This work is dedicated to my mother, Lillian Lewallen, and her mother, my grandmother Edna Mae Schurch. My mother provided a strong sense of right and wrong tempered by an understanding, patience and restraint that made growing up in a small town (Henryetta, OK) in a matrichial household a basis upon which to build a productive life. I got the moral compass, but not the patience and only some of the restraint, I'm afraid.
I was always surrounded by books and encouraged to read everything, from the age of four onward. When the librarian at our public library didn't want to allow me into the rooms thought to be "beyond my age group", my mother told her that I could read and was to be allowed to read anything I chose. From then on, I roamed everywhere my hyperlinking mind took me. I was also given, after the age of ten or so, to wandering away up into the hills surrounding the town. While many times my mother told me that I had "scared her to death" because she didn't know where I was, she never forbade me to explore on my own. Also, again at 10, I decided I needed to earn some money to support my book habit. I answered an ad in a magazine and began selling greeting cards from door to door. This again allowed me to wander the town while supplying the funds for book purchases (paperbacks were 35 and 50 cents and the Signet Mentor books were actually sold on magazine stands!).
It was a small town and a long time ago, but life was not as benign as people would like to think it was then. One of my classmates in elementary school was met on the way to school by a man who exposed himself to her. Children in my class would come to school bruised frequently. Today child abuse would be suspected, but then children belonged to their parents to do with what they wished. Those who did not approve could say nothing. What was hidden behind closed curtains then is in the headlines today. It is unclear to me that the danger to children is higher today, but children's lives are more circumscribed. Much effort is put into planning activities for them, but they don't learn how to explore for themselves.
My grandmother was a shadowy presence in my life as she was ill with cancer much of my childhood and died when I was ten. I now realize that, indirectly, she had an enormous influence on me. Her illness led me to make many trips to Oklahoma City with my mother when she was in the hospital there. While there, the bookstores were a new discovery for me. My mother tolerated many hours spent there with me. The furnishings in the house during my childhood were all my grandmother's. I inherited her desk and its contents. There I found a paperweight containing layers of colored soil from the Painted Desert, which I brought back with me on my last trip home. There were also filmstrips and a viewer, and bottles of Victorian inks in shades of reds, greens and purples. The filmstrips were of scenes from the Navajo Reservation. In the house there were also a classical Navajo basket, a small model of a Navajo woman at her loom, some silver jewelry and beadwork and an old Hopi kachina. These things were a constant presence in my life. In my grandmother's younger days, especially before my grandfather died, she had been heavily involved in work with both local and New Mexico and Arizona Indians. I presume that most of this work was through the church, but she established strong personal relationships with some of the Indian women. Unfortunately, it is now impossible to discuss this part of her life with her, but its presence was certainly felt, and the influence has been long lasting.
This work is my gift to my grandchildren, all six of them. They are growing up in a world that is changing more rapidly than people can adapt. Somehow they will have to find a stable set of values to hold onto amidst the turbulence of getting through the day. Their parents have. May they be so fortunate. Perhaps here they can find out what many of the influences in my life have been. Perhaps they can find places that they would like to further explore. Certainly they should see that there is more than one way to lead your life, perhaps more than one life to have. Take the chance. Explore. Follow the road less traveled. Look with your own eyes. Read poetry. Read fiction. You will find more truth there than in non-fiction or the "news". Know yourself and find your strength in that knowledge.
S2'ah naaghéi Bik'eh hózhóó.
May you always walk in beauty and be complete human beings.
Love you all,
P.S. And keep an eye out for Saint Coincidence.
Recommend this website to a friend!
© 1994-2000 Karen M. Strom
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