Tell Her Story

Creative Nonfiction
Amanda Borozinski

It’s the one about strawberries growing in deep rows, green pint and half-pint baskets and dirty knees. Blackberries in the back yard; how you knew they were ripe when they fell into your hand leaving a white cone behind on the branch.

Tell about boysenberry cobbler, buttermilk pancakes, lime Jell-O with big chunks of pineapple, spaghetti with mushrooms sautéed in butter, and cowboy breakfasts with sausage gravy. Tell how she always warmed the plates before serving food on them. Brought them out of the oven with thick blue pads, saying each time: “Be careful they’re hot.”

In the cellar were rows of canned goods, pickles and relishes, jams, peaches and pears. Each jar hand-sealed, hand-dated. Her huge coffin freezer was home to meats, cookie sheets of frozen berries, and loaves of double-bagged bread, all labeled and dated.

Tell the story of this woman whose parents had been pioneers, had owned the largest cattle ranch in Oregon. Oregon where there are still ruts in the ground from the wagons as they came to the finish line, came to the West.

Tell about the piano in her basement; the baby Steinway grand, made in 1910, a gift from her father when she graduated high school. Everyone said she was the best piano teacher. She only charged $10 a lesson.

Tell how her husband knew her since she was ten and always said, while he ate his oatmeal, “She was the cutest girl at the swimming hole.” For some reason oatmeal jogged this memory best.

Tell how years later, playing with her granddaughter, the woman would become Dr. Pickles. During imagination games, when a little girl turned wild animal was injured or a toy was broken, the woman would fix them. With toothpicks, masking tape, and super glue, horses would run again. Miracles.

Tell how she always took the chipped plate, the burnt piece of pie, washed the dishes while everyone else watched television, but never complained. How she always prayed for her family.

Tell about her diary, an antique. She wrote in the dairy while she was still in high school and while he was still fighting in the last Great War. She wrote to him every day, stayed true, missed him deeply. Tell about how he was from the wrong side of the tracks and she was the youngest daughter of the upper-class farm family. How she went to college, the University of Oregon, when most women weren’t going. How she rode her bike to class and hated the sorority her mother’s privilege forced her to join.

Tell about the white satin wedding dress with the train that ran down three stairs and the huge red roses, captured for all time in the black-and-white photographs of her wedding.

Tell about ducks in the bath tub. Ducks her husband won at a carnival and brought home to her the first year they were married, living in a studio apartment.

Tell about hard times. A car accident that broke her neck and about how she lost three babies, after she carried them all full term. Tell about how she cried when the last one, Christopher—the only one they named—lived for five days. Tell about the adoption. Ten days after her last baby died, they adopted their first child. The adopted child was born in the same hospital, born in a room across the same hall from where the woman had given birth and lost her baby, Christopher.

Tell how she would rub her husband’s bald head when he was asleep in the recliner, before he moved to the bed, before the cancer came, before he died. Tell about the small book where the names, dates, and comments are. The book that recorded their cribbage games, played every day they were married, where they kept score. More often than not he was the winner, but more often than not she wrote the fiercer comments. ZIP! WHERE ARE YOU? SKUNKED AGAIN! Fifty-two years of marriage in one book.

Tell about the letter he left her, the one that she found after he died. The one that said, I never loved you well enough, but you were the love of my life I should have told you that more. Tell about how he came to visit her in his glowing blue pajamas, the night she found the letter. He didn’t say anything, just smiled, just comforted her, just was. Tell about how after he died, she had to learn to drive a car, balance a checkbook, cook a meal for one, put the cribbage board away, walk the dog, and find things to do.

Tell how she got old. Bought a hearing aid that she didn’t need, all because the woman said it would prevent hearing loss in the future and the woman had wonderful letters of recommendation to prove it. Bought a $3,000 vacuum cleaner, and how it turned out to be too big for her to use so she loaned it to her daughter.

Tell how once, she gave all her checking account information to someone over the phone. Tell about how they took her car away because she was driving too slowly. Don’t forget to tell about the time she ran the red light. But leave out the light post she hit and the people at church who complained about her driving.

Tell these stories, loudly so she can hear. Tell these stories because it’s critical that people understand her life. Tell these stories so people know she was happy. So young women know she was happy.

Tell these stories so listeners can see her. Make sure they really see her: She had fluffy gray hair permed every three months, weighed 90 pounds, wore big glasses, listened to classical music. Make sure they know she had thin skin and large veins in her hand. That she was full of wisdom. “Don’t drive too fast, don’t let go of his hand, give that baby a kiss from me, read, always forgive.”


Amanda Borozinski lives with her son, husband, dog, two horses, and red-tail hawk in Rindge, New Hampshire. She writes and takes photographs for a daily newspaper, The Keene Sentinel. Amanda has her MFA in creative non-fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in The Oklahoma Review, Guideposts Magazine, Positive Thinking Magazine, and will be in the upcoming issue of the Northern New England Review. E-mail: aboro[at]

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