Fanny is an English major working in a pub in order to pay her staggering college debt. One night a famous author comes into the bar and a star struck Fanny begins a relationship with him. He’s an alcoholic desperately in need of a story for his next novel. Fanny gives him hers. Her sprawling family history marked by infidelities, danger, step sibling craziness, revenge, passion and death becomes the core of a best seller and a subsequent movie. But how will Fanny’s family react when they discover she has literally given away their family’s story? What will they think?
I just finished reading Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth and it left me wondering who actually owns family stories. Many writers use their own family history to create the characters and events in their novels or to pen memoirs . Do they have the right to use stories from their family?
It’s a question being asked more frequently now that so many people share their family stories online. I share family stories. Some people in my family have asked me not to write about them or have let me know in various ways they don’t appreciate it when I write about them. Some people in my family love it when I write about them. Others have questioned my version of events.
Somehow I feel it is okay to write stories about family members who are no longer living. But what if other people in the family don’t agree with what I’ve said about the person who has died. What if they would rather I had remained silent? What if they feel I don’t have the right to tell a story about someone from our family’s shared past?
Commonwealth is an excellent novel and the story it spins intrigues and terrifies and makes you reflect on your own family narrative. Who has the rights to that narrative and who gets to decide how it should or shouldn’t be shared publicly?
A link to family stories I’ve shared in this blog.
Filed under Books, Family
I hadn’t seen this plaque about my Mom till I spoke at Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach one Sunday morning. After the service I did a little tour of the church I called home for some thirty years. I found this photo and story posted in the church’s nursery room where families can go during the service or other church events so little children can play with the toys, have a nap or socialize with other toddlers. The nursery is a great place to pay tribute to my mother who was very involved for many years with the Cradle Roll program at Grace Mennonite.
The Cradle Roll was run by a group of older women from the church who visited young parents after their babies were born to express interest and support. They continued to make visits till the children were of school age. They planned and hosted parties a number of times each year so young parents and their children could socialize with one another. After Mom died our family made a donation to the women’s group at Grace Mennonite that Mom had belonged to for many decades. They decided to use the money to make improvements to the nursery as a way to recognize Mom’s love and care for the smallest members of the church family.
It is a fitting way to recognize Mom’s love of children.
My Mom Starts School
You Never Say Goodbye
This is the third year in a row I’ve been a day late in recognizing my siblings for International Siblings Day. I love my siblings and they greatly enrich my life. I know just how lucky I am to have their support and friendship. At my mother’s funeral the four of us gave a speech together to share the story of our Mom’s life. At the end we promised to do our best to maintain the strong family ties Mom had worked so hard to nurture. I think we’re doing pretty well so far.
I Love My Siblings
One Day Late
Dave’s Christmas present is finally up and on the wall. This year I gave him a framed print of an original painting of his grandmother created by his cousin Ruth. Ruth’s artwork is displayed on her website. You can buy originals from her as well as prints.
Last fall I ordered the print of Ruth’s painting of her Oma, Margaretha Driedger, who also happens to be Dave’s Oma. I had the print framed in the months leading up to Christmas and then hid the painting at my brother’s house so Dave wouldn’t find it.
Since we left for Arizona right after Christmas I didn’t have time to find a space for it on the walls of our condo. But now it’s up!
Oma with her husband Abram and two children Agatha and Cornelius when she first came to Canada. Cornelius is Dave’s Dad.
I think its wonderful that Ruth chose to paint Oma holding a baby. Oma loved children. When she first came to Canada she and her husband Abram and their children lived on Pelee Island, Ontario. Oma served as a midwife for many of the Mennonite women living there.
Oma and Opa Driedger
Later after her husband died Oma opened a day care in her home looking after the children of working parents. I remember going for a walk with her once and we met a man who greeted her warmly. He had been a child in Oma’s daycare.
Oma with our son.
I remember how Oma loved to play with our son. She was in her eighties when he was born but when we visited she would get right down on the floor to race cars with her great-grandson or play with a set of blocks she kept in her apartment for visits with children. We saw Oma for the last time on a Christmas visit to Ontario and even though she was very ill and confined to her hospital bed I remember how she engaged our young son in conversation, asking him about his Christmas gifts.
