Gloria V. Phillips

author of

A PILGRIM'S DAUGHTER


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"I delighted in bits of history I had never heard in school
and found myself thinking this should be in school libraries across Canada."


For the full book review by Laura Davis



*****     *****
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Here's a peek at

the sequel to the 2009 National Finalist

A PILGRIM PASSING THROUGH



2010


The gray haired lady sat on the bed in her new quarters and looked around. A tear formed in her eye as she surveyed her surroundings. The room she had been given was almost as small as the bedroom she'd had in her childhood home.

 
It was just as efficiently laid out, too. The nursing staff saw to that.
 
She smiled as she thought of the nurses. Her mother should have been a nurse. Mama's kind, caring ways and her soothing touch had always brought comfort to those in need. Even when she had grown old and her health had failed, Mama’s gentle nature had done more for her caregivers than their physical ministrations had done for her.
 
Mama would be pleased if she could see this room, the woman thought. For the first time in my life, I am clutter free.
 
She had always prided herself on being like her mother, but in this area she fell far short. In all her life she'd never met anyone as organized as her mother had been.
 
'A place for everything, and everything in its place,' had been Mama's motto.
 
No one could ever accuse me of being too organized, the woman thought. A chuckle escaped her throat. 
 
I'm not even neat and tidy, never mind organized.
 
The chuckle was followed by a long sigh.
 
I've certainly tried to be, but somehow I've never been able to keep things the way my mother did.
It's not that I live in chaos, she reminded herself. I know where everything is. It just takes me a bit of time to find it.
 
She shook her head. That statement was no longer true. Her lifetime of belongings had been divided between her children and grandchildren. What they could not use had been given away. A few things – things she simply could not bear to part with – were stored in one of her daughter's basements. She knew it was unlikely she would ever see those items again, but it gave her comfort to know they were being kept for her.
 
What is it about the things we collect, she wondered, that makes them so important to us?
She pondered the thought for a moment.
 
Women are more attached to possessions than men, she concluded. Her late husband had never been bound by material things, and he'd never understood the attraction they held for her.
'We can't take it with us,' had been one of her husband's favourite sayings. Whether it was his time, his money, or his material possessions, he'd seen them all as a gift from God and had shared them freely.
Maybe it is because we had so little when I was a child, the woman mused, that I find such comfort in these things.
 
My pictures, for instance.
 
Her eyes lifted to the portraits covering her walls. Her daughters had teased her when she'd told them she planned to take all her photos with her to her new home.
 
“You won't have room, Mom,” one of them had exclaimed. “You're going into a nursing home, not another apartment.”
 
When the woman said nothing in reply, her daughter had continued. “I'll leave them out to take, Mom, but I'll only have to pack them all up and bring them back home again. There won't be space for them.”
 
“We'll see,” the mother had replied.
 
She did not argue with her daughter. It was not in her nature to argue. It never had been. And, in the end, she’d had her way. Her daughters had found room for the pictures on her walls, and she was surrounded by the faces of those she loved.
 
With effort, Alicia rose. Clutching her walker, she moved slowly forward to a spot where she could better observe the hanging pictures.
 
There was a photo of her four daughters, all grown women now, taken the last Christmas they were together. She studied their faces. Sometimes when she looked at them she saw similarities, but at other times she thought their faces were as different as their personalities.
 
She eased the walker forward a few steps, moving on to her grandchildren. There were eight of them, all good looking young people. It was hard to believe that some of them now had children of their own.
Her gaze turned to the nine smiling faces of her great-grandchildren. She smiled back at them, unaware that she was doing so. What pleasure these little ones brought! She looked at the label her daughter had put on the photo and read it.
 
'Alicia's great-grandchildren.'
 
My great-grandchildren, she thought. How can it be? Where have the years gone? Why, it seems that only yesterday Sarah and I were that age ourselves.
She turned to look at the pictures that lined the top of her dresser. Easing herself onto the seat of her walker, she studied them. There was the one of her with Sarah taken when she was six years old. Large eyes set in solemn faces stared back at her from that photo. Beside it was a shot of her alone, taken on the occasion of her graduation from high school. She picked it up, then lifted her eyes from it and gazed at the image reflected in the mirror above the dresser.
It's strange, she thought. My body tells me I'm an octogenarian, and the mirror certainly attests to the fact, but inside...inside...
 
Her eyes dropped to the photo in her hand.
 
Inside, I still feel like the young girl in this picture.
 
She looked again from the image in her hand to the one in the mirror. So much had happened in the years between.
 
I should have kept a diary, she thought, but I was too busy living my life to worry about recording it.
Now I wish I had.
 
There was so much about her early years that her family didn't know. So much they would never know.
With shaking hands and tear-filled eyes, she set the picture back on the dresser, then made her way slowly to her bed. The day had been tiring, both physically and emotionally. Perhaps she would feel better after she rested.
 
She lay down and closed her eyes, longing to escape into the world of dreams, but in spite of her weariness sleep eluded her. In its place were memories of yesteryear.
 
It was 1930.