Last night I returned to Minnesota after a long trip back to Oklahoma for a family reunion. The timing of my trip was impeccable as I’m currently in the final editing stages of my book, The Edge of Nowhere, which is expected to be released this Spring by Penner Publishing. This novel was inspired by my grandmother’s struggles as a widow with nearly a dozen children during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. While not a complete factual account of her struggles, there is no doubt that she (and my extended family) were constantly on my mind as I wrote this book, and many of the family stories are included within its pages.
My grandmother, Edna Hall Hedrick Golden, was a strong woman who didn’t take any guff from anyone. I remember nothing “soft” about her. In fact, I remember being mostly intimidated and a little scared of her in my childhood. She said what was on her mind and the family stories of her going toe-to-toe with anyone who wronged her or her children are legendary. Simply stated, you didn’t cross my grandmother and, if you thought you might give it a try, you never tried it a second time.
As I sat down to write this novel, I was consumed with one thought: Who was this woman I knew as my grandmother? How did she come to be the woman I knew? She wasn’t “soft” like other grandmothers; she was hard as nails, and yet I think I always knew that she loved us. She just wasn’t effusive in the way she showed it.
Attending my family reunion — surrounded by cousins as distant as second and third cousins — we all came to one conclusion; the same conclusion I came to in my novel: my grandmother was a product of her experiences.
Ask yourself this question: Who would you be today if, at age 28, you lost your husband and were entrusted with the care of your combined dozen children in the midst of the worst poverty and land destruction ever seen on American soil? You have nothing and you have to fight for every last thing. Your children are starving, you’ve lost your home, jobs are scarce even for men, and you have no family to speak of. What would you do? How would you survive? Is there ANYTHING you wouldn’t do to provide for your children? And how would the circumstances and the decisions you make change you as a person?
I don’t have the answers, but I’ve tried to address them in this novel. My family doesn’t have the answers either, except that we all came to the same conclusion: However those decisions changed or defined her, she did one thing right. She created for us a huge extended family of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins…many of us as close as siblings, and others of us the best of friends. I honestly don’t know any other family with such a close extended family. Above all, I hope I’ve conveyed that in my book. Y’all will have to let me know.