Arriving: 1909-1919 recently turned eighteen months old, and is starting to take on a life of its own. Like a toddler learning to walk, it is striving for independence and identity while embarking upon a journey to explore the world. In its infancy, Arriving has travelled from coast to coast in Canada, a host of the states of our neighbouring country, Costa Rica, Portugal, and England.
Along the way, my first book of the Understanding Ursula trilogy has acquired avid supporters and fans, many of whom have shared where the novel is taking them, and what is happening when they turn the pages. Memories from their past suddenly become vivid, and they are carried back to their childhood and youth.
During a recent delightful telephone conversation with Rosemary from Port Elgin, Ontario, she shared her recollections of the ‘Silent Critics’ in the small town where she had been raised, and how, now whenever she and her husband Ashley are subjected to the local gossip, they lay claim to this notorious group of rumour mongers. From the moment Paulette began to read the first page of Arriving, she was transported back to her grandparents’ farm in Norway, and soon was overcome with longing for their love, and for the simplicity of their lives.
Still, the most poignant experience might be what is happening for a woman who suffers from severe dementia at Whispering Waters Manor in Stony Plain. Kim, the Activity Coordinator made the decision to read Arriving aloud every Friday morning to the residents; before long it became apparent from week to week that this elderly lady could recall the names of all the characters in the novel, even though she is unable to remember those of her fellow occupants, or any of the staff.
I have always believed that I am ‘a part of all that I have met,’ and that my past, along with my memories help to define who I am as a person. Before I began to write my trilogy I returned to the site of my birth, and during a trip to the family cemetery on this farm, I experienced an eerie encounter. Standing in front of the decaying, broken headstones of my Great-Grandparents, I was suddenly filled with a sensation of pervading warmth and approval, a profound affirmation that I was to proceed with my story.
The importance of telling our stories extends well beyond the educational benefits to the equally significant social aspects of safeguarding our history and legacy for future generations. Whereas the milestones of history preserve crucial knowledge, the chronicle of ordinary people who live through major historical events perpetuate the experienced and felt insights, feelings, learnings, actions, and behaviours.
Thank you, Bill and Ann, Historians from Moose Jaw for sharing Arriving: 1909 -1919, and Thriving: 1920-1939 with your many grandchildren to promote my quest for immortalizing real, ordinary Canadians.