Peggy is a Psychology Instructor and administrator at Chemeketa Community College.
photo wikicommons(Glasford Illinois)
We are our histories.
The stories we tell ourselves and the stories that are told about us.
Most of us, if we think about it, can come up with our earliest clear memory. It usually comes from our third to fifth year of life.
Just as interesting is the first story that is told about us. This story may come from our babyhood, even the pregnancy that held us. But the best ones are the stories that encapsulate our nascent personality. Our family tells them as retrospective evidence of what they believe about us. And when they are told about us in our presence while we are still growing they shape who we become. Such powers stories have.
Charlotte's parents were long gone before I started collecting these stories. But I was able to spend some good time with her brother Mahlon.
Mahlon and Charlotte were buddies.
Her whole life, they were close. He was two years older in a family of nine children. He watched her as often her as her mother did. For the first few years of life they slept at opposite ends of the same old iron bed. They knew each others' nightmares. He made her toys. They learned the children's games together - kick the can, rolling a barrel hoop with a stick.
And the the first story of Charlotte was told to me by the last person alive to remember it. It is a story of adventure, of temptation, crime and punishment.
And it goes like this...
"We were little, preschoolers really. And we took it into our heads to leave the farm without asking and walk the mile or two to our Aunt Huldah's. Aunt Huldah made the BEST cookies. At an opportune moment we lit out. Holding hands and walking fast we made it the best part of a mile before we were caught. I don't believe we were spanked, but mother did tether us to an outdoor table for most of the afternoon so that she could get some work done."
Because Mahlon lived to old age, and Charlotte did not, he got to be the historian. It is probably more his story than hers. Odds are he was the instigator. But she was his partner in crime. She was a good person to have around if you were trying to pull off something bold. And she would do the time with you as well as the crime. The first story is one of risk-taking and comraderie.
Didn't pay off that day.
But that didn't even slow her down.