The Privilege of Going Back to SchoolWritten by Valerie Elkins
This is the time of year when children returning to school raid the stores of their Back-to-School supplies, buy new clothing that will be too warm to wear on the first day of school and are filled with mixed feelings of dread and anticipation. Parents brace for the impact on the checkbook, the stream of endless papers for each child that need to be signed, returned and noted in their calendars and know the whirlwind of busyness that is about to ensue and consume their lives. Gone are the lazy days of summer and the whine of "I'm bored". Moms are torn between being relieved and terrified of the new school year.
Looking back on my family history I know that few of my ancestors were able to enjoy the luxury of being able to even attend school. They would have been envious of the educational opportunities that we have - craziness and all. My great-grandmother, Tela (pronounced tee-lah) Pearl Cole, was born in rural Alabama in 1895. At age 18 she married the tall and thin 25 year old, Luther Ellis Beck. Together they raised 7 children, lived through two World Wars, the depression and the turbulent 60's in California. They lived until 1977, when they died within 6 months of eath other.
Grandma Tela worked as a waitress at a diner in her later years to provide for her and Luther. I remember the glass jars on the counter filled with change, a separate jar for each shiny coin - tips that she had earned a nickel and dime at a time. Grandma once gave me some of that hard earned money to buy myself some candy at the store. I remember being amazed with my good fortune, as I don't think anyone had given me any money before.
Recently, I found a letter that she wrote to me when I was just 8 years old. The letter was obviously in response to a letter I had written her to invite her to attend a play that I was in. What stood out to me as I read it as an adult was when she wrote:
"Valerie are you still going to school. Learn all you can so when you get a big girl you could get a good job that would be fine."
Grandma Tela did not have the opportunity of obtaining a good education. She had to work hard all of her life. Luther had little education, as well, and only was able to work menial labor jobs that provided little for their large family. After he was injured at work, Tela was left to provide.
Tela's wish for me, her great-granddaughter, was that I could have what she was unable to have - a good education and the opportunities that it brings.
Education is such a privilege; one that I appreciate more because I know about my ancestors.
Thank you, Grandma Tela, for the reminder to never take education for granted.
Think back to your school days... what was your school's name? Mascot? What were your school colors? (For more ideas, check out our My School Days story starter)
Vlaerie is the CEO and founder of Advantage Genealogy and serves on the Board of Directors for both Story @ Home and for the Utah Genealogical Association. She utilizes her experience to blend research and technology with the art of storytelling, to help make the past come alive. Valerie believes that every family has an amazing family history full of stories of love and loss, guts and glory, victory and deafeat... along with a few skeletons in the closet. Finding those stories and learning to dance with them is her passion. Valerie is a Pinterest "pinja" and a blogger at Family Cherished. You can find Valerie on Twitter @elkinsvalerie.
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