My maternal grandmother, Pearl Mirich, had a significant and enduring positive impact on my life.
When I was growing up in Iowa City, Iowa in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, I simply knew her as Grandma, and that she was a long-time Cedar Rapids junior high schoolteacher who enjoyed playing bridge with her friends on weekends. The older I got, however, and the more I learned about her life, the more I came to realize that we also instinctively shared a similar spirit and outlook, even as the context of our formative years could not have been more different.
Like many Americans who lived through the Great Depression — and later, the long and lingering toll of World War II — Grandma Pearl could be tough and even uncompromising, but her stoicism was more than a cultural convention. In the early 20th Century, when she was born, the world really was a much more dangerous place, and not just because antibiotics had yet to become commonplace. Survival often hinged on resolve and strength of will, and left little time for processing or even acknowledging traumatic events.
I didn’t know much about my grandmother’s upbringing until late in her long life, when she set down her memories of several summers spent on her older sister’s Wyoming homestead. In that text — which was passed around in the family in manuscript form for over a decade — I was able to see young Pearl finding her way in life. Later, following her death, I produced a self-published volume of that book which was given to friends and members of her large extended family.
From the consistent positive response to her simple personal history, one of the tasks I set for myself in my own old age was producing a publicly available version of her memoir. Now, after plenty of dawdling and fits and starts, that version is available. (Click the image here, or on the Books page.)
There are a lot of things I like about this particular work, but I think it’s also an important reminder that everyone has a story to tell. If you know of people in your own family whose history might be of interest to others, consider this book a testament to the value of such homespun tales. (Self-publishing isn’t trivial, but it’s worth it.)
In any event there is a lot of interesting history in this little book, including a a compelling story of sisterhood and family. And family came first for Grandma Pearl.
— Mark Barrett