Watch My Corn Grow
by Virginia Burton Stringer
I’ve come to the conclusion that book marketing is the hardest thing ever. I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall! Regardless of my social media posts, my well-placed ads, my personal appearances, book sales are flat. I suppose a global pandemic isn’t helping either. When it’s a choice of which book to buy or putting food on the table, the choice becomes about survival rather than entertainment. All of that notwithstanding, I continue to write Maagy’s story as if I have all the time in the world. There are three more books to be published bringing Maagy’s incredible journey to a fitting end. I heard a story about a movie coming out soon based on a young adult fantasy series published 20 years ago. Twenty years it took for the interest to pique and this author to get the recognition he deserves. Did I mention that I’m 70? Twenty years! That would make me 90! I’m not sure I can wait that long.
So, why do I keep at it? I often ask myself this same question. I tell myself it’s not the destination that’s important. It’s the journey. The journey has been great, but I’d like to finally get where I’m going! Living in Maagy’s world; exploring her heart and soul, her magic, her mystery has been an endeavor of enlightenment, catharsis, tears, ah-ha moments, and growth I would never have had if not for the idea of a children’s play about a bratty little princess and her exasperated father. Maagy’s journey has allowed me to explore my own childhood with my mostly-absent mother, being literally farmed out to my grandparents for childcare, and my deep love and close relationship with a very flawed father.
My mother’s absence in my life (or my perception of her absence) was due to her being a nurse for a small-town country doctor. She was the only one, most of the time. She worked from seven in the morning until whatever time they saw the last patient; it could be five or it could be ten at night, six days a week. Consequently, she was not there as a doting mother figure. She didn’t make cookies or bake cakes. She did cook Sunday dinner. The laundry was never done. Most of the houses we could afford to rent didn’t have hot water heaters, so doing laundry was an arduous task. Clothes for the next day were washed and hung to dry. They were ironed at ungodly early hours in the morning for school and work. She hated housekeeping and was terrible at it. However, she was a damn good nurse! Doctor Richard Bowles once said she was the best he had ever worked with. She didn’t even have her RN, but she did the job with skill and integrity.
My scarce mother became Maagy’s dead mother who died under mysterious circumstances. I hadn’t started with that intent, but once I realized where it came from, my relationship with my mother reconciled before her death several years ago. I am now at peace with finally understanding in a deep emotional way why she was not there. I gained tremendous respect for her that had been lacking. I realized that she was really the primary breadwinner, and without her long hours and steady hard work, we would have been homeless.
My dad and I had a great relationship most of the time. However, he had some deep-seated issues of pain and anger from his youth that spilled over to our family dynamic in not-so-good ways. He could be violent at times. We all suffered his wrath at one time or another which left lasting scars on all our psyches. However, he could also be kind and funny. With all of his anger issues, I always felt protected. I always knew he would walk into Hell’s fire for any of us. He just had a difficult time expressing how much he cherished each of us. I still miss him every single day. Sometimes, I feel his presence in my life. Thus, the great love of father/daughter between King Henry and Princess Maagy.
In the 1950s rural America where I grew up, there were no childcare centers on every block. Babysitting was done in people’s homes if one could afford to pay. Well, my parents could not afford it. We barely had food on the table but for the generosity of my dad’s parents and their farm. So, I was dropped off on Sunday afternoon at the farm with Bertha and Robert, Sr. I stayed the entire week until I was picked up on Friday evening or Saturday morning. This went on until I started school at six years old. Over the next few years, we found our entire family living back on the farm several times due to jobs lost and no money for rent, but that’s another whole story to tell. Consequently, my experiences on the farm on North River became a huge influence in The Maagy Series.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the farm! I loved the animals, the fields, the woods, the freedom to run and play. I learned everything important in my life from those two people; integrity, honor, dependability, manners, etiquette, faith, and storytelling. My grandmother was a great storyteller with her silly voices and accents. I learned to sew, wash clothes by hand, iron – with an iron made of iron and placed on the wood stove to heat – to make beds, build a fire in the stove, make biscuits, and bake a cake in a woodstove oven. I learned to milk a cow, chop wood, muck a stable, throw hay, feed chickens and gather eggs, drive a team of horses, hook up trace chains for a plow or a wagon, clean horses’ hooves, and prime a pump in winter. I learned to shuck oysters and corn. I learned to spit watermelon seeds and make mud pies. I learned to dust furniture. I learned to take care of my possessions and appreciate that it took hard work to have them. I learned to respect my elders; to respect professional people like doctors and nurses and police officers and the military. I was taught that saying “Yes Sir”, “Yes Ma’am” were out of respect not servitude. I learned to plant flowers and vegetables and weed them so they would yield their gifts of blossoms or food. My grandparents became Grandpa Kris and Grandma Polly. This was more intentional, as I always felt that that farm and those two people were magical.
Some of these lessons might not seem relevant in today’s world, but each task had a greater value than the task itself. They taught me responsibility, patience (which I’m still a little short on!), to complete what I start, perseverance, respect for the land and all her creatures. I learned that life on a farm is a 24-hour/7-day a week commitment of time and energy regardless of season, weather conditions, or personal feelings. Animals need to eat, drink, and have clean bedding. Cows need to be milked; wood needs to be chopped, eggs gathered, water carried, food cooked. On a farm, one does not have the luxury of sleeping in because it’s raining or snowing.
The greater value here is that anything in life worth doing takes commitment like that of being a farmer. Everything I do needs constant care and attention in order to grow and flourish. Nothing prepared me for the job of motherhood more than learning to be a farmer especially when I found myself as a single mother.
Another lesson was to value what I have and not always want for more, which brings me back to the beginning of this diatribe. I will continue to write and publish Maagy’s story even if no one reads it. Why? Because it’s a story that others can learn from. It’s the journey of a young woman coming into her own; much like this old woman finally coming into my own. I value the journey I have taken in writing The Maagy Series.
As for wanting more, I just want to reap what I’ve sown. I’m confident that someday it will yield a crop whether I’m here to see it or not. One day, my impossibly difficult marketing enigma will coalesce and people will discover Maagy’s journey. In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away at it, because that’s what my granddad taught me to do all those years of walking up one cornrow and down the other. I’ll plow, plant, thin, and weed, so I can one day watch my corn grow!