Norma, Mary, Dorothy, and Florence

As a small child, I remember sitting in my grandmother’s lap as she told me about her life, and my favorite story was about her family spending one Christmas Eve in a covered wagon.

It begins in 1916 when my grandfather, who had recently bought a quarter section of land to farm, decided to move the family from Trent, Texas to Dawson County.  There were cars, but my grandparents traveled the distance in a covered wagon with 5 children, 12 cows and a plow.  My grandparent’s children were Wright, the eldest, an eleven-year-old boy, Norma, who according to my grandmother was always trusting, and Mary, who always did her thinking by reasoning. Then there was Dorothy, my mother, and her sister Florence, the two babies.

The move meant several days of travel on Highway 80, and when the family decided to camp on a hill outside of Colorado City, Texas on Christmas Eve the three older children were anxious, wondering how Christmas would find them in this lonesome land.

As the telling of this tale goes, Norma, the trusting one, hung her stocking at the end of the wagon, but Mary refused, saying that no one could find them.  To her they were doomed, but my grandmother had secured all they needed for a sweet Christmas, and she laid the gifts of food and toys out for the children, sadly leaving nothing for Mary, who had refused to hang her stocking.

Mary was remorseful when she awoke that Christmas morning to see what her siblings had received and what she had not, but my grandfather showed Mary where to look to find her longed for gifts that were hidden under the springs in the back of the wagon.  In the retelling of this story it was always evident to the listener that even a lack of faith couldn’t stop the goodness around Mary, and according to my grandmother, she regained her trust, losing for that morning her usual ‘reasons’ it just wouldn’t work.

To this day my grandmother’s story is alive in me and alive in a small memoir my grandmother wrote called, “Tell It Again”.  And I never missed her point.  Even though she did her part, making magic happen with a few pennies and her hands; even though she could consistently make something special out of a simple piece of cloth or a dearth of food; even though she was forever industrious and believed in putting one foot in front of the other to achieve whatever her family needed, my grandmother knew that there is a deeper meaning.  She knew that reason should not rule mystery.  The message was simple, yet profound:  Keep the faith.  Even when your child is ill, keep the faith.  When money is short and when times are hard, keep the faith.  When you cannot see a way, keep the faith.  Trust when others don’t.  Look up.  There are miracles afoot.

I think her daughter Mary grew to understand something of this kind of trust under her mother’s tutelage.  There is simply more possible than we can imagine or hope or dream, and that message still carries generations of my grandmother’s family, especially for those who choose to “Tell It Again”.

Author, Jan Matney, LCPC