Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: SCUTTLEBUTT (rumor or gossip) (10/03/19)
- TITLE: Navigating History
By Janet Richey
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The objective was to haul out as many valuable items from this deteriorating, hoard-conditioned home before turning it over to a buyer who was willing to take what was left, and flip it for a profit. In the late 1970â€™s, this neighborhood was a community of Jews and Catholics and an occassional Protestant to keep things interesting. But like many urban neighborhoods in coal towns across the state, people fled when the coal dried out, and landlords chopped family homes into government subsidized apartments. I had not lived there in nearly thirty years, yet I could still picture itâ€™s original white siding and green trim, lace curtains in the windows complete with a cat sitting on the sill, and a foot-locker sized flower bed that hosted whatever annual that captured my momâ€™s or grandmotherâ€™s fancy. Marigolds, pansies, and impatiens took their turn.
My older brother, who was the lead on this project, was already in the house before I had a chance to cry.
Neither the heat on this mid-July day, or the dry-rotting stairs kept me from making it to the attic to find my grandmotherâ€™s photos. In a dark corner of a side room with a single, string-operated lightbulb I found the motherlode. A steamer trunk, the silk lining covered in mold, filled with musty momentos and yellowing photos was a time capsule that, two years later, continues to consume my time in terms of on-line research and visits to relatives across the state. My fatherâ€™s death, just five months ago, has only fueled the fire.
I met with my cousin Mary, my grandmotherâ€™s namesake, who shared light-hearted and heart-breaking family scuttlebutt in my grandmotherâ€™s voice and cadence. There was the aunt who took refuge with my grandmother after sheâ€™d been beaten by her drunken husband. Two brothers that went on a fishing trip, but only one came back after an accidental drowning. And then there was my dad, whoâ€™d gone deaf at nine months old, and suffered with no language until he was six. In the 1930â€™s there were no support groups, but plenty of speculation and judgment to keep people talking. When my grandmother moved in with us three years before her death, I remember seeing the light on in her room at 3AM. Iâ€™d peek in â€œWhat has you up so late, Grandma?â€ Iâ€™d ask.
She would treat me to her crooked smile, and tell me a story of a regret, that my 19 year old mind had no interest in hearing. Iâ€™d tell her to give it to the Lord, and sheâ€™d nod her head. So much missed opportunity.
Today, I have these photos of people that I want to have a connection with, and the resentment builds that I never had the chance while they were alive because I was born so much later than my siblings. Would they have loved me? Could the current generation that my father lost contact with, be even mildly interested in accepting me? Is it even worth the risk? More importantly, can this inexplicable drive be part of Godâ€™s plan?
Sometimes Godâ€™s directions are not as clear as an exit sign on a Pennsylvania highway, and it seems arrogant to ask him to make it that easy. But when I look back on the trials Iâ€™ve faced, and the hurt that was done to me, and compare it to the riches heâ€™s given me in the last 25 years of my life, I realize that God, despite my wayward decisions, has directed me to a life that is now filled with love and acceptance. Trusting Him, like we often blindly follow a GPS, is key.
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