Monday, 4 April 2011

Pioneering Spirit

My last few posts have been more reflective.  Looking back and remembering.  Perhaps I’m learning at last how to “be” and not measure my days in what I “do”.

But I thought maybe it was time to update you on how I’m getting on in the nitty gritty, day to day stuff.
We are a quarter of the way through the 2011 now and I am well over a third of the way through my first year without Andrew.

People say they can’t believe how quickly this year is already passing.  For me time has gone really slowly and some things haven’t moved as quickly as I felt they should.  I’ve had times of frustration and impatience.

The list of jobs to do when someone dies is a long one. 
About a month ago Jude wrote this comment on the blog while she was on holiday…

We're in Phoenix, Arizona and were trying to imagine what it must have been like for the pioneers experiencing the desert for the first time. Your journey is pioneering and much harder I'd say.

Although it’s not set in the same part of America the word “pioneer” immediately makes me think of Little House on the Prairie.  I loved reading the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder when I was growing up and I vividly remember the opening sequence of the TV programme with the three little girls in billowing dresses running down the hill.

The books tell the true story of how the Ingalls family moved from the deep Wisconsin woods in a covered wagon first to the prairie, than to the banks of Plum Creek before finally settling by the shores of Silver Lake.
Over the years they faced drought, crop failure and harsh winters as they battled on to find a new home for the family.

Pa built houses from logs cut down by his bare hands.  They had to grow their own crops and tend their own animals.  Ma milked the cow, churned her own butter and made her own cheese.  She will have made clothes for her family and kept the house clean.  The children made their own entertainment and had plenty of chores to keep them busy.

They couldn’t pop to Sainbury’s  to pick up a ready meal for tea, there was no TV to curl up in front of when the kids were asleep, no internet to keep in touch with friends they had left behind.

Their life was a daily challenge.

Is my life really so hard by comparison?  

Well I don’t have to milk my own cow and grow my food from scratch.

Instead my list includes:

  • Changing names on household bills – never did the Ingalls family have to wait on hold on the telephone to be told “your call is very important to us!”
  • Sorting through clothes that will no longer be worn – Caroline Ingalls would have cut them up and made a patchwork quilt.
  • The day to day household responsibilities of modern life.
I’ve just about finished letting everyone know, most bills now have my name on.  Andrew's passport and driving licence have been cancelled.

On a personal level it is rare now that I bump into friends who haven’t heard but I still have to face people who I haven’t seen since Andrew died and they still wish to pass on their condolences. If they don't I feel I have to check that they even know.

Most of Andrew’s clothes have been given away to charity except a few items I’m still attached to like the suit he wore for our wedding and a couple of his favourite sweatshirts.

Because Andrew worked away I was always in charge of most of the routine tasks in the house but it was always his job to organise insurance and anything to do with the cars or household repairs.  In the last month I have arranged my own household insurance and am currently trying to sort out a leaking water pipe.  Not on my own – I’m not that much of a pioneer – with the help of friends and family, but at the end of the day I have the final say.  As the saying goes – the buck stops here!

Like the early settlers in a new land I am still negotiating unfamiliar territory for me.

Whether or not I am a true “pioneer” is debatable but I’ve done a bit of research and discovered that Laura Ingalls Wilder and I do have quite a bit in common.

Her great grandmother was called Martha, just like mine.  Her Martha originally came from Scotland and made the long and dangerous sea crossing to America in 1798.  She was the first in a long line of pioneering women in Laura’s family.

However my favourite discovery is that we were both born on the same day, 7th February, exactly 101 years apart!  

We also share a love of writing. 
I don’t presume my story will ever have as much of an impact as Laura’s but we both have a desire to narrate our own story in our own words.  To allow others a glimpse of our hardships and also our triumphs.   To present a genuine account of life in our time. 

I’ll let Laura have the last word today; this is something she wrote to the children who love reading her books.

Today our way of living and our schools are much different; so many things have made living and learning easier. But the real things haven't changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with the simple pleasures and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong – Laura Ingalls Wilder

1 comment:

  1. What amazing comparisons with your life and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Just over 100 years apart and so much has changed yet so much remains the same. You are a pioneer Sarah. I love your 'genuine account' of your life I find it uplifting and look forward to reading your words.
    The passage you chose to end with is so very apt.