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The Saturday Journal: Introducing "Stories from the Mouse's Hole"

I’ve been reading Eudora Welty–learning more about her life as a journalist, photographer–novelist and short-story writer. From the state of Mississippi, she wrote about the South and authored many novels and short-stories. She also won many literary awards for her essays, short stories, and novels including The Optimist Daughter in which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1975.  Welty died in 2001. She was 92.


Her autobiography, One Writer’s Beginning–I have pages marked with blue post-it notes–dog-eared others–highlighted words and thoughts and on some pages drawn large hearts around paragraphs.  


I wish I had read this book earlier in my life–learned of Eudora Welty sooner.  



When my daughter and son were young we used to go to the library often and my kids were also blessed to have teachers very early in life who encouraged them to read.  It was on one of those sacred trips to the library in which I saw this shiny book in red propped up one of the bookshelves.  The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Dr. Gloria Houston. And we checked out the book–hurried home and read it and then I shared a copy of the book with my daughter’s first grade teacher. And Mrs. Brenda Gee read it to her classes.  It was a perfect story with perfect illustrations–just perfect.  


And I have read it a thousand times since–along with Dr. Houston's other children’s books. 


In 2014 I had the opportunity of working with Dr. Houston at a children’s literary event in Wilkes. She was gracious to come and give of her time–speak to parents and students and teachers. We worked it out to share a copy of one of her books to hundreds of elementary school students the following year as well.  And Dr. Houston, in declining health–she signed each one.  


Dr. Gloria Houston Photo courtesy of Adina Watkins

I drove her back to the hotel that night after the event and we talked.  I could tell she was tired–physically. I was drained–emotionally–still grieving hard.  My Daddy had died unexpectedly just a few weeks before the event.  But she being who she was, asked in her kindness–would you like to get some coffee--maybe a cheeseburger, that is if there is a restaurant open to where I can feel comfortable with my health limitations.  And neither of us couldn’t think of anywhere to go and so we didn’t.


I wish I would have tried harder–thought longer–


Dr. Gloria Houston and her Ruthie doll from The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. Photo courtesy of Adina Watkins

We stayed in touch after that. And the organization set up an award in her name–given to one teacher. And while we planned and worked on these projects she never let go of the sense of urgency–in everything we did. I didn’t understand it, but she did.  Dr. Houston died two years after our event–not long after her award was given. 


Oh how I wish I could recall those days--ask more questions--hear more of her stories--spend more time with her--listening.


Dr. Gloria Houston. Photo courtesy of Adina Watkins

Dr. Houston left us with some of the most wonderful children’s books–books that told stories of Ruthie--her beloved mother and the Tweetsie Railroad from The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. Others--My Great Aunt Arizona, Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile and many more. She wrote stories relating to Southern culture and her childhood growing up in mountains of North Carolina. 


https://amzn.to/3NScuZe


In Eudora Welty’s autobiography One Writer's Beginning, she wrote, “Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories.  Listening for them is something for acute than listening to them.  I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on.  Listening children know stories are there.  When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.” 



And I can’t seem to pen the words describing how my heart felt after reading this. About how we all feel after hearing or reading a good story. And my mind takes me back to the old cartoons–the mouse’s hole where the doorway or archway was carved out in the baseboard--right there in the living room.


What's behind that small door?  A kitchen, tiny beds for their family, a cupboard just for cheese. Is Mother Mouse wearing a white scalloped shaped apron–tied tightly around her waist with the tiniest bow.  Is she standing by the stove or is she sewing, rocking away near the fireplace while she tells stories to her babies all wrapped around her feet on the braided rug? 


And there’s the children--outside the mouse's hole--on their hands and knees–I see them. One eye closed–the other focused on the mouse's hole–trying to catch a glimpse of what’s inside–waiting patiently for the mouse to come out–much like hovering over a doodlebug’s hole with a straw stick buried deep in the hole and chanting doodlebug, doodlebug come out of your hole!


Did you know one of the reasons mice are used in children’s literature is because of their size? Because children can relate to them being small and sadly, sometimes being insignificant.  But in children’s literature the mouse can be found as the main character. Give a Mouse a Cookie, for example. The mouse is seen, important, and oftentimes–the hero. 


And did you know doodlebugs will come out of their holes a little faster–if the broom straw is dipped in a little sugar? 


How is it we bring back the simple–the imagining of what's beyond the mouse's hole–rocking on the front porch–the unbridled joy of childhood–doodlebug holes–mud pies–catching summer lightning bugs--going to the library--taking a walk in nature....?


I believe we bring back our stories. We read more. We listen more. We tell more. We see more. We lay down our phones more.


So, here’s my question to you–would you be willing to share a story or two or three?  A childhood memory or maybe a story your grandpa or grandmother or your daddy or mama told you–a family member, perhaps?  Would you be willing to share a favorite book as a child--as an adult and why?


And please know you don't necessarily have to write your story. And it doesn't have to be a certain length. For more information on how to submit your story or story idea, your favorite book as a child or as an adult, please email me at tathelmillerwriter@gmail.com


I do hope you will consider being a part of “Stories from The Mouse’s Hole”!




 

In addition to The Saturday Journal, I am hopeful a few times a month we can feature

Stories from the Mouse's Hole and that it will encourage reading and storytelling

and a place to share book recommendations.

If you would like to have The Saturday Journal and Stories from the Mouse's Hole come to your email box, please subscribe to A Beautiful Grace blog and newsletter at http://www.tathelmiller.com


All photos @copyright Tathel Miller, unless otherwise credited to another photographer.


A heartfelt thank you to Adina Watkins for sharing her gift of

capturing the beauty of Dr. Gloria Houston in her photographs.




Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.



1 comentário


You definitely have the art of listening as well as writing. I can’t wait for the new stories!

Curtir

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