Check it out, folks! Yolanda Wallace stopped by to celebrate the release of her latest book, Month of Sundays. Month of Sundays is Yolanda’s fourth book with Bold Strokes Books. Her other books include In Medias Res, Rum Springs, and Lucky Loser.
My grandmother has been in the hospital for about a week now. She has an infected appendix and—fingers crossed—she should be able to come home in a few more days. But she’s ninety-four now and each medical crisis she undergoes makes me ponder the present’s tenuous ties to the past.
My grandmother was born in 1918. She has lived through World War I, Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II, the civil rights era, the Kennedy assassination(s), man landing on the moon, the Vietnam War, the women’s rights movement, the Iran hostage crisis, the AIDS epidemic, the Challenger explosion, the Gulf War, 9/11, the election of the United States’ first African-American president, and the long-overdue lifting of the ban on gays in the military. She’s practically a walking history book. Her tales of times gone by have kept me and my partner fascinated for years. Dita and I sit enraptured on her front porch, summer breeze blowing and tape recorder running, while she tells firsthand stories of events we have only read about in textbooks or watched on grainy documentaries on PBS.
What will our society do when all of our witnesses to some of history’s best and worst moments are gone? Like many of the obstacles they faced to pave the way for a generation that now takes them for granted, the loss won’t be easy to overcome.
Tom Brokaw called them the Greatest Generation—those willing to take up arms to defeat a madman without seeking acclaim or recognition for their efforts. My grandmother is a proud member of that generation. She gave birth to ten children over the years. She and my grandfather raised the three boys and three girls who survived infancy as best they could while working as sharecroppers in a series of miniscule towns in South Georgia.
On her ninetieth birthday, she spent some much-cherished time with Dita and me. While her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren planned a surprise party replete with cake, gifts, and an overloaded money tree—signs of the affluent present—she recounted her hardscrabble past. She told what it was like to pick cotton, shuck corn, and plow fields for little to no money and only a temporary guarantee of a place to stay. She told of having to pull her children out of school so they could help meet the landowner’s quota, insuring her family could keep a roof over their heads for another harvest but depriving her children of the education that had been denied her for similar reasons. It’s hard for me to fathom a practice that seems a relic of the ancient past could have still been in place just sixty short years ago.
As the first person in my family to attend college, let alone graduate, I feel a responsibility to make the most of the opportunities I’ve been given. I feel an even greater responsibility to make sure I don’t disregard the links to the past. As I sit at my computer each night writing about how life is, I have to remember how life once was. I have to pay homage to the brave women and men who got us here. In the process, perhaps I can make some history of my own.