Investigating the book drop

While waiting for the library to open today, I observed a curious 6 year old who appeared fascinated with the two outside drops for library materials.
His investigation got underway with prying open the metal door and peeking inside.
An older woman, arms loaded with books, asked him to “help” her with returning her reads. He smiled and pulled at the handle. One by one the volumes disappeared from sight.
He asked me what each drop was for. One was for adults, I said and spelled out the letters. The other, I said, was just for people his size to return books and DVD’s.
That seemed to make sense. We both peered through the drops and I told him that the books/materials plunge into a box.
“Then what happens?” he asked.
“Then the librarian comes and checks the books in so more children and adults can check them out.”
Oh. That explanation satisfied him and he ran over to his parent to share the exciting news with them.
I went my way, smiling.

(C) 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved. For more information contact the writer at

Living in a shrine

I live in a shrine.

Not a place of religious significance, mind you. However, the purpose of my bedroom (contained in my mother’s condo) is not primarily for my comfort or storing of my belongings.

Rather my chamber is the repository of Mom’s quest for family past. Artistically printed family trees, copies of censuses and birth certificates, and details scribbled onto the backs of envelopes.

generic family tree

These collections, stacked in wooden family plots, claim the place of honor. (Note – the sarcophagi are usually referred to as dresser drawers.) Hard-to-unearth documents are stored away from light and exposure. Rules of the shrine are housed in concrete. There must be no crumpling, no gouging, no accidental tearing, or bearing of too much weight for these precious glimpses of the past.

Which means my clothing is stored in a cardboard box, closet and the two small desk drawers I dared to claim.

For Mom, it wasn’t enough to simply trace the lines that belonged to her dad and mom back a few generations and call the efforts good. The whitened bones of my extensive family’s past feature William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda, many relatives who farmed and raised their children in rural England and the United States, the few daring souls who set off on a hazardous journey to the new world.

Mom diligently researched on, even when her dad asked why wasn’t it enough to focus on the family of today. The quest took her to genealogical centers and historical libraries and long sessions on her personal computer.

It awes me to think of all my mother has done to achieve this collection. I see the shadows in printed copies of email conversations with other researchers of the past. Letters from distant cousins she never met in person.

A wonderful collection of finds but one that makes me cringe at times. So many of these documents lay forgotten before my siblings and I tackled helping mom clean and organize the condo last summer.

I volunteered to categorize the papers by family, a task that boggled my mind when trying to connect the different names. Who were the Schlossers, for example, and were they connected to the Rileys?

The task was finally completed and I loaded files into the dresser drawers – carefully, carefully – under mom’s vigilant eye.

My mother’s quest appears complete for now. Labels adorn the outside of the drawers so she can easily find the families. The hours for the local LDS genealogy center are displayed on the refrigerator.

Has she completed her voyage of genealogical discoveries? I wonder?

It will be up to me to someday bring these bones of the past to life in a book.

To interpret (as much as possible) what happened with key relatives such as the (2x) great grandfather who was taken prisoner-of-war during the Civil War.

To ensure my mother’s life’s work is preserved and passed onto siblings, to cousins, to our children.

© 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved

Animal Cruelty — or innocent birthday sharing?



prince george

Dear Prince George,

Like many others viewing your third birthday photos, I chuckled. Thought how terribly cute you are – and wondered what the future will bring. What lovely snapshots of a child enjoying special moments with their family!

However some people are apparently up in arms about these photos. Particularly the one of you sharing your ice cream cone with your dog, Lupo.

According to an article*  published on Yahoo, animal cruelty campaigners are tweeting their dire displeasure about the photo. The jist of their “wisdom”  is – never, never, never feed a dog ice cream – and they are using your photo to ram home their point.

Ta to innocence?

I hope not. I share the goal of wanting to make sure pets are fed healthy foods.

However a practical side of me is musing. What was the world like before the advent of animal food companies.  How ever did  pets survive for thousands of years on what is basically “people” food mixed with whatever prey they might catch for themselves?

We tend to forget that fact in the furor to eat healthy foods – and to provide same to our four-legged friends. We want their companionship with us for as long as possible.

Rightly so.

But I think that sharing one’s ice cream cone – provided it’s not chocolate – with the family pet during a special occasion can be seen as just that.

A happy moment where a little boy and dog bond over ice cream!

And perhaps the rest of us who aren’t George’s mummy and daddy — you know, the one’s who are responsible for bringing up George — can simply smile and wish this little boy all the best!

Happy birthday George!

(C) 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke.  All Rights Reserved.

Forged on rocky ground

I found myself transported back into the not so distant past this morning while reading a novel written by Emilie Richards.
rocky ground

Featured in Richards’ Sister’s Choice novel is a marriage begun out a woman’s reluctant promise to a dying sister to care for two nephews. The promise also included wedding the sister’s husband, a marriage formed on the barren soil of duty and necessity.

Flashpoint to my past and to the crisis raised by my (now ex) husband’s accepting a job that allowed him to be home every evening. Until then he worked as a long haul semi-truck driver, gone for days at a time. We’d been married about 10 years by then, and our marriage had fallen on similar rocky ground. I was the primary parent for our two sons, the maker of dinner and the attender of school conferences, while trying to establish a writing career of my own. Dad was a weekend visitor, someone loved but not depended upon.

But my husband was home now. Life had to change.  My sons’ needed to know their dad better and realize he occupied a place in their daily lives.  I handed him the role of teaching the boys about our family faith – and stepped back to give them space.

Did I make the correct decision? In some ways, yes, as it gave the three of them time together and something that was uniquely their. In other ways, I wish I’d encouraged some other connection with their dad. My husband believed in serving religion up as a full meal deal where our sons got stuffed with more high level information than they could process or comprehend – and I see those results now in them.

Change the past – I can’t no matter how hard I try to hue out the stones of doubt. But in the end, both sons love their dad as he is – in a relationship forged on rocky ground – and that I would not change.

(C) 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.