Now that Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven is published, I’ve been thinking about some of the “behind the scenes” and inspirational kinds of things I enjoy reading about/seeing when it comes to novels I’ve read by other authors – and so I decided to do a post of this sort today, for anyone who might be interested.
We were pretty materially poor when I was little. So much so that when my father married my mother (it was a second marriage for them both, and she already had my five older sisters) there was a carpet pad instead of a carpet for quite a few years, and some furniture that was extremely threadbare (like in this picture, taken from inside our living room, in our little house near the lake).
Pa took this picture, I’m certain, as he was the camera-expert in the house, and I only found it recently, on a slide he’d given me years ago. I love it, actually, because of the ragged carpet pad and chair. I felt so much love and nurturing in my young life that I have no memory or distress at having so little in a material sense. My parents ensured that we had plentiful, wholesome, homemade food (with one of Ma’s delicious desserts every night!) and plenty of sturdy, warm clothing and shoes; we were living on my father’s salary alone with many mouths to feed, and we didn’t have a lot of frills, but we always had more than enough in that regard. I felt then and still feel I wanted for nothing.
I’m sitting in the pic above with my hands uncharacteristically folded and a solemn expression on my face. Here’s another one on the left of my more usual, energetic demeanor, and on the right, from a professional photographer about six months earlier. I was two years old in the picture on the right and about three in both of the pictures taken at home – a happy, exuberant kid. However, my parents often told me that I was also a child who would sometimes retreat into a profound stillness and deep thoughts. When I had the kind of expression I’m wearing in the pic above – the one with my hands folded – my mother said she always wondered what I was thinking, and people often said I spoke and seemed far older than my years. I wasn’t so still and quiet very often, but I had the makings of a bookworm/thinker even then.
I’ll finish this post with some final, visual examples of the kind of happiness and love I experienced as a young child – the foundation of the life and family atmosphere that would inspire my writings so many years later. These pics are from my first birthday and were taken in the Homestead’s kitchen, next to my father’s chair (empty in these shots, as he was taking the photos), back in the winter of 1967. I am the sixth of seven daughters, but my parents ensured that each daughter was recognized in her own right, with attention, conversations, and of course recognition of us as individuals on our birthdays. Pa was at the ready with his camera, and we always had a cake baked for us lovingly by my mother (who is a wonderful cook, even today, though she is in her 80’s now).
Life was good in the purest and best sense…filled with ups and downs, conflict and struggle, but also filled with the kind of warmth and nurturing that helped a little girl understand what’s really important, far above and beyond material goods.