Today I have the distinct pleasure of sharing with you the work of my first guest blogger…my oldest daughter, Anna. Anna is a 19-year-old sophomore English major at West Virginia Wesleyan. The piece below was an assignment for a creative writing class. I share this for a couple of reasons: first, it is a beautiful tribute to my mother, Anna’s grandmother, who many of you knew and loved; second, it gives me a chance to show off what an amazing young woman Anna is growing into; and third, it allows Lorie and I to pat ourselves on the back a bit for raising such a brilliant kid.
Clearly, Anna has found her muse. Enjoy:
The Woman in the Sky
By Anna Webb
If you ask me, I will always tell you that my earliest memory is of my grandmother’s house. Two stories high, it sits on Grape Island in St. Marys, West Virginia. It is isolated, with only a couple of neighbors (that were always friendly, and never invaded each other’s personal space). The house is set high up, so that you can look down on the river from the front porch. Railroad tracks run alongside the river. Those trains kept me up at night when I was very small. A train always ran by the house around 12:30 in the morning, and I would sit up in my bed and listen, wondering if the train were something along the lines of the Polar Express, and if maybe one day, the conductor would wait for me to come outside so that I could board the train and be whisked off to some magical place.
Grandma Webb’s house was a place where imagination ran wild. My favourite place in the house was my Cubby Hole. In the living room, there was a small space, about four by four feet square, made by the end of the couch, an end table, a step, and the wall. Here, I would do my best work. I would take crayons and paper and pens and pencils and I would write and draw and create. I would play house, I would keep my treasures there, and I’m sure that I took several naps there, as well. I could spend hours in my Cubby Hole, without anyone else invading my space or bothering me.
Grandma Webb loved crafts. Every time I went to visit, she had a new craft ready for me to try. From her, I learned to paint, sew, and decoupage. I have piles upon piles of t-shirts that I decorated at her house. To this day, I have an instinct for a good fabric marker, and a knack for drawing on plain white shirts. Grandma’s house was the only place I was ever a messy child. Paint on my face and glue on my hands, my mother would shake her head and smile while she cleaned me up from a visit to St. Marys.
I learned to do a round-off in Grandma’s backyard, learned to swim in her pool, and rode a bike in her driveway. But most importantly, on the swing set behind the house, I learned to swing on a star. This was a song that Grandma Webb used to sing to me:
Would you like to swing on a star?
Carry moon beams home in a jar?
And be better off than you are?
Or would you rather be a fish…?
There were other verses with various animals that I may or may not have wanted to be, but the chorus was what always stuck out in my head. And while other kids might have wondered whether they’d like to be a fish or a pig or a duck, I wondered what it might have been like to swing on a star. I pictured myself, on countless occasions, sitting on a star, hanging from wires attached to only God knows what, swinging back and forth, back and forth, watching everyone below me on Earth from my perch. I thought that I might be able to see all of the people I loved from there; that I might be a lookout for them, in case danger came. I thought that I might be able to hide myself away up in the sky, so that nothing could ever get to me. For years, this song intrigued me and kept my mind reeling. How would I ever get to the stars? I felt as though this were my life’s purpose: to learn to swing on the stars. As I got older, I decided that the only way I would ever be able to swing on my star would be to die, and go to Heaven, where the stars were abundant, and present.
When I was in Junior High, my grandmother passed away. As the world around me crumbled with my loss, I became depressed. I gave up all hope of swinging on stars, and all I wanted to do was hide in my Cubby Hole. As expected, it took me years to get over the death of the woman who was most important to me in this world. I couldn’t step foot into the house without feeling empty, and I wouldn’t even go near the swing set for the longest time. I felt like I hadn’t gotten to know my grandmother well enough. All my life, it seemed that the only thing that would’ve made life worth living would have been to live like her, and to grow up to be like her. After she died, I felt as though that were no longer possible. I didn’t know her at all. I couldn’t be like her.
With age comes wisdom, however, and now that I’ve settled into my first couple of years of adulthood, I realize that I’ve learned a lot about her, from those who loved her. She was a Saint in the eyes of most who knew her. She was strong, intelligent, and beautiful. I’ve been told that I have her hands, that I look exactly like her. Everyone I meet that knew my grandmother tells me these things about her life. They teach me how to remember her. And while I love hearing their ways of remembering, my way makes much more sense to me. I remember my grandmother as the woman who taught me to create, who taught me to play, and who taught me to swing. I remember her as the woman in the sky, swinging on the stars, and watching over me.