Sunday, May 21, 2006


There was a big high school graduation party in town last night. Graduating from high school is a Very Big Deal around here. There was a rented tent, tons of food, a large Congratulations banner and aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and shirt-tail relatives galore.

I never had that party. I never graduated from high school, in spite of an IQ of 157. I can't imagine having that many relatives and friends of family.

Family is very important in Laconia. The joke here is that everyone is related, but it isn't a joke - they are all related. This community was platted and settled in 1816 by Squire Boone, Dan'l's brother, a few months before Indiana became a state. Some local families really do go back that far. In fact, one of our neighbors is an actual Daniel Boone who is descended from Squire Boone. We live in Boone township. The roads here are named for the old families - Crosier, Merk, Kintner. The graduation party was for a Kingsley. Most everyone here is related in some way to a Kingsley - they were quite prolific. There are also the Faiths, the Beanblossoms, the Millers, the Duleys, the Ashtons, the McKims.

Me, I'm a McKellar. Once was a Holloway. Was born a Hall. I'm not from around here. I was born in Fayetteville, Tennessee. When I was four, my family sought a better living in Huntington, Indiana - and they took me along. I remember the ride in a Lightnin' Taxi from the housing project to the bus station with my mother and two older brothers and my Woody Woodpecker coloring book. It was 1961. Dad had already gone north to find work and a place for us to live. Mom hoped that I would stay awake until Nashville where we would change buses, but I couldn't. I had no idea what was going on. I had no idea that my parents couldn't make a living farming. I didn't know about the fire burning down their house when oldest brother was a baby. I didn't know about the tornado a year later that lifted their house up and over the chimney, setting it down on the other side of the road - with my mother and oldest brother still inside. I don't remember the bull breaking daddy's leg, making him limp slightly ever after. I don't remember the poverty.

I do remember other things, though. How fearful, timid, painfully shy and awkward I was as a child. How sensitive and emotional. How different I was from the German and Dutch farmers that had settled northern Indiana. How dark haired I was amongst all these blondes. How poor we were, always living in rented houses. These were not my people - but I had no idea who my people were. Even my Tennessee relatives weren't like me. No one in my immediate family was like me.

I grew up in the country. My blond brothers could barely stand to have a little sister around. So I turned to literature for friends. I loved to read. I read everything I could get my grubby little paws on. I read my brothers' English literature and other school books. I read and re-read the 1964 edition of the Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia that mom bought at the grocery store, book by book, every few weeks. Also the 20 some odd books of the Illustrated History of the United States. (Thank you, Mommy!) I spent my summers reading the Reader's Digest Abridged Best Sellers (4 stories a book,) Jane Eyre, War and Peace, and other 50-cent editions of books from Scholastic Press. I was banished from the dinner table because I wanted to read while I ate. So, I ate in another room and read, read, read.

My poor, sad mother took her life in March of 1974. She was 42 and I was seventeen. That fall, I took sick with Grave's disease - a thyroid condition - and by early spring I was too sick to continue school. Mrs. Turnbloom, my high school counselor, tried to keep me up with my studies but the end of May and graduation came and went without me marching to Pomp and Circumstance to collect my diploma.

Part of me misses very much having a large and loving family that would gather to celebrate my graduation. Part of me is very pleased to not have a large and nosy family wondering why I didn't.

I am very glad to have found a group of fiber people that doesn't care and just loves me for being me. Strange, sad, creative and weepy me.