My grandmother Nan was born in 1886, the same year Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter was born. They both have the same name, too – Rose! What a connection. There’s more.
My grandmother, Nan, has been my hero since I was a little girl. I spent Sunday afternoons with her, and it was delightful. No, it was more than that. Nan filled me with stories, taffy pulls, and dressing-up. She drove me and my sister in to Kresge’s, the five-and-dime, to spend a whole nickel on anything we wanted. Sundays with Nan were the best.
She was born and raised in a log house in West Virginia. Every time I read “Little House in the Big Woods” to my children at school, I think of Nan.
She told me all about that house. I spent time there as a child. I love that house.
Nan was a storyteller. Oh, those wonderful stories and memories! I remember her stories well, and my own childhood events have become the foundation for ‘Jennie Stories’. Perhaps that is why I enjoy Pa’s stories in “Little House in the Big Woods.”
My first childhood memory is the sound of a train. I was sleeping in this family log house, which by the way is in Lowell, WV. The house today is known as the Graham House, named after a family member who built it, and is on the National Historic Register. But, back then in the 50’s, my family still owned the house. The history is thrilling; it is the oldest two-story log house west of the Appalachian mountains, built in the early 1770’s. My grandmother, Nan, lived in the house until she was married. She told me many times the story of Indian raids. On one occasion the children were in the summer kitchen and ran to the house. The boy did not survive and the girl was kidnapped. It took the father eight years to get his daughter back, trading horses with the Indians – hooray for family stories! They are the glue that keeps us together.
As a child, listening to this story is much like my preschoolers listening to my childhood stories. I know how that feels, and I, too, made those pictures in my head. That’s what children do when they hear a Jennie Story or chapter reading, like “Little House in the Big Woods.”
The sound of the old steam engine train whistling by as I slept at the old log house is one of my fondest memories. When I recently visited the house with my husband, my first visit since 1964, I immediately recognized everything. I ran up the stairs and felt along the wall beside my bed, as there had been holes for rifles to go through when fending off an Indian raid. The holes were still there, just as I remembered, and just as Nan had told me.
Is it the sound of the train that makes my memories crystal clear? I think so. On the playground at school the far away sound of a train goes by in the morning. Often I have the children listen carefully, and then I tell them about sleeping in a log house and listening to a train. Stories are the keepers of words and memories.
P.S. With the Art Show coming soon, my love of art also started with Nan. Stay tuned.