Aug 14, 2020
When I was in my early twenties, my Mother worked at a nursing home in northern Arizona. One day, I was visiting her at work and met the most fascinating woman.
Ellie was in her nineties when I met her. She was born and grew up in the Arizona territory, and remembered the celebrations when Arizona became a state in 1912. She told stories of living in the desert before air conditioning was invented and how exciting it was the first time she walked into a building with A/C.
The most amazing story she told me came from her childhood.
Ellie was born around 1885. At that time, girls lived by a very specific set of rules. She was never allowed outside without an appropriate bonnet that would block her delicate skin from the sun. She was not taught to read. She was taught how to cook and keep a house in order. When she finished her chores, she was encouraged to do “womanly” tasks, such as embroidery or quilting. She watched her brothers with envy.
When Ellie was a small child, she was kidnapped by Indians and taken to live with their tribe. Although she was a captive and had to work hard, she was given freedom in her new life that she had not experienced in the “white” world. Once she acclimated to this new world and learned the new language, she learned to love her new life. Eventually, she was adopted into the tribe and no longer treated as a captive.
After several years, Ellie’s family found and rescued her, returning her to “civilized” life. After years of freedom from white society’s rules for girls and women, she found it a very difficult transition. Seventy or eighty years later, when she was telling me her story, she was still pretty angry that she had been forced away from her Indian family.
I spent a week returning to the nursing home to talk with Ellie and hearing her stories. I was fascinated into this look into our recent past that was so completely foreign to our modern world. I consider the week that I was allowed into Ellie’s life as a gift that not many people my age have received.
In the past century, there have been huge changes to our world. In the past hundred years, we have progressed from the Model T Ford to sending people into space. We have moved from “party line” telephones to a telephone in our pocket. Women have gone from fighting for the right to vote to being candidates on the ballot and our elected leaders.
There are people in our world who experienced these changes as they were happening. There are Veterans of World War II, Korea and Viet Nam who have stories to tell us. There are people who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or took a stand at Stonewall. There are women who were the first of their sex at a job or school. Many of these people are sitting home alone or in a care facility—waiting for a visitor. And, we—the prospective visitors—are so busy running around with our crazy lives that we don’t often find the time to sit down and really talk and learn. Someday in the near future, we will have lost this opportunity to discuss our recent history with those who lived it.
Do you know someone who lives alone and would welcome a visit? Do you know someone whose mobility makes it difficult to get out of the house, or someone who is afraid to leave their home because of Covid and may now be suffering from loneliness and/or isolation?
Give them a call. Stop by to sit in the yard and chat. And, while you visit, stop to listen to their story.