I’ve always loved telling stories. My favorite is the one where I sent the wrong letter to the right missionary. We were married the next summer. I attended LDS Business College where I earned an Associate’s in Computer Technology and Brigham Young University where I should have majored in English. I live in a small town nestled in the heart of the Appalachians. When I’m not busy writing, I can be found baking cookies, going to the movies, helping with the homework or catching fireflies with my handsome husband and four adorable children.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Christina and Me
I have a deadline to meet this week. I can't remember if I mentioned it or not, but I have to write a 3500 word chapter on my ancestor, Christina McNeill Reynolds.
I've been struggling with this because honestly, truth is not as exciting as fiction, especially when your great-great-great-great grandmother was not a journal keeper. Why, oh why, couldn't I have been related to Levi Savage? Not that I'm complaining. I'm really not. Because Christina was kick-butt in her day. She just had an aversion to putting pen to paper, and it's causing me great anxiety at the present.
So I needed some motivation to finish this piece and I had no idea where I was going to find it.
You know the movie. The new one that everyone keeps mentioning on Facebook. The one where they had snot dripping out their nose and their eyes were puffed out of their head when they walked out of the theater. Yeah, that one. So it arrived at my house Saturday. I popped the DVD in thinking I would listen as I cleaned.
Um, yeah. You know me and movies. It wasn't even that it was so exciting, though it definitely had it's moments. When I sat down in my big leather chair my eyes zoomed in because it hit me just like that--This is Christina's story. She's not portrayed in the movie but she saw all of this. Lived through it. And suddenly I couldn't tear my eyes away.
She was disowned for joining the church. She sailed on the Thornton and landed at Ellis Island. And she pulled a handcart with only the friends she'd made since she left home six (or eight--stinkin' contradictory dates!) years before. She walked twelve miles a day and wore her palms raw pushing her handcart. Her skin got sunburned and she got to camp every night exhausted. And she was there when they made the decision to go on knowing they didn't have the provisions. She was there when they told them their rations were being cutting back even though they had to walk just as far. She was there when that first snow storm hit in early October. The wind blew straight through her dress, chilling her to the bone.
A colonel at Fort Laramie took one look at her and proposed marriage on the spot, but unlike some less stalwart people, she told him no, she would take her chance with the saints even if it meant death.
And she was there when people started dying left and right, burying them in the frozen ground only to have the wolves dig them up the minute they were gone. She was there when they ran completely out of food, knowing they were about to die if help didn't arrive.
But she was also there when help came. Her future husband was among the rescuers. And she was there to push her handcart into the Salt Lake Valley with no family to greet her, only the promise of what Zion was.
She kept that handcart for the rest of her life, and one of her granddaughters wrote in her journal about how they would go play at Grandmother's and they would see the handcart sitting under their apple tree.
But Christina wouldn't talk about the trek west. It was too terrible, I think. Because of all those awful things she saw and lived through.
I feel a burden now, to do this chapter right. To pay a tribute to someone who is one of the biggest heroes of my life.
I hope I won't let her down.
Because she didn't let me down.
I owe her everything.
I'll be hitting my knees a lot this week and if you have a few extra seconds when you hit yours, I wouldn't mind one bit if you keep me and Christina in your prayers.