My grandma told me about some writing her mother has been doing. My nanny, Laura Irene Gilbert, lives independently in a small house on a grassy hill in South Carolina. She will be 93 years old in a few weeks.
by Laura I Gilbert
Beginning with my first day of school a five year old lad from Brooklyn—timid, frighten, cried most every day for 1 year.
A family of nine, six girls and three boys. Out of nine, I was the “tomboy” climbing trees, etc.
I only knew my ABC’s—I realized I had to do like the others. My teacher would let me sit on her lap as she taught the class. She held up words on cardboard. I’d cry, but all the time I would pay attention. There was 1st grade and high first. I made both grades in one year.
I walked about two miles to school. One morning as I was walking to school I was bitten by a dog. At that time, I had to take 20 shots because the dog had rabies. I didn’t want any more shots—This was the day the nurse came to the school to give shots. I jumped out the window and ran home.
It was time to grow up—I was nine when I gave my heart to the Lord. I began to think more about what God would have me do. Time passed, I done work for the sick, writing and doing plays at church, always trying to help someone.
I finished 7th grade with valedictorian from my class. After entering high school there were only 9 grades (8 to 11). I began to think of college, only never had money. In the meantime God had called me to the mission field. I went to my Mom and told her the story—“that I wanted to live with my aunt, get a job, save my money and obey God.” She said “No girls of mine leaves home until they are married”. So I didn’t even confront my Dad. We had always obeyed our parents.
I kept working in homes, helping them walk, feeding,exercising. Whatever was needed, I was happy doing!
My Dad had passed away in 1937. In 1938 I was married—It so happened the first house we lived in was a lady dying of cancer. I took care of her until she passed away–to me that was mission work.
So I’m still happy in the Lord doing what he has asked me to do here on earth.
I consider this work art. Its not necessarily art that will or even should be viewed by an “audience”. However I think this type of art making serves a purpose. On the level of the individual, making art helps a person to sort out their thoughts about something, it can quiet or focus them. For me dance making is a way to investigate things personal to me. At the same time this personal art seems useful to a supporting structure, like a family for example, that can enjoy the art, connect to it easily, and learn about the individual that made it and in some cases about themselves.
I can remember my Nanny, my father’s, father’s mother, reading poetry she had written at Christmas parties. The family would gather and she would proudly recite rhymes about family and God. This wasn’t masterful poetry, but it was important to our family.
I am curious if this sort of personal art making will continue in my family. I can imagine my grandmother’s generation wrote poetry in their free time as a way to occupy, enjoy and challenge themselves. Today my cousins tend to choose apps on their iphones to fill those needs. I wonder how many non-professional artists make art without instruction these days. Its seems art making is treated as a luxury reserved for children, students and those that strive to get paid for their talents. I think that art has been and could be an important facet, if not integral, to building stronger, more connected families.