It seems appropriate that I would finish reading another Jane KirkPatrick title on my birthday. Kirkpatrick is skilled in historical fiction, primarily in the history of the settling of the Pacific Northwest and the convergence of the white settlers with the Native American tribes in those states. The Memory Weaver is no exception.
Eliza Spalding was a child survivor of the massacre at the Whitman mission in Oregon. She and many others were taken hostage and held for 39 days. As the sole interpreter between the hostages, Indians and negotiators she was put into many impossible situations that scarred her memories and made living her future life painful. Yet as life unfolded she was able to make peace with her past, travel old roads and create new memories.
Kirkpatrick has the wonderful ability to make history relevant to the present and to enable the reader to relate to the figures of the past. While I am not a pioneer, will never cross The Dalles, travel on horseback across state lines or build a log cabin with my own hands, my heart beats with the same desires as the protagonist, Eliza Spalding. She reflected,
These moments when I did not try to “make” my husband do this or that, didn’t interfere with my children learning in their ways different from my own, were kindling for the warming fires I built each day.
In that quote, I felt the kindred in our spirits. The desire to partner in our lives with the ones journeying the closest on our paths. In all the twists and turns, tragedy and victory of the years she had traveled, this heroine had learned the simplest, but most important of lessons: to support her family in becoming who they were meant to be and not to force them to be who she thought they needed to be.
A few pages later, she mused:
Maybe each of us needs to feel a little extraordinary, to believe we’ve used well the talents we were given to live meaningful lives.
Yes! I thought. Exactly! We humans crave the extraordinary, wanting so much to know that there is something about us that makes us more than just one among billions. We want to know that we have made a mark on history, even in the smallest way. Finally she concludes:
I am the mother raising children to be resilient, trustworthy, able to keep going when they want to quit, kind and generous. What greater meaning can one life have?
I read the author’s notes about her research and in them she revealed how much information she had gotten from the descendants of Eliza Spalding. I think we take for granted the impact of one life upon generations and subsequently, the world. As I savor the second half of my birthday, I realize that I have gotten swept up in the daily drudgery of raising small children. I have allowed the fatigue, the daunting mountains of laundry and dirty dishes, the taunting tumbleweeds of pet hair and the Groundhog Day issues of whining and squabbling and toddler food tossing to make me feel pointless.
But I’m not pointless. In the midst of all that mess, lies the patient spirit, the consistent instruction, and the determined love that can be cultivated in my heart and passed on to future generations. Just as Eliza Spalding didn’t see it all clearly until she was in her twilight years, I will be a work in progress until then too. But it’s encouraging to know that as long as I keep journeying, I’ll eventually reach my destination too. And oh the memories I’ll be able to weave together when I get there.