A grandmother’s “chat to her grandchildren” carries no guarantees of being an engaging read. It’s her family, not the readers’ — so will they care? But Ruth Drummond, who was born in Canada and taught school when most of that country was rural, might make you care. An excellent writer, she shares family stories from the Great Depression and world wars through her retirement from teaching in 1985 and her husband’s heart attack in the early ‘90s.
Drummond describes strawberry socials, house parties and fall turkey suppers during a time before political correctness, when church was the center of the community and people made their own entertainment. Children wore shoes only during the winter and to church. Tight communities offered a safe and loving environment, although much changed when servicemen came home from WWII in 1945.
Maybe Drummond’s writing is charming because she doesn’t mince words. Whether she tells of her mother’s illegitimacy, some farmers who grew hemp and smoked a little, how a wife dealt with her abusive alcoholic husband, or offers barbed commentary on the status of women, her stories ring true. Humor is her spice, but she tells the sad stories too: for example, the beloved alpha cat in her family that visited the corner bar for a saucer of beer every night and was in the wrong place one morning when Drummond ran over him.
Readers planning to write a memoir can take a lesson from Drummond’s candidness and courage. Why pass on sanitized family myths and gussie up relatives beyond recognition? Here you get both history and a sense of place in realistic form. Readers may slog a bit through some long list of relatives and find themselves lost without the guidance of dates, but Drummond’s conversational style is always inviting. While this isn’t fine literature, it’s like sharing a cup of coffee with a good friend. In that context, Drummond more than succeeds.