Friday, October 26, 2012

Better Than Fiction Guest Post: Shy Guy Meets Big Sister (by Olivia Newport)

As a child, one of the reasons I looked forward to visiting the small Southern town where my mother grew up was because I would get to see my Great Aunt Lennie. I thought she told funny stories. Maybe I was just enamored of her Southern accent. No, I really think she had a sense of humor. She had good timing. Lennie also had a big boat of a car in the days before seatbelts, and her motto was “the more, the merrier.” (Now that I’m a great aunt 15 times over, I get that generational joy!)

Lennie was my grandmother’s younger sister—not by much, but that did not matter. My great-grandfather apparently stood on tradition. Lennie wanted to get married, and he didn’t think it was proper for the younger sister to marry before the older sister.

And the older sister had no particular prospects.

So he went out and found her a prospect, or so the family story goes. My grandmother was about 22—the age my daughter is now, so really no rush to get married! My great-grandfather found a quiet-spoken 35-year-old man who had never been married and introduced him to his firstborn daughter.

Imagine the pressure. If my grandmother did not do this—marry a stranger—her sister could not marry the love of her life. But what about the love of my grandmother’s life? Was she asking that question?

Essentially it was an arranged marriage in 1923. They had nine children and were married 56 years, so I guess they figured it out! Did she think of him as the love of her life? I suppose I’ll never read the chapters of that story.

I do know they had some dreadful trials during the Depression. My grandfather lost his furniture store, and they moved in with the great-grandparents who had arranged this union—now with a string of children in tow. Then a fire roared through the building where all their worldly goods were stored. They started again with nothing. Literally. In the middle of the Great Depression.

These are the stories of my mother’s childhood, vastly different from my own.

Though my mom was raised going to church as a family, it was in his last decade of life that my grandfather seemed to be most outspoken about his faith. It made a lot of friends and family blink twice and wonder what happened.

When the Spirit moves, the Spirit moves. Not a bad ending for a shy guy.

Olivia Newport is the author of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning (May 2012), Accidentally Amish (October 2012) and the forthcoming The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow (January 2013). She lives in Colorado with her husband and two twenty-something children. 

End note from Amanda: It's been an honor to have Olivia share 3 of her family's stories here. I so enjoyed The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, and can't wait to read Accidentally Amish. 

Speaking of which, I saw this on Olivia's Facebook page yesterday and thought you might like to see the Special Offer: Take 25% off ACCIDENTALLY AMISH by Olivia Newport on! Enter code OLIVIA at checkout.


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