I’m doing some research on what life was like during the 1930s for a new book I’m contemplating starting and I’ve discovered that books like those shown here are an excellent source of information. I have three such books–two that include stories about my adoptive family and a third that came from my birth family. Until recently, I viewed them only as sources of information about my family history but I’ve come to see them in a different light.
The red one, called Toil, Tears, and Thanksgiving, contains not only family stories but the complete history of the tiny village my mom grew up in. Benson, Saskatchewan, is a tiny village even today. According to Wikipedia it has a population of 91 people.
I have many childhood memories of our visits to Benson to see my grandma and uncle who both lived in the same tiny house my mom grew up in until they died. This picture is of my grandma the three children she raised alone after her husband died shortly after their youngest daughter was born. (That’s my mom on the right.) The house is still standing–Gerry and I visited it last year–I was saddened to see that someone had gutted the interior. It wasn’t locked, and I didn’t hesitate stepping inside. It still feels like mine somehow. I was struck with how tiny the house is; I’m almost certain that the bedroom we have today is larger than the main floor of that house.
I’m engrossed reading Toil, Tears, and Thanksgiving and the story of how the tiny hamlet of Benson came to be. I’m fascinated reading about what a bustling little place it was at one time. When I was a child the buildings that lined the wooden sidewalks were all boarded up, but at one time Benson was home to a cafe, a hotel, a dry goods store, more than one service station, a post office, a telephone office, and a variety of other businesses.
Part of my heart will always be left in Benson. (There is more about this tiny village in my memoir.)
You might think that part of the reason for my fond memories of Benson have to do with my grandma. After all, it was Grandma we came to see when we visited. My grandma wasn’t the type of grandma I remember with any fondness. I don’t have any memories of special times with her. She was not the kind of grandma one would like to cuddle up next to. I’m not sure she liked me or even considered me part of her family.
Many years after her death I found this picture in the attic of that tiny house and I saw a side of her I had never considered. Look at her! Doesn’t she look like a happy, perhaps mischievous, young bride?
I want to tell her story. I want to write the story of this woman who lost her husband on the cusp of the Great Depression and who was left to raise three children on her own. I want to imagine what her life might have been like–what brought her joy and what grieved her. I know some of her story from things Mom told me and what I’m gleaning from reading letters, documents, and these books. I’ll have to use my imagination on some aspects and that’s why I’m researching life in the 1930s.
This is not a book I expect to finish soon. It’s something I plan to linger over. (Oh please, may I not become obsessed with this one like I was with Two Hearts!)
So, that’s the new project that’s occupying my mind these days. What’s happening with Two Hearts: An Adoption Memoir? Stay tuned…all in good time….