The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Brianna Wray
The Times 

A book of many chapters

Stop, write now


October 15, 2020

Courtesy Photo

The Swafford kids, Joyce, Jerry and (Grandma) Jo.

With eight grandsons and nine great-grandkids, Norma Jo Shay has more than earned the title of Great Grandma. For many years she's been the mandolin strumming frontwoman of the band Grandma & the Boys and is affectionately known in all the local bluegrass jams. Grandma Jo is a friend to many Waitsburgers. She shares old songs and fresh fish, the winningest combination.

She's been a tournament toxophilite, a skilled hunter with bow and arrow, rifle, or fishing rod in her illustrious past. The more you talk with her, the more you learn about all the many hats she's worn.

Some 57 years her junior (somewhere gracefully in my thirties), I can already see life stretching out into untold chapters. Some chapters are divided by locations, different places we lived or studied, and others by relationships. 2020 somehow seems as though five additional years have all been packed into these ten months.

At the beginning of lockdown, posts began to spring up in my feed, suggesting that now was our chance, nay, moral obligation to be telling our stories-us being the aspiring writers of the world. It was here, finally, the definitive subject to write about. Living during a global pandemic made it our duty to document what it was like for future generations. Presumably, the people who will be living here when the next major viral infection occurs. No pressure!

I asked all my writer friends if they'd seen the posts. Yes. And were they spurred to pen the next great novel? Not quite. These posts worked like kryptonite on some unsuspecting Superman.

Grandma Jo has already written two volumes of her memoirs, In My Time. The first provides a glimpse into living in the deep woods of Michigan. Adventure is around every corner when you have to walk a mile through the forest to get to school.

Then from an inkling to fruition, Shay's family got the idea to go to California and realized that dream. Having never traveled farther than 20 miles from home, getting there was the biggest adventure of all, one would think.

Only in Volume II the excitement continues. It may have technically been the Great Depression, but there were aspects of life that were great and they certainly weren't depressed. Needless to say, it has been my great pleasure to assist in the compilation and digitization of the two volumes over the past week and the task is thrilling to say the least.

The art and practice of storytelling is alive and well in handwritten time capsules such as these and it is never too late to start. Even if writing isn't your forté, there are dictation apps, or video editing programs. What's important is that the stories are shared.

Writing is intimidating because it implies that you have all the answers, or that you know how the story will end, but that's not necessarily how documentation works. You see what happens first, then go back and edit meaning into it later.

So, if you're someone who would like to write, stop! Write right now.


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