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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas Past

Three Christmases ago I sat in my parents' front room with my mom, dad, and younger sister.  I was in my favorite chair, an old wooden wingback upholstered in a scratchy brown material.  My stomach was full of Christmas roast.  The walls, the mantle cluttered with colored lights, Christmas cards, and candlesticks, the vaulted ceiling were like a second skin, comforting and draping easily around me.

Dad was telling stories about his father and grandparents.  Bertha McClellan and Rudolph LaFleur never should have married in the first place, if their families had anything to say about it.  Scottish Canadian and French Canadian weren't supposed to mix, but they did, and started a family in Butte, Montana.

Bertha was a furrier, while Rudolph worked in the copper mines and was a paid organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World.  The family eventually moved to California, where Rudolph worked as a plumbing contractor and built houses that Bertha designed.  The stories my dad told about them and their four sons were not the happily ever after kind.  Bertha became ill with cancer.  Rudolph became sick as well, most likely as a result of his work in the mines.  I remember my dad saying that by the time his father was 18, he was an orphan.

Reluctant to disentangle ourselves from the gentle web of family and home, my sister and I listened to story after story of sticking it out, and sticking together as a family.  I was inspired by the independence and ingenuity of my great-grandmother, and by the relentless hard work of my great-grandfather.  I had recently decided to start my own publishing company and self-publish my first book.  After all, if Great-grandma Bertha could create houses, what was stopping me from putting my books into print?  Wanting to pay tribute to a part of my past, I chose the name Storymine Press.  Instead of copper, I would mine stories, and if I keep on listening to my dad (which he claims I never do), I just might hit the motherlode.

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