My first elephant

“Even if only the people in your writing group read your memoirs or stories or novel, even if you only wrote your story so that one day your children would know what life was like when you were a child and you knew the name of every dog in town–still, to have written your version is an honorable thing to have done. Against all odds, you have put it down on paper, so that it won’t be lost. And who knows? Maybe what you’ve written will help others, will be a small part of the solution. You don’t even have to know how or in what way, but if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse.  Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

(Having grown up on a boat, I always appreciate metaphors with a whiff of the sea.)

Storyline’s Life Planning Process has us choose a life theme: “Simply state what your life is about or what you’d like to have been known for before you die. Use your life theme as a filter. . . Does each of your projects fit within it? If not, stop working on them or change your life theme. . . Your life theme is your decision filter.”

I want to fulfill my destiny, become the woman God designed me to be. I see myself as a dot connector. Because several generations of our family on my mother’s side were writers and because she was an only child (for that matter, so was my dad), she was the family archivist by default–and I inherited all her letters and publications along with theirs when she left this life. Just as she wanted us to know Diggy Dee, Sterling, Nana, Uncle John Sammis and Captain Webber, I want future generations to know Mum and Skipper, Tim and Ted. I want to connect those dots.

(What’s a bit frustrating is that besides preserving and organizing everyone else’s writings, I am generating more of my own on a daily basis. I not only can’t catch up but I am adding to what my kids and grandkids will have to preserve and organize. “Of the making of books there is no end” is especially true in our family. . .)

There are other dots I feel I am in a position to help connect. I am part of the generation that both brought about and suffered from the dawn of the nuclear age. The last survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are dying off. Soon I will die off. Before I do, I want to publish what it was like for one family who became inextricably intertwined with it, to connect the stories of people we knew who experienced nuclear war firsthand with the pivotal generation which follows, those who need this information in order to take the torch and run with it, to keep its fire alive, so there will be No More (need for) Hiroshimas, No More Nagasakis, No More Fukushimas (although Fukushima, frighteningly, is far from over).

My own life story, which I would like to leave for the handful of us Reynoldses, Roders, Shavers, Padillas, Walkers, and Backuses-Tennisons, has to be set in its historical context for the public at large, a tale not only of two shattered cities but of my father’s research into the radiation their destruction produced, which led us to Hiroshima for 3 years of my childhood. The results of that research motivated us, as a family, to protest nuclear testing, first by our own country when I was 14 and then by the Soviet Union when I was 17. It’s all a string of causes and effects.

I cannot tell my story or my mother’s or father’s without telling also the story of the sturdy ketch my father built which carried us around the world and into both nuclear test zones, then after my parents’ divorce and his remarriage carried humanitarian supplies to Vietnam through the 5th Fleet. From that idea, of protesting by boat, ultimately came Greenpeace.

I have already written this story. I have posted it here and there on my blogs His Scribe and His Scribbler. So one of my elephants, my biggest elephant, is to assemble those posts in a pdf.file and have them bound ready to give each family group. My self-imposed deadline is April 12.

Another aspect of this particular elephant is to tag the posts on my blogs containing these stories for anyone Googling the Cold War, nuclear weapons testing, or the peace movement. Because, although this story is very personal, it is also part of history. It documents and connects important events and motives. I want it available to anyone doing their own research in this area. Maybe what you’ve written will help others, will be a small part of the solution.

The only title I can come up with for this elephant so far is The Reynolds Family, the Nuclear Age, and a Brave Wooden Boat. It’s highly likely that the boat itself, Phoenix of Hiroshima, is the real hero of this story.


About Jessica Renshaw
This entry was posted in health, Japan, not-so-amusing anecdotes, nuclear accidents, nuclear dangers, peace, pictures, sailing, Travel, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to My first elephant

  1. Kat says:

    A birthday gift for all your family? Very thoughtful.

  2. says:

    I am encouraged by this to continue my story which I started years ago for my kids. Did I tell you that Bill got joint custody of Lacey and that he is going to counseling working on his anger issues with our assistant pastor, and is doing better. Would love it if you and Jerry were able to come to camp Maranatha (Idyllwild ) for a day this weekend and just visit our Christian Ashram retreat. It starts Sat. at noon and ends Monday at 1:00 pm. If you want to check it out and see if it is something you would enjoy, just come. I would love to see you and I feel you would enjoy it soooo much. Think about it. And pray for us. Love you, Allean

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