Tag Archives: Johanna Spyri

Sixty-One Blessings

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Last year, in honor of my sixtieth birthday, I compiled a list of the 60 most influential women in my life.

The list included family members, friends, poets, activists and authors.

I intended to write a blog about each person on the list.

I considered gathering recipes from each person, living or dead. I already have Emily Dickinson’s “Black Cake” recipe! My list, and the essays, combined with photos and recipesĀ  could be assembled into a nice book, I thought.

In the course of the entire last year, I wrote three essays on women from my list: Mom (#1), Johanna Spyri (#38) and Emma Jean (#24).

That’s me, full of ideas…brimming with good intentions. My life is punctuated by unfinished projects!

Still, it was a good exercise, just writing the names. It caused me to think about who influenced my life, and how, and why.

For my birthday this year, I’m counting blessings.

First, two parents who loved their children and always did their best.

Five grandparents: four that I knew personally and loved; one that I was acquainted with only through her photo – always on display in my childhood home – and the stories my Dad told.

Ten siblings: I’m eternally grateful for every single one of them. Each one – even those that died in infancy – has helped to guide and shape my life.

Two daughters: by far the most heart-wrenching, soul-stretching, life-enriching blessings in my life.

Four strong, smart and handsome grandsons.

One charming, intelligent and beautiful granddaughter.

Three in-laws: father, mother and sister, who I’m glad to have known.

Seventeen nieces and nephews. And now their children…and their children’s children.

Other relatives: aunts and uncles and cousins.

Friends: I’m happy to say I’ve gained at least as many as I’ve lost over the years, and appreciate every single one.

Two sweet dogs.

Three one-hundred-year-old Maple trees on the north side of my house.

Six jobs. No, maybe seven.

Two vehicles: both in good running order.

One non-running vehicle that has served me well as a “garage”.

A fresh, unopened bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream.

My mother’s hope chest!

Seventy-five cookbooks!

Paul McCartney’s autograph!!

Almost one hundred birthday greetings on my Facebook page!

Cards and gifts from family and friends!

Phone calls from loved ones on my birthday!

Clearly, I should be much older than this.

Sixty-one is too small a number, for counting all the blessings in my life!

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#38 Johanna Spyri and Heidi

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My life has been greatly influenced by Johanna Spyri and the character she created, Heidi.

I cannot separate them.

I cannot separate them, even, from the book that brought them into my life. I have it here in front of me. The cover has illustrations from other children’s books – Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Pinocchio – in many colors over a gold background. A large blue rectangle in the upper left hand corner displays the title in bold white upper-case letters. The binding is torn and the edges of the pages are discolored. Inside, there is only one color illustration, at the front. There are a very few black and white pictures at the ends of some chapters. Some child wrote “T e e” in pencil on the page that lists the contents; lines in red ink frame the word “HEIDI” on the title page. On the last page, in a childish scrawl in blue ink, I wrote, “A very very good book!” My name is written in cursive on the top right hand corner of the first page, just inside the cover. The “Y” in Cindy has a curled flourish at the end of the tail and the “G” in Ricksgers looks much more like a “Q”. The entire signature looks a little wobbly. I had just turned ten-years-old when I wrote it.

I received the book from my mother and father, for my tenth birthday.

I was an early reader, and enjoyed books, but had never owned one all to myself.

I don’t know if I’d ever read a chapter book before.

Heidi was sassy, smart and kind. She loved animals and the outdoors. She was not intimidated by her gruff Grandfather.

I fell in love with the mountains and the meadows and the wind in the treetops; with Meadow Nuncle, his cabin and workshop, and with the goats. I cried when Heidi was sent to the city, and suffered through all of the horrors of loneliness, confusion and sadness with her. I despised Miss Rottenmeier and pitied little Clara. I rejoiced when Heidi was able to return to her mountain home and read with interest how her new knowledge and worldliness improved the lives of those around her.

I remember the feeling of wonderment, that words on a page had such power over my emotions.

I wonder at it still, though I’ve learned to expect it.

This was the beginning of a lifelong love of books and reading, that has enriched my life beyond measure.

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