imagine anything Aunt Marty hadn’t told us, but I was willing to find out.
I wasn’t sure which diary to start with, but a photograph was sticking out of one. I opened the diary to the page marked by the photograph. It was a little more than halfway through. The photograph showed a man, two boys, and a girl. I recognized the girl as Aunt Marty. The left-hand page was dated June 18, 1915. It detailed her excitement about the family’s vacation. They were leaving early the next morning, going to the beach for a week. The right-hand page was blank and so was the next and the next …
Blank pages in Aunt Marty’s diary? Blank pages made no sense. Writing was her passion.
Mom and my sister were looking through photos. Among the photos was a newspaper article.
I noticed them pause. “What’s that, Mom?”
“It’s …” Mom swallowed. “It’s an article.”
Mom handed me the article. “Aunt Marty’s family was going to the beach. Her dad, little brother, two uncles, and a boy cousin were in one car. My dad was driving the ladies and girls in the second car. The car Aunt Marty’s dad was driving was hit by a train … They all died.”
One of the men in the photo was the man in the photo in the diary. “Aunt Marty’s dad?”
I looked again at the last page Aunt Marty had written in the diary: June 18, 1915. I looked back at the article: June 19, 1915.
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