Monthly Archives: June 2020

A train ride and a life lesson. A short story by Linda Claire Groshans

A smeared photo I took on the Wolverine Line- Linda Claire

I wiggled around in my seat and got ready for the train ride that would take me on a visit to my grandchild. I certainly did not need a mirror to know that I was smiling and filled with an abundance of joy and anticipation. As the train departed the Ann Arbor station, I grabbed my camera so I could photo document the trip and the views. Life was good. The train raced past meadows, along Main Streets, through wooded acres, past homes, and through factory yards. I kept busy with my camera. After taking several photos, I pushed the camera buttons that were necessary to review my photographs. “Drat,” I thought to myself as I looked at this recent series of photos, they were all blurred by the motion and speed of the train. “It’s all a smear.” I disparaged. “Yep,” I thought, “my own life is going by so quickly that my memories are like these streaked photos.” A train in motion and my life in motion too. Then the lull of the train sounds caused me to think, “I am a grandmother, I am a grandmother,” and I kept repeating this to myself in perfect rhythm to the wheels. I tried to think where all that time had gone since I was holding my own babies. Where?

The gentleman across the aisle took me away from my thoughts when he started to address me, “Good Day, are you on vacation?” he asked.

“Something much better.” I replied and then I explained, “I am going to see my grandchild. I am really happy.”

“I could tell you looked pretty excited.” He said. I decided right then that I liked him. His company and conversation would be fun. “My name is Dave.” He stood up and reached over to shake my hand.

“My name is Claire.” I shook his hand and looked at his kind eyes.

The next half hour was filled with him showing me a train app on his phone. He showed me exactly where we were on the tracks and our current rate of speed.

Eventually, our conversation became more personal. “I am 59 years old, and I am so happy to be a grandmother.” I told him. “I guess I am an old woman now.”

Dave said, “Well, I am 79. I am so old that you could ask me anything and I would know the answer.” He finished that zinger by giving me a genuine smile.

In life, you do not always come up with a quick retort, but this time I certainly did. “Ok Dave. So, I can ask you anything, but how much do you remember about everything?”

His belly laugh startled some of the other passengers. I started laughing too.

Then, I got a bit more serious. “Ok, if I can ask you anything, then how about this one? What is the meaning of life?” I said it with a smile, but his answer was profound.

“Oh, I’m honored to be the one to tell you that the entire meaning of life is to love. I suggest loving as many people as you can. I suggest that you spend time with your grandson and love him. I suggest you spend time with your elderly widowed father and let him know your feelings. Keep falling in love with life.” He looked over at me. “Just love.” He concluded.

I was filled with emotions. I understood. I met a stranger on a train and I finally understood. It was not my job, not my house, not my appearance, not my intellect or humor. None of those was what we refer to as the meaning of life. It was so obvious and simple now. “Just love.” I smiled and smiled.

And then, just like that, Dave stood up and told me that we had reached Battle Creek and it was his stop. He wished me a pleasant visit with my grandson, and he was gone.

“It’s like that with the people in our lives who we like, cherish or love. They have different journeys. But we had shared a moment.

I learned a lesson about life while riding on a train and I wanted to share it with you. I wanted to tell you to Just love. Oh, and “Go ahead, ask me anything!”

Games – a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

photo credit- Linda Claire Groshans

I think we could almost measure joy by watching children involved in playing games. If you try to picture a little girl on a sidewalk hopscotch grid, there is a certain whimsey and a smile that graces your face. Try holding a handful of antique marbles and you will become transfixed by their colors, patterns, and sizes. Picture the giggles that a good old game of Mouse Trap can emote. And then let your mind wander to the chaos of Musical Chairs, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or Duck, Duck Goose! Did you spend part of your childhood asking questions like, “What time is it Mr. Fox?,“ or “Mother May I?”

Many of our precious memories can be built around our recall of board games played with our friends, siblings, and parents. Some of my favorites were Clue, Go to the Head of the Class, The Barbie Game, Yahtzee, and Life.

My mother and father had an on-going score card for Scrabble.  My father was a brilliant scientist, but it was hard to beat my mother because of her mastery of words and her ability to use the score points printed on the game board to her advantage. I loved their laughter as they played and their serious concentration and competition.

