I never knew my grandma Mimi well. I was very shy towards her – and everyone else. We lived next door, and when our house burned down in 1969 we moved in with her for the summer while we rebuilt our home. Even taking meals in the same kitchen, I never really forged a bond with her - until now that is.
Mimi loved to write. Her typewriter was always at hand, there on her big kitchen table. And piled around it were articles she was reading, notes to share with passersby, and topics to consider mulling in her weekly column in the local newspaper. Mimi wrote a book about her pioneer mother and most of all loved to write poetry. She wrote about simple homemaking chores, about a son (my dad) going off to WWII, about a favorite horse and the mountains along the skyline. She wrote about flood irrigating, meadowlarks, and chrysanthemums. She had a rich vocabulary and was interested in everything.
She also liked to write fiction. The other day I ran across a letter she had written in 1938. She had submitted some stories to a critic in New York City and had apparently received a rejection letter with some suggestions to improve her writing. She told him his letter was “one of the most soul satisfying things I ever received.” She told him that she didn’t care about money, that writing was what she did for fun, but that “just as other women like to play bridge hard and win the prize, I’d like to be able to sell stories.” She said writing was her life’s work and her life’s ambition.
Reading her letter, I felt I could reach out my hand to clasp hers; that I might round the corner and see her setting there at her table and we would share a cup of coffee and talk about writing! She would understand why I feel driven to record my simple rural life. We would visit about the ideas and images that churn in our minds, quieted only when the effort is made to record that imagery. She and I were molded from the same Idaho clay. We share a love of the land, the sagebrush and mountains, our families, and a passion to get it all down on paper.
Seventy three years have passed since she wrote and sent that letter on its way to New York City. Her life went by quickly, just as mine is doing now. It was uncanny to read her age in the letter, 51, my age today. She speaks to me through the frayed layers of time. Your stories matter. The chores will wait. Time is short.
|Mimi's house today|
built in 1887 - brick crafted on site of native clay