One of the primary reasons I write is to share my love for the place I grew up and the ancestors who have lived there for more than two hundred years. Especially since so many of those people are long gone.
I grew up in a house where we told stories. Well, mostly my dad told stories. And they were TRUE stories. Well, mostly true stories.
Dad’s family has lived in that little corner of West Virginia for seven generations. (I’m the seventh–my nieces and nephews are the eighth). My ancestors reach back to the days when West Virginia was just Virginia. And the tales have accumulated like leaf litter, growing deeper and richer year after year.
There were the characters I actually met–Gail Phillips, (great) Grandma Jane, (great) Aunt Bess and a handful of other aunts, uncles, and cousins. Then there were the characters I could never know firsthand–Grandpa Rex, Grandma Nellie, Uncle Judd, Celly, and a whole raft of other, colorful characters.
These people live in Dad’s stories. They were and still are real to me. Which is why I was so delighted the day I went to see Aunt Bess, then almost 100-years-old, and she forgot who was dead and who was still alive.
Aunt Bess had shared stories about my family before, but on this day, she thought family members long gone were still around. She said she guessed Judd and Rex were still up there on the farm. I was taken aback at first, but decided to play along. “They are,” I said.
“Judd put in a garden?”
“He has—and it’s doing real well.”
She said he always grew the best tomatoes. And I could just picture my great uncle in the garden staking tomato plants and pinching back suckers so the fruit would thrive. I could see him picking a ripe tomato and eating it with some of Aunt Bess’s amazing bread. It was all so clear—so very real.
And so we chatted about family–the people whose stories I knew so well they were practically still alive to me. And for the space of an afternoon, Aunt Bess and I traveled back in time and those people were alive. They grew tomatoes and basked in the sunshine of a mountain summer. And I’m pretty sure they loved me like they’d known me since the day I was born.
Aunt Bess is gone now. She was 102 when she was finally reunited with everyone who had gone on before. And Gail is gone and Grandma Jane’s been gone and so are most all the rest.
But not really. Not so long as I have a time machine built into my heart and my mind that lets me set these people down on paper. It’s something well worth writing about.
Sarah is generously giving away a copy of her book, A Tapestry of Secrets. Simply answer the question below in the comments for a chance to win.
What family story do you think would make a great novel?
Sarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Her first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, released in 2014 through Bethany House and won several awards for debut fiction. Her fourth novel, The Sound of Rain, releases in November 2017.
Sarah and her husband Jim live in the mountains of Western North Carolina where she currently oversees fundraising and communications for a Christian children’s home in Black Mountain, NC. Sarah is active in her local church and enjoys cooking and–you guessed it–reading.