The saying “Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it” pretty much sums up my Independence Day. I spent most of it independently since my family ditched me for better offers than a weenie roast and a store-bought jumbo pack fireworks show in the driveway.
Luckily, as a Utahn July provides a holiday do-over opportunity with the observance of Pioneer Day. The quaint community I live in provides a slam-bang celebration the whole fam enjoys together.
Beyond the revelry, I do dig into our family history and sit my kids down to share stories of our pioneer heritage to remind them the holiday isn’t just for the candy cannon and the fireman’s hose-down in the park.
This year I found a life history written by my husband’s aunt whom I never met. Though past the era of pulling handcarts, Aunt Mary’s life definitely involved pioneering in other ways.
First off, her parents fudged her birthday so she could start school early since she was already reading at age four. Then she was so advanced they immediately bumped her up a grade. She didn’t find out her real birthday until adulthood—a major parental oversight—but it would be nice to find out you’d turn forty a few weeks later than expected.
Another time she helped her mother knock out a wall to make a new bedroom in the house. Dad had said it couldn’t be done, but Mother purposely chose a windy autumn day for the demo then blamed it on the wind and suggested, “Hey, since you have to fix it anyway, why not build that bedroom?”
(I knew my children’s shrewd skills of strategic deception came from their father’s side of the family!)
Mary was a college honor student, president of a sorority, on the yearbook and newspaper staff, and voted “Sweetheart” of the annual formal dance.
Her life wasn’t all rosy though.
Her husband eventually asked her to choose between him and the faith they once shared. Unwilling to abandon her religion, Mary ventured on her own with a young daughter during a time when single motherhood was uncommon.
Her own words of this trial were, “I was scared to once again be on my own. The day before Thanksgiving I…went before the judge…and was given a divorce decree. I remember shedding tears…but I was determined to keep going on with my life.” She secured a teaching job, eventually remarried, had three more daughters and helped her husband build a successful business.
My favorite section of the history was titled “Some Humorous Incidents Along the Way.” She wrote of a time when her married daughter was eight-months pregnant and had spent a whole day at a rustic cabin with no plumbing. On the way home they stopped at a restaurant where she bolted in to find a restroom. The signs on the doors confused her so she found a waitress and frantically asked, “Am I a Hen or a Rooster?!”
I’m so glad Aunt Mary wrote her history. She shared her joys, yet was honest about her sorrows while remaining positive and hopeful. Her life epitomizes the pioneer spirit.
Though not a blood relative, I’m glad to honor Aunt Mary’s legacy by using my writing to share “Some Humorous Incidents Along the Way.”