Guest Blog: My Mother’s Memoir

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A few months ago, Teresa Mills e-mailed me a note about letterstomykids.org. “Your project interests me with regards to my own children,” she wrote. She asked me for some advice – how to begin, whether to go chronologically or randomly – and I shared the little I know. She also told me about a special family project she had undertaken. At that point I invited her to contribute a guest piece. Luckily, she consented, and the result is below. Formerly of Idaho and now of Virginia, Teresa worked as a drafter for a Marine engineering firm until marrying her husband Bob, a corporate trainer. Previously, she served as a Corpsman in the Navy. Together, they have two children, daughter Cory, who will graduate from Virginia Tech in May, and son Rory, an all-state soccer goalkeeper, who is trying to discover his path.

Dear Cory and Rory,

My mother, Bonnie Jean, asked me about ten years ago to edit her memoir. She had been writing furiously for several months. This was to be her legacy to her family. She seemed serious this time, so I agreed to do my best. The rough draft was sent and I began editing. Alas, my own family life took over and the manuscript was set aside on the proverbial back burner. Then her husband, Bob, nudged me to finish this past year. Bob wanted to publish the memoir and present it to mom as a surprise.

My mom’s mother, Hazel Thompson, was Scottish and her father, Ed Luby was Irish. Both families were surprised at the match, and disapproved of it. You just did not inter-marry then. The families to some extent withdrew contact and support. Hazel’s mother, Charlotte Thompson, rarely saw her daughter and her family. Ed fared better: he received the Luby farm to live on and work.

My mother was the ninth of thirteen children born to Edmund and Hazel in Giltner, Nebraska. Hazel had been bedridden during most of this pregnancy. She had burned her legs severely after spilling kerosene on herself and then lighting a lamp, thus catching her stockings on fire.
When mom was five, shortly after Christmas, the Luby family farmhouse burned to the ground. It was below zero that night. Everything was lost. The cause was probably an overturned ashcan left on the porch to cool during the night. My aunt Mary recalled sitting on a mattress watching the scorching fire consume the family piano.

This event was a turning point for the family. Older Luby children in Idaho learned of the fire by radio. The family became famous. Much help flowed in from all over the country.

Ed and Hazel then struggled mightily to keep the family together, housed and fed on a working farm. They both sometimes resorted to outside work. They moved several times, renting various pieces of property. The Depression visited upon the Lubys more than on most.

P.S. – Part 2 will appear tomorrow.

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