The Writing of Marcella’s Secret Dreams and Stories

The Writing of
Marcella’s Secret Dreams and Stories
~ A Mother’s Legacy ~

“Sometimes it can take a lifetime for all the pieces of a puzzle to come together. In a flash of insight, I suddenly understood what really made Marcella tick . . . could finally see where she was coming from as a young adult and how the totality of her life experiences  had shaped her adult character, personality, and life philosophy; also how life itself had strengthened her resolve to always keep moving forward without complaint or regret.”

by Barbara Brabec

THE IDEA FOR Marcella’s Secret Dreams and Stories came to me several years ago when I thought it would be nice for my family to have a little eBook of my mother’s short stories and other youthful writing. As I saw the book then, its publication would have posthumously fulfilled one of my Mother’s three secret dreams. So fully involved then in client work, I had to put this book idea on the back burner along with others still residing there.

But I often found myself thinking about what I had learned about my mother’s secret dreams four years before she died in 1992. I couldn’t understand why she had never told me—the only author in the family—that she’d always wanted to be a published author. Why did she bury those dreams in a drawer and never mention them again? I wondered.

The answer she gave me when I asked the above question on that life-changing day in 1988 satisfied me at the time, but it really began to bother me as I started the research for this book 24 years later.

Smith Corona typewriter

Six years earlier, Mother had written the story of her life for her children and brother, Raymond, because she thought we might be interested in knowing the history of our family. Her typing skills from high school enabled her to type the manuscript with a carbon copy on the Smith Corona typewriter I’d used in high school. Her manuscript contained surprising historical facts and delightful never-told-before family tales, revealing Mother as a gifted writer and storyteller. But what the memoir didn’t mention were her unrealized secret dreams as a 16-year-old girl.

 A Door-Opening Sentence

I FELT THERE WAS much more to this story than what Mother had told me. Did the answer lie somewhere within the writing she had done in high school, or perhaps in one of her letters or notebooks? Or had I missed something important in the private memoir she’d written in the last decade of her life?

Donning my detective’s hat to search for clues that would solve this mystery, I began to study all of Mother’s writings with new eyes. One day I found a single sentence in her memoir for the year 1931 that explained everything, one that gave me one of those astonishing “Aha! moments” that made me see Marcella—the woman—in an entirely new and even more appreciative light. She had written, “Mom was sick a lot that summer and I didn’t go back to school in the fall.”

I slid right past that sentence the first time I read her memoir, and it wasn’t until I started to study my mother’s life in minute detail that I finally grasped the significance of this fact. How devastated she must have felt then as she saw her dreams being shattered for lack of a complete high school education. There she was . . . a student who loved school and excelled in all her classes—this lover of books and people who had such grand plans for a fulfilling career as a teacher and a writer—now unable to complete high school because her Mom needed her at home. Even if she had been able to finish high school later, there would have been no money to go on to college.

But Marcella’s indomitable spirit and willingness to always do what she had to do without complaint obviously enabled her to keep going with a positive attitude. Thankfully, that summer she met Bill, the man she would marry and love to her dying day. She simply put Bill’s love letters and her high school writings and dream of someday seeing her name on a book she’d written in a secret place where no one would find them. And there they lay until that day in 1992 when she gave all this writing to me for safekeeping. I’d published several books by then, and in all those years she never said she’d once dreamed of being an author too.

Sometimes it can take a lifetime for all the pieces of a puzzle to come together. In a flash of insight, I suddenly understood what really made Marcella tick . . . could finally see where she was coming from as a young adult and how the totality of her life experiences  had shaped her adult character, personality, and life philosophy; also how life itself had strengthened her resolve to always keep moving forward without complaint or regret. At last I understood why she had never spoken about her secret dreams but had only encouraged and empowered me and my sisters, Mary and Mollie, to realize our dreams by always reaching for the sky.

Marcella was truly an amazing, independent woman who was finally recognized in my memoir for all the ways she helped, encouraged, and inspired others throughout her entire life—especially her three daughters.

The Writing Process

Marcella's Secret Dreams and Stories memoirONCE I GOT DEEPLY into this book, it took on a life of its own, which has happened with every book I’ve written to date. One day I realized that the memoir I had started had to include her memoir as its “heart,” and that all my writing and excerpts from her letters, diaries, and journals had to revolve around the life stories she had told in her memoir.

I’m sure I don’t have to explain the satisfaction I had in completing this book 25 years after Mother wrote her last words, nor how happy my sisters and I were when I’d finally been able to make our beloved mother a published author and give her the kind of recognition posthumously that she always deserved but never got in her lifetime.

Although the stories in this book are told from my and my mother’s viewpoints, this book is also about our father, whom we adored. He was the only man our mother ever loved, and we learned many valuable lessons from him about familial love, friendship, loyalty, and the rewards of hard work, first as a farmer and then the owner of a garage business for 35 years. He planted the seeds of entrepreneurship in each of his daughters, who went on to start their own businesses.

I do hope you will buy and read this biography and memoir, not only because I’m sure you will find it a highly informative and rewarding read with a great deal of life wisdom and American history in it, but because I want you to understand the importance of documenting your family’s history. This book finishes what my mother started so many years ago. Like Marcella, you too have a story to tell, one that your family will surely see as an enduring legacy of love worth far more than any financial inheritance you might be planning to leave them.

For more about how important it could be for you write a family memoir, read the sidebar, “From the Author” on the book’s page HERE.

Related articles:

Four Months on a Tank of Gas—The Secret Life of a New Memoirist [PDF]. This revealing glimpse into Barbara’s life as an author tells how her first memoir grew from the gleam of an idea to a book in hand, with insight on the many different hats she had to wear as both author and publisher.

How to Write a Good Memoir: How the book, Your Life as Story, helped Barbara write her first biographical memoir.

Life Writing. What has life taught you that you might write a book about? How the writing of her first memoir changed and enriched Barbara’s life, and how writing your life story could change and enrich your life too.

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