Part One of The Mater’s Series
Peering into Tenacity, Strength and Wisdom
Do you miss them…the old women in your family, your friends or neighbors, the ones who withstood all life thrust at them and emerged stronger for it? Maybe by the time you realized how much you longed to know their secrets, how they survived and overcame the hardships, they had passed on to some other place. Alone, hoping for a wise one to guide you, as you braced yourself against the force of your own hurricane, you coveted their advice. Well, it turns out, you still can ask them. I did. They came to me. I was more than startled and wondered if my mind was fabricating it. Writer’s do that, you know.
What do you say to your dead grandmother, when she tells you, “Come to us in the days ahead, and we will see you through”? Do you consider yourself nuts? Or her? That’s what happened to me, you see. While painting their portraits I also discovered Grandma Renie and my two deceased aunts were to be characters in my next book. Well, phooey, I couldn’t turn them down. I needed them.
Seated at my easel, I saw in my mind an image of Grandma Renie gazing over my shoulder and offering encouragement. That day gave birth to my work of visionary fiction, Tater’s Mater’s of Hootenanny Flats. It became my reality at a time of heartaches and impossible choices, as I helped my elderly momma during her final days. Tears I could not cry and a deep inner loneliness, the kind the old wise ones have figured out how to quell, took hold of me. Over the three years it took Momma to die, I gazed at the completed painting mounted beside my desk and looked into the eyes of Grandma Renie, Aunt Ida and Aunt Lottie. They provided inspiration for their story. It was not the story of their actual lives, but a tale illustrating what they had learned. I came to know them during this time. Because they stood with me or rather I should say, allowed me to stand on their shoulders and see the horizon beyond my despair, my love for them multiplied.
I wanted to know what it was like to be wise. I longed for the reassurance that I’d done my best, that despite all the criticism leveled at me by those who lacked compassion, I was a good soul from the inside to the out. These old women not only provided understanding, but through their crazy antics they taught my heart to dance. Even now, they watch over me. It’s not that they keep bad things from happening. That’s nearly an impossible task and would be contrary to my need for growth. Life, after all, can be about learning lessons from all the things that happen, whether we trigger them ourselves, or they are outside of our control. If we are spared tragedy and difficulties, we are robbed of some of the vehicles required for us to mature into our own best ways of being. If we or someone else limits our pain, our moments of satori also known as ah-ha moments are less frequent. Those moments are precious.
As my favorite old women come to me I feel their strength, sometimes hear their words and know I, too, can make it. Do you ever have the need for that kind of support? I still do, even as signs of aging ripple my face.
My aunts and grandmother were born to this earth at the time when horses and buggies where the modes of transportation. A woman often gave birth alone or with the help of a midwife. Doctors were few. Where they lived there were no hospitals. Women helped women. My maternal great grandmother Sarah was a midwife and a healer. She traveled to her patients on horseback and lived to be eight-five. She was mother to Lottie who became one of my characters in Tater’s Maters. I remember Aunt Lottie telling me about her mother Sarah, that there was very little her mother could not do. She was an honorable woman of faith, one who also practiced kindness, the greatest gift of all. For it is not, in my opinion, what exactly we believe that is important. What’s important is our practice of kindness, an allowing of our inner beauty to shine forth.
My father’s mother Renie was from a family of moonshiners. She didn’t live in the backwoods of Kentucky or any of the southern states in the U.S.. She grew up in the Oregon Coast Range. Her brothers and uncles had homemade stills. As a teenager my dad’s brother tried to make off with their whiskey. They ran him off with a shotgun. These days people in the back hills raise pot. Some of my ancestors prayed to Jesus and also took solace in whiskey. When we move beyond judgmentalism, it makes sense. Their lives were difficult. You either helped yourself and each other or starved.
Grappling with my own traumas, trying to gain a lighter perspective, I began writing my story about four antique women of independent minds and the dog who secretly guided them. To illustrate my point below is a synopsis.
Present day, in the back hills of the Oregon, Ida, Renie, Ora Sue and Lottie have been friends since horse-and-buggy days. When they were young they made an oath that none of them would pass on without the others. When Ida dies she knows exactly how to get rid of her body. That’s not the problem. If she isn’t careful people will figure out she’s dead, triggering a passel of snafus. She can’t have that. With the help of her French bulldog and a Zen cat, she takes a little moonshine, a smidgen of wacky tabaci and a helping of uncommon sense and propels herself and her cohorts down the unrighteous path of fun, romance and mischief.
Slipping a body mask over her spirit, a mask which has been hanging in the attic waiting for her, she buries her physical body in the cellar and keeps her death from her friends. One at a time the others succumb, learn about the masks and don their own.
Ida makes and sells moonshine. Always on the lookout for revenuers, the ATF, she “lives” with her dog, Tater, and cat, Poseidon, both questionably alive. Reuniting with her deceased lover, she decides he is too much bother. Renie grows and sells pot. She has a glass eye and follows the antics of banshees. She lives with her dog and ducks, and she takes a lover. Ora Sue rescues abused animals and doesn’t realize she has leprechauns in her attic. Her sister, Maribell, once operated a brothel. Maribell now lives in a nursing home. The four women bust her out. Lottie counsels thickheaded locals, trying to teach them her Lemmings Anonymous Creed.
After their own paths take jaunts into the unlikely, these women decide to help other women put starch in their underwear, whether the women like it or not. This provides the impetus for book two and three in The Mater’s Series – Resurrection Rose and Final Entry.
It was fun and challenging to write these books, and, I must say, provided a bit of escapism. Under it all is the realization that life exists on all kinds of levels. Not all of it is as we expect it to be. Expectations kill possibilities.
So, can crazy old women save the world? I don’t know, but I’m working on becoming one, just in case.
This is Part 1 of a 3-part article.
A full description of the Mater’s Series novels is available here.
V. M. Franck grew up in a highly religious working class environment. After working at a series of unsatisfying jobs, in her late twenties she earned a B. S. from Oregon State University. Thereafter, she worked with abused and disadvantaged children. A family tragedy changed her perceptions permanently. She wrote and published a book about its impact on herself and her family. She met Philip, who had always wanted to be a writer. They married and moved to the mountains to write full-time. She is currently writing her eleventh book. All but one of them are works of Visionary Fiction. She is also an exhibiting artist with her own online gallery.
Visit her website: whereartmeetstheheart.com
Her works of Visionary Fiction include:
For What Is To Come
Tater’s Maters of Hootenanny Flats, Part 1 The Mater’s Series
Resurrection Rose, Part 2 The Mater’s Series
Final Entry, Part 3 The Mater’s Series
Jesus’ Little Sister Ruth
In Ways We Can’t Imagine, Part 1 The St. Germaine Chronicles
The Pacifist’s War, Part 2 The St. Germaine Chronicles
Once Without Dying