Two of my sons accompanied me to the family gathering in Oklahoma last month to honor my uncle and commemorate his passing. One son has returned to attend university in the state, while the other’s abode is out in the wild west, one of the locations where our children were scattered in our seven years of moving between 1994 and 2000.
With children flung to the four corners, I hadn’t been to the ancestral homeland for about twenty years. Having them accompany me was deeply moving, and I’m grateful they made the trip.
One reason I’m working on a series of novels set in Oklahoma is because I want my children to know all the family stories. From the vantage of having moved to faraway locations, I can see the beauty of our sweeping prairie saga. Woven into my novel No Longer Alone is the tale of the WWI-era courtship of their schoolmarm, Sunday-School-teaching Cherokee great-grandmother by a shy, unchurched Scots-Irish rancher.
Fiction is glorious. I can pack stories that span the generations into the timeframe I desire while conveying the truth of the matter and the evidence of God’s work throughout the family saga. They can then enjoy their heritage from the vantage of years removed, observing hearts broken, tragedies endured, and lessons learned. I look forward to bringing these stories to life for them.
I will cherish the memories I made with these two boys of mine, grown to tall manhood. We navigated dusty red roads to drive by the land on the Cherokee Strip claimed by their great-great-great grandfather Abraham Slaughter (ironically, part Cherokee himself).
We examined the homes their great-great grandparents and their great-grandparents had lived in. The sanctuary of the church were I spent my early years was viewed, stories told by all the family as we met there to honor my uncle. We discussed the change of our nation from rural to urban as we drove through the decay of my once vibrant hometown and the absence of old landmarks, swept away by large-scale farming.
I watched them interact with dear friends of their great-grandparents and grandparents, people my sons hadn’t seen since they were small children. It warmed my heart to see their kindness to longtime family friends, especially this group of women who told the guys that they hadn’t known male models were coming. This made me smile.
Everything I’ve written in the last month has been about this odyssey. My roots inspire me. I’ll soon be preparing the first novel of my Oklahoma historical series. There are more stories to be told.
My children inspire me. Everything I write is for them. God has used them to turn me to himself and to cause me to grow and to yield. Being their mother and learning the lessons God has brought have made me into the woman I was meant to be, the one God always intended. They bless me greatly.
In this thanksgiving month I’m cherishing these memories and thanking God for taking me away and for bringing me back. thus giving me a clear-eyed storytelling perspective, for allowing two of my sons to accompany me, and for giving me these children, this family, and stories to share. May I do so wisely.