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Excerpt from Chapter One of Marcella's memoir for 1926:

"We moved to the Sumner Farm near Stockland, Illinois in March. We were only half a mile from school then. Our neighbors, who lived across the road from the schoolhouse, had a big old bulldog. Every morning he would meet me and follow me to school. He never barked or growled, just paced behind me. I was terrified, and to this day I dislike bulldogs.

"Ray started working on the road helping to build the narrow slab pavement through Thawville. He bought his first car this year, a Model T convertible with a rumble seat. When he took me and Mom for a ride, I saw my first streamliner, The Green Diamond, which ran for many years between Chicago and St. Louis.

"Grace was sick a lot this summer and I stayed with her as much as I could. I made my first biscuits while I was with her, and they were so hard the kids took them out and played ball with them.

"Mom planted many flowers and always had a big garden, usually canning 500 quarts of fruits and vegetables every fall. She also dried corn and beans and made kraut, pickles, jams, and jellies. When she wasn’t working, she loved to read, crochet, and do hemstitching.

"I skipped the fifth grade of school and in the fall started the sixth grade. We got our first radio that fall, which ran off batteries."
 

 

 

 

Continued from Book Reviews page . . .

A Family Memoir's Impact
on One's Extended Family

by Barbara Brabec

BY PUTTING A COPY of Marcella's Secret Dreams and Stories into the hands of three of my mother's relatives in Ohio that I've never met as an adult, the writing originally intended only for her daughters and brother has now become a blessing to these extended family members as well as their children and grandchildren.

TO ILLUSTRATE, take the family of Marcella's beloved Uncle Charlie and Aunt Grace, first mentioned in Chapter One of her memoir. They  had four children: Raymond, Ruth, Lucille, and Russell. I only had a relationship with Russell, who was born the same year I was, and we didn't get to know one another until the last few years of his life. I'd met Russell as a child, and he loved hearing that I'd had a crush on him then because he was such an adorable boy. He and everyone else in his family were born and raised in Ohio, which meant that my folks rarely saw them as they all grew older and time and travel constraints made visits difficult or impossible. Lucille said she'd met me once on a visit to my folks, but I was too young to remember her.

As we grow older, our connection to family becomes stronger than ever, and it's then that we tend to feel the need to reach out to distant relatives we have rarely communicated with. Russell stayed in touch by sending Christmas cards, and Mary and I kept our connection with him and in later years began to speak more often by phone.

When I learned Russell was dealing with cancer, I stepped up my contact with him. What amazed me then was how our viewpoints about life and the world at large were in perfect harmony. We shared the same moral and Christian values and even agreed politically. I so wished then that our families could have spent time together throughout out lives. It broke my heart when he died shortly before I published my book, because I had talked about the writing of it for more than a year, relating a few of the stories in the book. I know it would have meant as much to him as it now means to his sisters, Ruth and Lucille, with whom I've now formed a personal and emotional connection by phone.

Of course I sent a book to Russell's widow, Mary Ruth Newman, and her letter in response gladdened my heart and suddenly made me see something I'd never thought about before. She wrote:

"I really enjoyed reading your book. You could just feel the love you girls had for your mother, and I could really feel what your mother felt when she had to come home to an empty house. It is very hard, but I am doing okay. The children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren come often. I will pass the book to my sisters, Ruth and Lucille. They lived in Illinois until they were teenagers so they will know all the places around there. Then I am sure the children will enjoy it. Thanks again for a beautifully written book to honor your wonderful mother."

Did you notice her reference to "children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren"? Both Ruth and Lucille, now in their nineties, wanted books of their own so they could share it with other members of their family. And that's when I suddenly saw that three more generations of Marcella's family now have written documentation of their family roots in this book because she wrote about their lives and times in her private memoir. (To my knowledge, no one in the Newman family has written a memoir to date.) Lucille Newman Grooms wrote:

"I received your letter and book. I am amazed at the content and effort that it surely took to write it. Raymond, Ruth, and I really loved your Mom and Ray. They were at our house many days, Marcella mainly to help when my Mom was sick—which was too often. Raymond gave me the only birthday present I ever got as a child. It was a red "barrel bank" with a metal top. I have given it to my daughter as a keepsake, although the top has been lost."

In her memoir, Mother wrote about one of the times she went to visit her Aunt Grace when she was ill, writing:

"Grace was sick a lot this summer and I stayed with her as much as I could. I made my first biscuits while I was with her, and they were so hard the kids took them out and played ball with them."

Lucille was younger than Marcella, and what she remembered about her one of those times when she came to help her mother was how grown up she was, and how she always took control of a situation and did what needed to be done. Lucille also remembered that one day as a child she and Raymond found a clump of soggy bread dough at the edge of the little stream that runs through the family's property. We laughed when we imagined that these might have been the biscuits Marcella had baked that day that were so hard the children played ball with them, perhaps batting a few of them into the stream.

Who knows . . . some day one of the children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren of Raymond, Ruth, Lucille, or Russell might remember this little story when they’re teaching their child how to make biscuits, and Marcella's legacy will leave its mark on yet another family member.

POSTSCRIPT: Since I've published on my website the Newman and Schaumburg family trees documented in Marcella's memoir, I'm hoping that someday a far distant relative none of us knows will find these pages and contact me. Meanwhile, I remain grateful that the Lord gave me the time and ability to preserve my mother's writing and stories and thus spread her legacy far and wide to extended family members she never knew, but who will be glad to meet her in this book.

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