Monday, April 6, 2015

E = Earlene Reflects: A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015: History Stories and the Telling of Them

Here we go back on track with the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015.  It’s a challenge alright and teaching me much discipline.  My theme is “History Stories and the telling of them.”  My desire is to share some history facts and the stories I think are intriguing around them, along with some ways I’ve told history stories and techniques of researching and telling historical stories.  I was going to do the topic “Elizabeth Eckford:  The Lesson of Reconciliation”, but I came across a special book yesterday at my parent’s house and had to change the topic.

E = Earlene Reflects
"My mother’s middle name was Miriam.  My father’s middle name was Earl.  Hence, Miriam Earlene.  I never knew why they called me by my middle name.  But they always did.  Nevertheless, when I went to school, I was called Miriam.  I never liked being called that.  (It wasn’t the name itself; I was used to Earlene and rebelled against the attempted change.)  By the time I got to high school, I began trying to be known as 'M. Earlene Costner.'  And this became my official signature.  When I married, needless to say I dropped the 'M' altogether, using Earlene as my 1st name and my maiden initial – 'C' – an my husband’s last name.  No nickname.  There was an effort made by someone to call me 'Dimples', and my high school principle suggested 'Mima', which went over like a lead balloon." – Earlene C. Arnold

You may have guessed that Earlene C. Arnold is my mother.  While I was at my parent’s house yesterday talking with Dad (see yesterday’s blog), I came across a book I gave my mother on Mother’s Day 1996, Reflections from a Mother’s Heart:  A Family Legacy for your Children printed by Word Publishing, Inc., Dallas, TX.  This book asks questions and offers blank spaces for the “mother” to write down information from their past.  I opened the book not expecting to see anything written (she didn’t really get into this) and saw the above reflection.  I was surprised and delighted; I heard my mother’s voice.  You see, my mother died June 2014 and I miss her calling me “ladybug”, miss laying on her bed early in the morning and pestering her until she just started talking about life, miss her listening ears and her frank and “real” advice.

Finding her words written on the page gave me her voice back, and made me think of this blog about history.  My mother is now “my” history, and I believe she has stories she’d like me to tell.  I bet you have people from your family who would like their stories to be told – maybe you’re their voice.

I’ll end with sharing more of my mother’s voice.  Let’s bask together in her story, shall we?  [The questions are from the book.]

