Since last I wrote, my life as an author has slipped into the background. It’s been a sabbatical after ten years of relentless research to keep a promise I made to my father before he died—”I’ll find out more about your grandmother.”

When I realized the story I was uncovering “needed to be told”, I set about learning to write a book. Exchanging my oral communication with ongoing feedback from students that I used when teaching , for the lonely business of placing sentences on a page, felt like a challenge I could not meet. I began with short sections. As I wrote and rewrote, piecing together and recreating the scenes of my great-grandmother’s life, I began to see and understand this forgotten person through the mists of time. She gradually came to life and sometimes even felt to e sitting on my shoulder directing my fingers on the keyboard. My confidence grew as I wrote, and the last two chapters of the book just seemed to fall into I wrote. There were times when depression from living with her heartbreaking story begged me to throw in the towel. But friends encouraged me to continue and mustering all my resources, the book finally went print in July in 2012.

The five years since For Elise came off the press have been more rewarding than I could have imagined. My fears faded away as my confidence grew. A great deal of positive feedback has assured me that my struggle was worthwhile. The Vane family threw off the shameful secret that had been so unjustly laid upon them. Furthermore, a number of readers with their own sad histories are celebrating a female ancestor now understanding that she was the victim of male power. Also I hope my book will inspire others to write their own unique family story before they disappear  Elise is now a respected prairie pioneer. Her sacrifice and her children’s work provided the income enabling the Criddles to survive on an unproductive sand hill. Through her training in art, she taught Norman to learn to draw and paint, thus enable him to find employment beyond the homestead and eventually become Manitoba’s entomologist.  Norman’s income allowed the Vane boys (in their mid-30s)after their mother’s death to escape and begin to build their own lives. My work is done:

Finally, over this Christmas season, I’ve enjoyed my ‘mother role’, using my mother’s pumpkin pie recipe with real whipped cream to serve the family, their favourite. I baked an enormous batch of oatmeal cookies. For our tough little grandsons, I’ve mended seams and put patches over vanished ski pant knees. A mother’s work doesn’t survive long, but there is immeasurable joy in having such a loving family.

My only engagement was to present a session at the Manitoba Genealogical Society on my Mother’s side of the family. It’s an amazing history tracing back to a Saint in Montreal and the unfortunate Samuel Wardwell, hung in Salem. Their story may be told another time.

About vanecriddle

Author of book For Elise
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