Thursday, October 06, 2005
Book signing scheduled for Willows columnist
By DAN BARNETT
In 1996 Willows resident Shari Edwards, after a 40-year absence, returned to her hometown to care for her ailing father. Her column of reminiscences began a year later, running in the Tri-County Newspapers until budget cutbacks ended it in 2001. Those columns were collected as "As I Remember" ($22.95 in paperback from iUniverse), which I reviewed favorably last July.
Heartbroken at being a writer without a home, Edwards found a new champion in the form of Sacramento Valley Mirror publisher Tim Crews, who allowed her to continue "As I Remember" until August 27, 2003, when "my column abruptly disappeared from the pages of yet another newspaper because of economics, cutting short my column writing life. I was saddened that I had not been able to write a farewell to all my wonderful readers."
That has now been rectified with the publication of a second collection, "Still Remembering ..." ($16.95 in paper, also from iUniverse). In it, Edwards is able to publish not only all the columns from her days with the Mirror, but to add four more, tributes to her husband, Ted, who died of cancer in December 2002, and to her father, Alan Fisk, who died a month later. "My father," she writes, "was born in a small cabin in a little area above Redding, now known as Lamoine. It was 1908. He was the first child of a Wintu woman and a train engineer."
In her evocative reflection on her late husband, Edwards writes that "now, it has been two years since my sweet Ted passed on to a more comfortable place, leaving me to find my way out of the wilderness. The road has been long, dark and full of detours. For a time, I wrote furiously believing that words would lead me to safety and comfort. They did not! I roamed empty rooms only to find the ghosts of residence past, all assuring me that being alone would be O.K. It was not! ... It had taken two years for those grief monsters to climb from the depth of the prison I banished them to ... and still I thought, I'll cry tomorrow. It has taken a family and many friends to put this humpty-dumpty girl back together again. ... Now I have to learn how to reach for the hand of God."
And then this: "My vision of Ted is starting to fade. Sometimes he stands only in shadow. Sometimes I cannot see him at all. I'm losing him. He appears to me far away, tall and mysterious as the first time I saw him across that room long ago." During that time, Shari was given a Cabbage Patch doll by her daughter and granddaughter, one with Ted's birthday. "When that doll was placed in my arms, my heart suddenly burst into flames. An uncontrollable wildfire raged. Only a huge flood of tears could put it out."
Edwards will be doing several book signings in Willows this weekend during the Willows school reunion of the 10 classes from 1950-1959. Books will be available Friday night at the Elks Lodge, 150 S. Shasta in Willows, and at a dinner Saturday night at St. Monica's Parish Hall, 1129 Wood Street. The "official" signing event will take place from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday at the Willows Christian Church Fellowship Hall, 200 S. Plumas Street, featuring a '50s "Jeopardy" game which comes complete, she says, with "set and all."
Among the dozens of columns included in "Still Remembering..." are pieces about local schools and businesses as well as remembrances of the Red Hat Society and a Fourth of July celebration in Orland. Edwards interviews locals but also ties the oral history together with diligent library research. There's the story of the old Beacon Cafe, where Shirley Shumin explains that "when her grandfather, Les Sims, arrived in Willows in 1946" he purchased the little restaurant that "served breakfast, lunch and dinner and coffee was a dime. Shirley mentioned it was later raised to a quarter with all the refills you wanted. She laughed when she said, 'We never made any money on coffee'."
By turns moving, wistful and humorous, Edwards' columns invite the reader to pour their own cup of coffee and set a spell. The conversation is not to be missed.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2005 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.