Dave often is rather blase’ about the gifts I buy him but I think he really liked this Christmas present this year. I do too!
My Grandmother’s Childhood
When My Grandmother Was Twelve Years Old
A Beautiful Woman
I wonder how he knew I’d love this article? Recently my cousin Al sent me a link to a New York Times feature he thought I would enjoy. It was a brilliantly written piece by Amy Krouse Rosenthal called You Might Want To Marry My Husband. Amy is the mother of three young adults and the author of nearly thirty children’s books. Amy was dying of ovarian cancer when she wrote her essay. In a moving, funny and beautiful way she profiles Jason, her husband of twenty-six years. She was writing in the hope the perfect woman would read her description and want to marry Jason and make him happy after she died.
I’m so glad Al sent me the link to Amy’s piece. I hadn’t heard of Amy prior to receiving Al’s recommendation and now I’ve not only read her essay, but I’ve listened to her Ted Talk, watched a couple of her videos, ordered her memoir and been to her website where I’ve made a wish and had it granted.
My cousin Cindy and I listen to cousin Al tell a story at a family party.
I have several ideas why cousin Al might have recommended Amy’s piece to me. Perhaps it is because Amy is a published children’s author and I am trying to become one too. Perhaps it is because Amy writes memoirs and many of my blog posts and newspaper columns are of the memoir variety. Maybe it is because Al thinks I’ve got a fabulous husband and figured Amy’s piece would encourage me to sing his praises in print more often. But maybe Al sent me the link just because he thought I would enjoy reading Amy’s piece and be touched by it. I did and I was. Thanks Al.
Note: Amy Krouse Rosenthal died yesterday.
I Held You Before Your Mother Did
Back Porch News
“I held you before your mother did,” my aunt reminded as she hugged me goodbye.
On our way home from Arizona we stopped in Kansas to spend time with my Auntie Mary. I love visiting with Auntie Mary. She is such a good listener and interesting conversationalist. She is also a veracious reader. When I visit her I always leave with a stack of books she has already read and thinks I would enjoy. This visit was no exception. My nightstand is now piled high with books from Auntie Mary. Auntie Mary is an artist as well and one of her watercolors which was a wedding gift from her decorates our home. Auntie Mary is also a memory maker and creates the most beautiful books of photos and memorabilia that document the history of her family. She did extensive interviews with my grandparents before they passed away and her notes along with family photos she collected were such a valuable resource when we made our trip to Ukraine to discover our family roots.
I learned some new things about my aunt on this visit. She follows NBA basketball! She and my husband Dave had a great discussion about the various teams and players. She is right up to date. She says some of her grandchildren are basketball fans and following the sport makes it fun to text with her grandkids during games. Auntie Mary is also very tech savvy for someone in her eighties. She texts and e-mails and shops online.
Her comment that she held me before my mother did refers to the fact that Auntie Mary was in the delivery room with my mother. This was in the days before fathers were allowed in the delivery room and my aunt was a nurse at the hospital where Mom was having me. She provided Mom with support during the birth. While the doctors finished caring for Mom, Auntie Mary held me in her arms in the delivery room. My mother was so appreciative of Mary she named me MaryLou and told me the ‘Mary’ was for my Auntie Mary.
I was so glad I got to visit Auntie Mary. Like my other aunts she has always been caring and supportive.
I’m Her Namesake
Great Aunt Marie’s Books
High Drama at the Christmas Family Gathering
My brother-in-law and sister in law’s time in Phoenix overlapped with ours by a couple of weeks. Although their rented home is over an hour away from ours we have still managed to get together for two games of golf, a lunch and supper that included our children and grandchildren, a night at the Handlebar restaurant and dinner at Arrivedercis a family owned and operated Italian place with fabulous food. We also managed to fit in a few games of euchre. We always have a great time with Paul and Shirley!
Showing Off Our City
Trilliums Food For the Soul
Filed under Arizona, Family