Everyone has a story to tell, but rarely is there a story that is also a living history. As each generation quietly slips away, people seem unaware that something very dear is being lost. Our older generations are invaluable, their stories are our stories and when they’re gone, their stories - our history - goes too. Deborah Prutzman and Adaline Sorace decided that this would not be the case for the history of their family, which is also a history of thousands of American families who experienced a time unlike any other in American history - the Great Depression.
Adaline Sorace has been around the sun on this blue and green ball ninety-four times. She recalls getting up on her 92nd birthday and telling her daughter Deborah that she was tired of waking up in the middle of the night with arthritis pain and then dashing to the bathroom first thing in the morning. This, she says, was the impetus for the book the two women wrote together, Addie of the Flint Hills, the autobiography of Adaline’s teenage years coming of age during the Great Depression in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Her daughter, Deborah, remembers it a bit differently.
Deborah always saw her mother as one of the most forward-thinking people she had ever met. But when Adaline's sister-in-law, the last living friend or relative from her generation, passed away, Deborah noticed that her mother changed. She seemed to become ready to leave this world. As Adaline herself admits, it’s simply hard to be the last one left. Deborah decided that this wasn’t the mother she knew and she recognized that she needed to keep her mother involved in the world in which she was still very much a part. From this, Deborah recalls, the book was born.
Once the two women decided to write the story of Adaline’s life, Adaline hit the ground running. The very next day she had written pages and pages, much of it events and dates upon which her daughter asked her to expand. From these memories - a lifetime of experiences - they realized that writing about her entire 92 years was simply too much to cover in one book. So they honed in on what they saw as something that both the grandchildren and ancestors to come would gain valuable information from. Also, as they wrote they came to feel that everyone sharing the planet today, and in the future, would be served by learning the actual history from a real perspective, rather than just learning the objective history found in classrooms. Working together they uncovered a world and a time that people casually refer to, but which hardly seems real to anyone anymore, and they made it very real by giving voice to a young girl who actually lived through it.
Adaline Sorace was born in the Flint Hills of Chase County Kansas in 1915. The daughter of a typical farming family, her grandparents were among the earliest settlers of the territory; they came to Kansas in a covered wagon. She has near perfect memories of World War 1, the 1920s, the auction of prize cattle herds during the Depression, and the first dust storm during the Dust Bowl. Pioneer Bluffs in Matfield Green, Kansas, is a museum concentrating on one branch of her extended family.
From this creative experience came an autobiography that the world can enjoy, but it also had a more important outcome for its authors. Not only did it enable Deborah to meet and fall in love with her mother as a young girl, but it gave Adaline a new source of joy: to tell her story. In what are now 94 years of living, Adaline had the best 2 weeks of her life this past June when she and her daughter headed back to Kansas on a publicity tour for the book. Adaline was on radio shows and doing television interviews, but to her, the best part of it all was that her relatives in Kansas told her how much it meant to them to meet their ancestors as real people, an experience that has enriched their lives forever.
The two women cannot say enough about how positive the experience of writing this book together was, and they recommend it to anyone who is fortunate enough to still have living relatives of generations past. It has enabled them to learn so much about one another and to grow closer in a bond that few family members enjoy. So often we pigeon-hole our families: mother fits in a certain role, as does father, grandmother, grandfather; it’s almost impossible to imagine them as the young people they were before we were around.
Uncovering her mother's younger years allowed Deborah to meet a very different person from the woman she knew as her mother, even though this person was right there all along.
And for Adaline, reminiscing about her history has made this healthy and independent 94 year old realize that she is still a very valuable member of society. She feels that too often people of her generation are placed in front of a television, spending the final years of their rich lives watching reruns of Matlock. But according to Adaline, writing and sharing her knowledge and her joys and sorrows with her family and the world reminded her of what living is all about.
The work is not over yet for these budding authors. Adaline has already written the foundation for their next three books. The next one will be a departure from their current work and into an entirely new realm that both know quite a bit about as well - parenting. Adaline got the idea for this book and the philosophy that is the foundation of the book from her son, who always needed to be by her side when he was young. She recalls reading to him when he was just eight months old from whatever periodical or magazine she happened to be reading at the time, material that was a far cry from the common fare for a baby. By the time he got to first grade it became clear that what she had done simply so that she could do some reading had been quite a boon for her young son.
He came home from school one day and said to her, “You should see what they assigned me, I’m not going to read this stupid stuff.” Clearly not, he had been ‘reading’ much more interesting things for years! So, as the two women embark on their next journey and begin the work of sharing their philosophies on parenting, a timeless adventure, readers can begin a journey back in time with Adaline and Deborah in Addie of the Flint Hills. To learn more about their book and the women behind the story, go to http://adalinesorace.com/aboutaddie.php.
Thank you Adaline, for sharing your Story with us.
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(c) 2009 by Cara Moorehead and Story of My Life®