My mother came from a large family, and she loved to tell me about all the things she got into with her brothers and sisters. When she began to lose her short-term memory, she could still recall in vivid detail all of the stories she had told me as I was growing up. She knew that I enjoyed writing, and she asked me if I would like to come stay with her once and write down all the things she could remember. What a priceless gift!
This collection of short stories was inspired by her insight and sense of humor. I also drew inspiration from observations I made as a child and, later, as an adult living in rural areas throughout the South and Midwest.
The stories in my collection deal with the struggles and triumphs of people from other periods of time, some far in the past, others close enough that we baby-boomers can remember. And yet, regardless of how far separated we are from these times, we still share the same emotions. Most of us can relate to one or more of these: the contrition in the heart of the young teacher who punished her student too severely in A Bad Seed, the anguish of the soldier who made a frightening and controversial decision in Grandpa Kelly Never Played Soldier; the agony of a young man over the abortion of his child in A Matter of Life or the decision of a middle-aged single woman to give hers up for adoption in Presented In Honor; the difficulty of dealing with grief in Pretendin' Dont Make It So and Cleaning Mamas Grave; the devastation of a no-win situation in Mollies Victory; and the sometimes sensitive, sometimes hilarious insecurities of childhood in Emma's Turn, Raising Up Jesus, and A Cultural Experience.
The way of life depicted here has mostly disappeared. Even very isolated areas have access to satellite television and the Internet these days. In many ways, this is wonderful. Advances in medical care and psychological counseling can be shared, social skills can be honed, modern entertainment is available anywhere at the touch of a button. There are way too many advantages to list. But the homogeneous effect of this progress has diminished the richness of tradition and the eccentric charms that made rural areas so unique. Art will suffer when there is no one left to remember.