My grandson liked Hide and Seek. As a grandparent, I have been guilty of setting up games to make sure my grandchild will win. I purposely did a poor job of hiding behind the shower curtain and was always the first to be found out because I planned it that way. I would feign indignation to him that I had been found so quickly and praise him for his stealth at finding me.

After my divorce, I went bowling with my new boyfriend Bob. I had never bowled more than a few games in my life. I nailed one of the highest scores of the evening the first time he took me to Colonial Lanes. Bob thought this meant that I was a natural talent. He rushed out to buy me my own bowling ball. It was a purple with sparkles and came in a fancy tote bag. Turns out that the 1st game of bowling I played was also my best. That ball ended up shoved to the back of the attic.

My mother was part of a bridge club. As a little girl, I would sneak down the stairs and hide behind the china cupboard to watch the fancy ladies play. Every woman had her own little dish of bridge mix. For those that do not know, Bridge Mix is a delightful chocolate assortment. Little handmade tally cards looked glamourous and the women were all dressed ‘to the nines’ for the evening. Their conversations were filled with great stories and much laughter.

The year now is 2020. I am no longer a girl hidden behind a china cupboard. I am a mature 66-year-old single grandmother. This year we struggle through a pandemic. This disease is like an angry ugly person shouting at us, “I’m not playing games.” Last week, I began to worry that I might not even be fun anymore because fun feels so elusive now.

This is also a year where I feel especially called to righteously stand for Black Lives Matter and to support the “I can’t breathe” protests for equality.  

I wonder what memories and lessons will be carried away after this year. I want us (all of us) to win over this pandemic and the racism that has plagued us. I want to play hard to make this difference. I am not sure how I will do it, but I am sure going to try.

A sidewalk in my neighborhood. Photo credit- Linda Claire Groshans

I can travel in time… a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

My superpower is time travel. For several hours every day, I travel back in time. I might spend an hour in the 1990’and then go back to the 1890’s an hour later!  While I am traveling in the past, I stay busy collecting information there and insight to bring back to the present and to share with others. I might spend my time travel in Europe, Colonial America, an Amish farm in PA, Salem, MA during the witch trials in the 1600’s, or even on the Mayflower. 

I build pathways for others to travel back in time too. 

There is a name for the superpower that is used for the many people like me who travel backwards in time. We form a group called genealogists. Ta da…Super Granny Genealogist! That’s me! 

It is a bit odd to come up with a superhero name for myself. I did come up with a name for my website and I was a bit surprised that it was an available choice. It is called Telling Life Stories. Org. The website becomes a door for others to hear the stories of their ancestors. Like a river, we flow from the experiences and stories of our ancestors. It is a gift to know their stories.  

Some people have a hard time finding their ancestors and I try to help those people. My story is humanity’s story and so it is important for me to use my superpower to help others connect to their direct roots.  I am pretty good at my superpower. I have a lot of tools and memberships in ancestral websites that help me. But, my superpower is far from perfect. I often try to find information from the past, but it is elusive. I could not find the birth parents of my friend Beth. I could not find out who Jennie’s grandparents were. I did find records of Jennie’s Japanese mother who had arrived in America as a wartime bride from Japan, but was unable to trace the family further back.

Because there are many people who have my same superpower, there are others who have helped me find my direct ancestors and even photographs of them. Just think how it feels to see a photo for the first time of your 2nd great grandparents. Or, imagine seeing the photo of the farm in France where my children’s great grandparents had lived. 

In January of this year, I traveled to France with my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. We went to the village of Sundhousen to meet a gentleman there who is also a genealogist. We had found out about each other through my website. He found my website while researching his grandparent’s story and it turns out that his great grandmother and my children’s great great grandmother were sisters. Think how it felt to arrive at Gerard and Josette’s French home to spend a weekend delving through the past together. Imagine how it felt to see photos of my children’s ancestors on the wall of the guest room provided to me during my stay. Imagine coming home from that trip with copies of dozens of photos of the Groshans family from France. And best, we met and dined with family we did not even know we had. My 7-year-old grandson was delighted to find out that his family now included this extended family in France. 

I love my superpower. I love sharing my power and helping others gain the power of time travel too. Finding ancestors, hearing their stories, knowing the history and events that faced them are all part of something that we call a tree. A family tree.