The Silk Thread

The point is, so what if I fail? I mean, if Sylvia Plath could feel like a failure at times, so can I, right?

Motivation. Where is it? I sit down to write and the millions of thoughts I have don’t make it to the page. No, scratch that. That’s not what I want to say. Start over.

Feeling out of sorts. Big time. Dreams of cluttered houses, I can’t make it up the stairs, dirt everywhere, doors that don’t open, people invading my space. Creativity gets tangled up in the cobwebs. BEEP! Wrong again. I’m failing to say what I really want to say. Okay, one more time.

What I want to say is, simply, that I miss my mother more than I ever thought possible. I thought my heavy heart had lifted after the two-year anniversary of her death on New Year’s Day. Wrong. I need to put her life and death into perspective and get on with my life. How to do this.

Aha. It’s staring me in the face. Upstairs in my little study, I see it. On the desk stand four photos, four generations of women in my family.


Looking at these photos, I realize that life passes from one generation to the next with memories that are like a silk thread—shimmering, resilient, supple, but also fragile and bound to disintegrate over time. As these women in my life went before me, so too shall I go one day. It’s inevitable. Okay. Accepted. In the mean time, live life to the fullest (oh how cliché!) and savor a few good memories (at least I got that part right).

mawThis is my great-grandmother at 75, the day she said her life began. Haha! She had a great sense of humor. She wrote a book about her life and the last chapter was entitled, “Life Begins at 75”. That was when Pa died (she and my great-grandfather were just known as Ma and Pa). They were Mormon. She had her 14 children without ever seeing the inside of a hospital. She used to say that she had a baby every other spring whether Pa was there or not! I look at the wonderful sepia-toned photographs in her book and marvel at one photo that shows the whole family stuffed into the covered wagon heading off to church. When Pa died, she sold the farm, and started to travel. She never wanted to see another cow or make soap or cook or beat dozens of sheets into dry submission again. She saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time and held me as a baby on the beach.

lolawThis is my grandmother, Lola, at 25 in 1925. She was the tall one of the children. No one knows where she got her height (5’9″), or her beauty, and it was the stuff of intense jealousy among her sisters. Lola was a contralto, with a honeyed voice that melted hearts. She was the first female soloist in the Tabernacle Choir from 1919-1921. But the grander life pulled at her, and she left Salt Lake City and Mormonism for New York to pursue her singing career. There, she met my grandfather, a banker from Chicago, in a hotel lounge where she was singing. She had known him from Salt Lake City but only from afar. When she saw him walk in and sit down, she sang one of the classics of 1924, “It Had to be You” and never took her eyes off him. The rest, as they say, is history.

jeanwThis is my mother, Jean, at 18, newly engaged to my father. She was a also a singer, a beautiful soprano. She was raised in Chicago in private girls’ schools, but she had a rebellious streak in her. Rather than going off to one of the elite colleges on the east coast, she chose the University of Chicago and was accepted into the Hutchins School there at the age of 16. My grandmother never forgave her…my grandfather was secretly thrilled. I’ve written about my mother on other posts, how she broke the mold and how she spent her last 25 years in San Miguel de Allende surrounded by her three dogs, five cats, and her two beloved horses. There was a full moon last night, she came to visit me.

ninawAnd yours truly at 21 (I will NOT say how long ago, thank you very much). I’m not sure how my life compares with these three women, but I do have some of each within me: my great-grandmother’s humor, my grandmother’s height, my mother’s rebelliousness and willingness to take chances (13 years ago, we left California to start a new life in Italy). I wish the four of us could sit down together and talk about our lives. It’ll just have to do to have the photos close to me, and when I feel a tug at my heart, I know it’s that old silk thread pulling at me with shimmering, resilient, supple memories that are bound to disintegrate over time.

I dunno. Maybe scratch all of this and start over. I’ll try to think of what I really want to say.

17 responses to “The Silk Thread

  1. I enjoyed your post! I stumbled upon your blog today for the first time, coincidentally while was a feeling unmotivated and a bit like a failure myself today. You are fortunate to have wonderful female role models.

    • Thank you! I just looked up your blog–it’s lovely. I’m following your blog now. Always so nice to see what other people are reading, writing, and what their interests are. I guess we all have low points…but as they say here in Italy, “Andiamo avanti” (Gotta move forward).

  2. You look sooo gorgeous – right up there with Michelle Pfeiffer! Beautifully written, poignant post by the way. I just showed Avonlea and Marilla your photo here at 21 and they gasped in delight! They think you are a princess! :))))) They also think Jean was gorgeous as well. Yowza! What a family!

  3. You are STILL gorgeous!!!
    I love this post so much. The clarity and warmth in describing that silk thread is so beautiful. I fell in love with every one of these women. Thank you.

  4. They were pretty remarkable women (well, I’m not sure I’m in their league, but maybe a few genes came though). My great-grandmother’s story (and especially HER mother’s) is extraordinary. I’ve got a novel outlined based on what I know (and what I don’t). Thank you for the lovely words!

  5. How lovely you all are!

  6. Reblogged this on dmanderphotography and commented:
    wonderful thoughts from a talented friend

  7. Don’t worry Nina, carissima. You said it. Beautifully. And I’m pushing back the tears of pride and joy as I write. xox

  8. Kathryn Annie Hansen

    Nina..Sorry I was so slow to read this really touching story. It said so much to me, and I would love for Margaret to read it. My computer is on the fritz, so this note is short. I’m doing this on my Droid.. I love it…Big hugs….Rick is well…

    A Writer

  9. Oh my, am I glad you directed me to this post! I enjoyed meeting the women in your family. Such beautiful women. I can see how My Mother’s Mother made you think of your own post! And I do feel some sort of sisterhood having read The Silk Thread. Thank you!

  10. Dear Nina,
    This is beautiful, and such a tribute to the wonderful women in your life, and mine! The picture of Lola is breathtaking! I have such fond memories of her and of Ann, helping them set up for their bridge games.
    Thanks for writing again. Can’t wait to read your next book…..
    Love, Cousin Margo

  11. I read this earlier, and again blown away by the four extraordinary women whom I knew well. Oh that we all had Nina’s talent to write about our amazing family.

    • My dear sweet cousin! You are too kind. I loved these three generations of women (well, I didn’t know Ma but her character and memory lived through Lola and my mom). Again, my dream would be to sit down with the three of them in one room and just listen and feel… Miss you. Love you!

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