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A Family of Thirteen

Updated: May 16

Naïveté permits us to imagine and believe the impossible is feasible. Fifteen years ago, a middle-aged woman challenged her friends to join her on a scribe's journey in writing a book. Thirteen Black women, all baby boomers, put pen to paper to write about topics impacting their lives over fifty-five plus years. One woman dubbed it, Thirteen Voices, One Song.

Lifestyles and experiences defined the disparate group of women who differed in careers – teachers, administrators, business owners, corporate executives, and homemakers. Their viewpoints varied widely, but not their values, at least not those that mattered most, such as respect, love, integrity, and compassion. All were Christian, though some more conservative than others.

Residing in various parts of the country, they tackled the subjects of children, education, friends, racism, parents, politics, love, and marriage. Each writer defined the respective themes as she saw them, so the stories were as unique as the women themselves. They met every six months or so for two years over a weekend. They read their stories to one another and raised glasses of wine; at least those who were partakers did. They told other stories not included in their written journals. They laughed, cried, and argued. They never judged.

The group's writing skills were mixed as some regularly wrote while others were intermittent scribes. Still, the skill levels were irrelevant because everyone gave everything to the effort. Some of the women had known one another for years. Others met for the first time as the group convened. A trust emerged, secrets divulged; murder, rape, same-sex relationships, despair, hope. Celebrations. A Black man was elected President of the United States. Thirteen Voices, One Song.

It was naïve to believe everyone could summon the courage to move their stories beyond the group or what was whispered to one close friend, foolish to consider a book of eight hundred pages would see the light of day. Yet the experience was cathected. It resulted in discussions at home and encouraged family revelations buried for a lifetime.

Recently, the idealist who dreamed of compiling a book that would tell the stories of her friends brought them together again. Certainly, some have seen each other over the years, but not all. There were no more group meetings once the project ended. And yet, we fell into a comfortable rhythm as if little time had passed. We laughed and cried, raised a glass or two of wine again, and revisited fifteen years. We shared pictures of our grandchildren. There is even a great-grandmother in the group.

Two moved away from the hub of the wheel, so there were no stories to tuck away for them this time. The wasteland of Alzheimer's consumes two of the writers. After her diagnosis, one of them wrote a book based on her original stories to ensure her daughter and grandchildren would know their history. Her book tells the tale of murder. It may have remained a secret but for thirteen voices. Some writers have buried husbands; one mourned the loss of her daughter. Another is a blushing seventy-four-year-old bride.

An undercurrent of anger percolates as the fear we carried for the safety of our sons now crawls through every artery as we pray for the security of our grandsons. We wish we could say we don't recognize our country, but sadly, we do. Thirteen Voices, One Song.

Two are now writers. Alisonwoodswrites.com features beautiful children's books. As for me, I tell stories of family. Family is everywhere and is defined in many ways. This is the story of a family I found fifteen years ago, a family with thirteen voices singing one song.



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