Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Treasures in Old Letters


I will never forget the time my sister found a box of Mother's old letters.  They were in a slightly worn box tucked under a stack of old quilt scraps.  Inside, cloaked beneath a sheet of embossed tissue paper, were letters dating back to the early '30's.  Some were addressed to my mother before she married, others came after.  

My Mother
I pulled out a fat envelope postmarked June 30, 1932.  There were twenty handwritten pages from her classmate and good friend, Belle.  School was out for the summer.  The letter began May 30th and wasn't finished until a full month had passed.  It's obvious this young lady had a very busy summer.  She wrote, "I've been hoeing cotton all day today and I'm so tired I can hardly wiggle.  My back hurts so bad... but we do have fun hoeing cotton.  I'd rather be hoeing than to be at the house."

Belle's labor continued with no wrap-up of her letter.  "I have been hoeing this evening and almost got snake bit.  It sure did scare me but I killed it... it was a great big snake.  A copperhead.  I guess it would have killed me if it would have bit me." 

The next portion of her letter reflected sadness and disappointment.  She said she was unable to attend school that fall.  Because of that she feared her countless hopes and dreams would be lost.  Nonetheless, deep within she didn't give up entirely.  Deep within her soul, she clung to a strand of hope.  She also spoke of missing the camaraderie of her classmates.

The letter reflected a laborious way of life in contrast to jobs for the average young woman of today.  Times were tough back then during the Great Depression (1929-30)

Often farmers were the ones who survived in the south.  They lived off the land.  At least they could grow small crops to sell with enough food set aside to last the family though the winter.  It usually held them until early spring crops came in.

In a later paragraph, Belle's mood became positive.  She expressed her thanks and appreciation to my mother for being her close trusted friend.  She was confident that my mother would always guard their teenage secrets.

My Mother and siblings

I wonder about Belle's outcome in life.  I do recall my mother speaking of her.  Knowing the determination and resilience my ancestors had during hard times I believe Belle never gave up.  I think she clung to hope and faith, just as my mother's family did.  That's all these unwavering families had.  They passed their attribute on to the next generation.  The world has changed drastically since then.  I hope and pray this courage and buoyancy is reaching our young generation.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Brunch With Jeannie McPhail, Storyteller/ Author

It was a relaxing, enjoyable morning when author/ storyteller, Jeannie McPhail and I met for brunch.  We chose one of our favorite restaurants that prepares delicious blueberry muffins and those yummy lips smacking pancakes.  We had worked on meeting since back last year and finally it happened.  I would have sat for hours, but both of us had other commitments later that day.

Jeannie shared her exciting news that she recently published a new book.  I was thrilled when she presented me with a copy for enjoyment and possible review in the NC Storytelling Guild newsletter, Journal of Tar Heel Tellers.  We have published earlier reviews of two or her book publications.  Go to Jeannie's website: www.jamcphail.com

I plan to write a review for this new publication, Trinity Tales of Tresia, later this year.  This title is part 1 of a trilogy from Rowe Publishing.

Following is a review I wrote of one of her earlier publication:  

I Will Not Fear: a Chosen Life By J.A. McPhail
Rowe Publishing; Price $12.95,
plus shipping and handling

I Will Not Fear: a Chosen Life is a beautiful story of inspiration and faith.  It gave me a striking glimpse into the life of a loving and caring family, whose love grew even deeper when the daughter was diagnosed with lymphoma.  I held a warm spot in my heart as I read about their love for life and for one another, their Christian faith and how their chosen paths touched countless people around them.  Stacie’s mother, Jeanne McPhail, tells the story.
In June 1976 Stacie Jeanne McPhail came into this world.  The newborn’s first cry brought forth an immediate applause from hospital delivery room staff.  Applause continued to follow her throughout the rest of her life.
As the only child of Jeanne Ann and Dennis McPhail, nurture, love, faith and companionship was never lacking in Stacie’s life.  A doting family, neighbors, friends, church members, the community and people from the music world surrounded her. 
Singing became one of Stacie’s great loves, with Southern gospel music her favorite.  Her father, Dennis, taught music in high school and often sang in choirs and concerts.  A favorite family activity was to travel by tour bus with concert groups her dad was a part of. 
Stacie received a music scholarship to attend college and after graduation she accepted a teaching job and moved from her home in Kansas to North Carolina.  Later her parents moved to the old ‘North State’ to be closer to her.  In 2003 the McPhails (Dennis, Jeanne and Stacie) formed their own Southern Gospel trio, The Macs.  Stacie continued to teach, but spent weekends on the road and on stage.  
During her busy summer of 2011, she noticed a lump on her neck.  The family was packing for a camping trip when the doctor called with the results.  Stacie “handled it with such grace,” according to her mother.  “We spent the next three days camping.”
The family met one of the biggest challenges “ever faced in our lives.  We still believed God had a plan.”  There were many trips to Duke Medical Center for treatments and Stacie’s parents accompanied her.  She wanted them by her side. 
Hospital nurses were amazed as they observed the family spend hours together in conversation, reading aloud from the Bible, listening to CD’s and listening to gospel and other faith fulfilling music.  After eight months PET results reported no lymphoma, but that was short lived.  It soon reappeared.
Near the end of the book Jeanne writes, “We realize that because Stacie was single and we had our own family singing ministry, we had more time with her in 36 years than a lot of parents have in a lifetime.”
Through positive faith Stacie and her parents acquired their strength from God.  He was their staying power.  They “did not fear.” 
After I finished this captivating life story, tossed with laughter, sadness, and lighter moments, I clearly see Jeanne’s story of Stacie’s life as an unrestrained beacon of faith that will touch all who read it.
Reviewed by Sylvia Payne - http://www.storytraditions.com