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My grandmother is full of stories. When we visit her, she always loves to recount events and tell stories about her life. The last time I visited her, she recounted the story behind a Christmas tradition and becoming a teacher.

My grandmother carefully opened the photo album, flipping through the pages. She would stop every so often, pausing to recount some story attached to the photo. She always loved to tell us things she remembered about her life. When we visited her this time, she told me several stories; about farm life, a certain Christmas, and becoming a teacher.

My grandmother grew up on a farm in central Illinois. They had horses and chickens to take care of, as well as a dog called Don. She once said to me that “all of the dogs we ever had on the farm were called Don.” My grandma was one of the younger siblings, the fifth of six children. As a toddler, she was often left alone with her younger brother. In the mornings, she would walk down the road to the one-room schoolhouse, where most of her classmates were older. She once shared how she used learn from the older students. “After I was done learning what the first graders were being taught in the front of the classroom, I would listen to the older students in the back rows of the classroom, who were learning multiplication and division.

She recounted another story, one about a certain Christmas. My grandma was a child during the Great Depression, and times were tough. Despite having plenty of food to eat, as they lived on a farm, money was still scarce. That Christmas, each of the six children received just one present. Along with that gift, however, they each received a piece of fruit. “Fruit,” my grandmother said, “was a rare and special treat, scarce during the cold, winter months.” Ever since, this tradition has been passed down. Every Christmas, my sister and I both receive one orange in our stockings.

Recently, she shared the reason behind why she became a teacher. When she was in school, my grandma decided she wanted to be an archeologist. She was fascinated by history and the idea of digging for relics in ruins.

“That’s no career for a woman. It’s a man’s job.” She was cautioned by her teachers. So she chose to pursue a degree in journalism. After all, she loved to read and write. Sadly, yet again, they said to her,
“Nobody wants to hire a female journalist. You won’t make any money doing that.”

After this, she turned to her love of reading and writing and become an English teacher. She went to college, graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and taught English at a high school. She wrote short stories when she had time, trying to get some of them published. She formed a creative writing group with her friends, too. They exchanged and share stories with each other often. All her life, my grandma never lost her love of words.

Submitted by Kathryn, Age 14

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