Goodread. Life is a Series of Moments: A Memoir

I just read a good book.

Grandma Peg

Grandma Peg

The teaser for it had come some 20 years ago. It was at a family camping trip with my husband’s brothers and sisters. It was one of those evenings, the sky darkening, the flames from the campfire were competing with the setting sun. For dinner, ribs had been roasted over the fire while potatoes were nestled in the coals and we all sipped our ‘adult’ beverages. Now the men each had their sticks and periodically poking the fire, causing a cascade of sparks. The women had children on their laps. It was a warm evening.

“Boy, Dad would’ve loved this…” someone sighed. And then we all smiled, remembering George.

He would sit at a campfire, take a sip of a gin and tonic and muse…”I wonder what all those poor rich folks are doing right now.”

Talk turned to my mother-in-law, and how she was doing. It had been about a year since Grandpa George, my father-in-law, had died.

The sisters thought about it. My mother-in-law is, and was resilient, but daughters worry.

“She’s back from France, I talked to her the other day.” one of the sisters commented “She went to Normandy and viewed the grave and I think it gave her a sense of closure…”

My husband jerked around and peered at them.

“What?!? What are you taking about?” he asked.

The sisters looked at him.

“You don’t know?” one of them murmured.

“Know? Know what?” my husband asked. “What don’t I know?”

The book I just read answered that question. It was titled “Life is a Series of Moments: A Memoir” by Margaret Woodard.

Apparently my mother-in-law, Margaret Woodard (aka Grandma Peg) the mother of my husband and 9 other children, had been previously married.

“Mom was married before? I’m in my 40’s, and I don’t know this?” my husband demanded.

“Umm…it wasn’t a secret.” one daughters defended “It just wasn’t something that ever came up.”

“Why do you know and I don’t?” my husband asked plaintively. “Does everyone else know?”

“I don’t.” I tried to reassure him.

“It just wasn’t something that came up.” the sisters repeated. “You remember that silver water picture we had? It had an ‘S’ on it and I asked her about it one day. Mom was matter-of-fact about it and said it was a wedding present from her first marriage and her husband died a long time ago.”

After that, we heard the rest of the story in dribs and drabs.

My mother-in-law had grown up in New York city. She was a secretary and met someone through her job. They fell in love, married and lived a dream for 4 months, but then he shipped out. They corresponded for months, until he was killed during the D-Day invasion, 70 years ago. He was a glider pilot and was one of the first casualties of the invasion. His body is buried there in Normandy.

Her life might have been very different. My life certainly have been very different!

I’d heard the story, but when my husband came home with the book, I decided to sit down and read about it in her own words. It was a pretty good story, even thought I basically knew it. There were other stories that I knew as well, but it was different to read them in her words rather than hear them from others.

Peg had met George four years after her first husband died. She married him four months later and over the years, they had 10 kids. One of her children, her daughter Anne, died at age 11.

That’s really the story of why she wrote the memoir. She wrote it for all the people that she remembers who are no longer here.

I liked the book. My mother-in-law is bright, cheerful and out-going. This isn’t a memoir that explores deeply hidden hurts or social injustice. It doesn’t dwell on pain because she doesn’t. It’s just normal, mostly happy and optimistic like the woman I know and appreciate. It may not be of great interest to those who don’t know her. Although I read it in a single sitting.

I’m sure that I’ll want to read it to my own grandchildren. It will give them a glimpse of a world that they will (hopefully) never know. A world where fathers sent their wives and children to New Hampshire for the summer so they would not get polio. A world of out-houses. But…it will also show them a world in which children were allowed a degree of freedom that my own children and grandchildren will never know. The fact our life is quite different today, resonates more when you can read stories from someone you know.

So I am writing this to say…Thanks Grandma Peg! Thanks for writing it and leaving it for your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren (and the world). Thanks Gail (my sister-in-law) for creating a self-publishing company (Dudley Court Press) that lets people do neat stuff like this. And finally, thanks to my husband for having wonderful parents, and inviting me to be part of it all.

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