When did you first go to church?  What are you earliest memories of church?
I was all but born in church.  In those days, I think one couldn’t go out in public for 6 weeks or so.  However, I’m certain that as sson as possible I was there.  After all, I was the 1st born of their pastor.  (My sister had been born a year earlier, but didn’t live long – maybe hours)….
How did your mother spend her day?  Did she have a job or do volunteer work outside the home?
Mother stayed at home until Daddy past [passed] the GPO.  Then she worked as a GS-2 clerk in The Commerce Dept in Washington [DC]
List one special memory about each of your brothers and sisters.
Anna Costner, Wallace Costner Sr., Barbara,
Wallace Costner, Jr.;
Back Row:  Marion [Selby]
Earlene Costner
…My sister was 8 when she came to live with us.  She is 9 ½ years younger than me.  At first I had more of a parental relationship with her, but when I went to U of I [University of Illinois], she began to look to our parents as hers, and I became her sister.  I’d take her lots of places, even my boyfriends would sometimes taker her along.
What were your family finances like when you were growing up?  How did that affect you?
      Others thought we were doing well.  We were buying our house, we had a car, I took piano lessons, we went to school in Washington [DC].  Mother (especially) and Daddy spent money very wisely; we really didn’t have much.  We had what we needed, but little else.  Each school year I had 3 new dresses, and one pair of sensible shoes.  I wore one dress Mon., Tues., Wed., one Thurs., Fri. and the other Mon., Tues., Wed. of the next week.  Then repeated the cycle.  That may be why I have overloaded closets + shoe bags now.  We seldom went to a movie, but that was probably due to our basic life style as well.  Our life revolved around Daddy’s ministry, which left little time for outside activities.  But I don’t recall feeling deprived about that.  What I really wanted was an allowance to spend as I chose.  I never had one.  That did bother me.  [This is all new information for me.  I see a story in the making.]
Where did you go to grade school?  Junior High?  High School?  Tell me about your best childhood friend.
…There were 5 of us in Francis Jr. High – Carole Ferguson, Janice Green, Care Dickerson, Shirley Jackson & I.  All but Janice continued with me to Dunbar High, but only Shirley remained a close friend.  She & I also went to Howard became sorority sisters.  I have made loose contact with the other three….
What fashions were popular when you were in high school?  Did you like them?  Why or why not?
      Poodle skirts.  Saddle oxfords.  Penny loafers.  Crinolines.  Twin sweaters.  Did I like them?  Okay.  I wasn’t much for fashion, and anyway we didn’t have the money to indulge in that.  However, I’ve always had a thing for shoes, and I did have saddle oxfords and various kinds of loafers.
Who in your family served in the military and when?  Do you have a special memory of that person?
     Daddy and his next two younger brothers were in World War I.  His youngest brother served in World War II.  The military was something our family did in time of war, but never as a career.  Fortunately, all of the above came home.  Really, I don’t think any of my family were killed or seriously injured in war.  Of course I have wonderful memories of them, but nothing I can attach to their military service...
Do you have a collection when you were growing up?  What initially sparked your interest in it?
      As a pre-teen, I loved paper dolls.  I guess I dressed vicariously through them.  There weren’t many youngsters on our street.  (As a matter of fact, most of the winter there were none.)  I didn’t like playing with my brother (he was into active things, I was much more sedentary), so I enjoyed things I could do alone…
Glacier Bay Alaska
photo by Dave Breskill
What places would you still like to visit?  Why?
…The Grecian isles – I’ve seen the Mediterranean, and it is gorgeous.  I’ve heard so much about the beauty of the Grecian isles – both in aesthetic beauty and in ambience – I want to see for myself.  [She never made it there.]
   Alaska – I’ve heard it is marvelously beautiful.  I want to see glaciers, the rivers, the nearly pristine land.  [She DID make it there with my Dad.]  

Today’s Blog Question – please leave an answer in comments.  Have you had someone in your family keep a journal or write their reflections?  Who?  Have you told any stories from this information?  Do you keep a journal or write your reflections?  What do you hope your posterity will do with this information?

P.S.  If you want to really know how to make family history into a story, check out Carolyn Stearn’s blog and attend anything she teachers.  She is a great friend and a wonderful storyteller.  Blog information


  1. Ms. Sheila, Thank You for the opportunity to read this family story it is rich with warm memories and pounds of story seeds! My newest blogs, all focused on family stories have been posted on my new website, Thank You so much for the appreciations!!

    1. Carolyn, thanks for reading my blog, "Earlene Reflects." I was delighted in writing it and learning while reading my Mom's words. All the new things I found out and some things I now understand why she did. I like her even more. Thanks for your encouragement about the story seeds; I do see lots there. And you are the woman I send folks to when it comes to developing the family stories. On another note, my friend, I have been asked to be a New Voice Featured Teller at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN this upcoming October and I am thrilled and honored. My husband, father, son and sister will all be attending. Talk about family stories!! :) Peace,

  2. Great stories, Ms. Sheila. I feel like I can hear your mom talking to you and to us. Wonderful voice.

    My dad kept a journal of all of us Bady kidlings. The Diary, as it was called, was read at family dinners, and we kids would read it for our own entertainment. After we became adults, my siblings were unhappy with how they were portrayed ... my dad was quite a storyteller and would take LOTS of liberties with the facts. I always loved it. And I am the proud owner of all 7 of them. Come by and I will read you some.

    1. Robin, thanks for reading this post. It was so much fun to write. I definitely want to hear you read some of these stories. Sounds wonderful and like you have some father-made tall tales ready to be presented. :) I will see at the Storying Women Retreat in August at Norris' house. Yeah! Can't wait. Much love,