There is something I have been wanting to share with you and tonight, I feel like writing about it.
I have been thinking about Connie’s Story and how it evolved. I started to recall the times I had admired someone else and/or their things and wanted to emulate them. You might think I’m psychoanalyzing myself and you could be right, but I doubt I’m the only person who has struggled with finding their own identity. My first memory of admiring someone else’s style was when I was five years old.
I wanted Lois Lillibridge’s shoes.
I borrowed them and I loved them so much I couldn’t bring myself to give them back. I asked her if she wanted the pink canvas shoes I had and she said, “No.” Then an awful thing happened. Her dad died and Lois and her mom and sister were moving away from Murdo.
I’m sitting on the far left. I’m wearing a white blouse and shorts. Lois is sitting in front of her mother, Marce. My mother is next to Marce, on the far right. She is wearing a dress with a white collar and red shoes. Lois and I are wearing identical white shoes. We were both supposed to be flower girls in a wedding, but Mom said we weren’t going so they got somebody else. Then Mom changed her mind. I got to keep the shoes.
That was a game changer for me. Did I take her shoes back to her? No, I didn’t. I remember as if it was yesterday, taking my pink shoes as close as I could to the moving van parked in front of their house. I never went back to see if she saw them and took them with her, but my conscience wasn’t happy with the rationalization I had come up with, and I never could wear the shoes I had coveted and kept.
Through the years, I spread my coveting around. I thought “so and so” had a better family, nicer house, or…excelled at things I thought I never could or would. It wasn’t until I wrote about Connie in the Murdo Girl stories, that I discovered part of the truth.
“Everyone has their cross to bear.” Mom always said this when I complained about some family problems I thought none of my friends had to deal with. I thought I was the only one in the little town of Murdo who didn’t have the perfect family…
I was wrong and Mom was right.
The fact that I wanted to be “Connie like,” makes so much more sense to me, now. Connie Jackson was an unassuming high school girl who didn’t need the idolatry of anyone else to validate who she was. Looking back, I realize it wasn’t her clothes or her hair that I envied. It was the fact that she didn’t need the attention from people like me. That’s what drew me to her.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Some have a strong sense of self and don’t appear to be at all confused about who they are. Other’s self-worth is totally dependent on the admiration of everyone in their world.
Writing Connie’s story was a very enlightening experience for me. I wrote about my desire to be “Connie like” long before I wrote the book, which is about a little girl named Hope.
Connie Jackson’s brother, Eddie, wrote stories about the experiences he and his sister had while going to a country school and what it was like to move to town when Connie started high school. Many readers loved the true experiences he wrote about. I graduated from high school with Eddie, but hadn’t seen or talked to him for over forty years, before we collaborated on the book.
Writing Connie’s Story affected me in another way I hadn’t expected. I recently re-read the book and I felt all of the emotions Hope did. She experienced feelings most people struggle with…fear, loneliness, confusion and the sadness that can eclipse happiness and security. Hope didn’t know who to trust. She didn’t know what a happy family looked like, but in the end she got exactly what she needed. She was one of the fortunate. She recognized the good in her life didn’t have to be like the storybook version.
There are other ways Connie’s Story parallels with my story. Hope lived in Murdo, SD…my hometown. Her grandparents lived south of Highway 16, as did mine. There were two apartments above Sanderson’s Store which in real life was owned by my Grandfather and then my Uncle, Jeff. The businesses on Main Street were as I remembered them when I grew up there.
I had a Great Aunt Grace who kept her little black flats on with a wide rubber band. She never lived in Murdo. I’m grateful I got to spend some time with her after we moved to Texas. Uncle Jeff Sanderson told me she lived in Dallas and I must look her up. Grace outlived her husband, son, and daughter. The only family she had left was her grandson.
Aunt Grace was a hoot! Like her sister, (Grandma Mary), she wasn’t more than five feet tall and weighed less than a hundred pounds, but she remained strong in spite of and because of all she had endured.
Many Connies have shown up in my life. My grandmother on my dad’s side was by all accounts a strong and wise woman. Her name was Constance Abbie Francis. She became a widow when she was in her thirties and was left with a couple of hardware stores and three very young boys. My cousin, Abby, (spelled differently), was named after our Francis grandmother, and I was named after both of my grandmothers…Mary Sanderson and Constance Francis. Constance is my middle name.
A few years after Mom died her sister, Helen, passed away. Her daughter shared with me that one night, she heard her mother having a conversation with my mother. Helen kept opening the door to let the angels in and out. My cousin also said she had heard her mom talking to someone named Connie. After reading Connie’s story in my Murdo Girl blog, she asked me if there was a connection.
Could all of the Connie Angels be merely coincidences? I will let you come to your own conclusions, but I believe Connie’s story evolved as it did for all of us to learn from. I don’t write like an expert. All of my thoughts and feelings don’t transfer into words as readily as they do to more experienced writers, but I have learned about myself and my beliefs by sharing my stories with you. I owe you all a debt of gratitude.
There must be a strong bond between those who have passed before us, and those who are still living, that cannot be broken. We can still feel the comforting connection to those we won’t see again in this life. Whether they are family, friends, or people we never knew… If they had a profound and positive effect on our lives, they will remain in our hearts forever. Likewise, we can hope that we will live in the hearts of those we have spent our lives loving. We are forever connected, forever family, forever friends.
My Angel by Kellie Pickler about the grandmother she loved