Brother and sister Gloria and Bill Shacklett are shown here during the 1950s. Photo submitted
The calendar can say it is spring. But in Idaho, it is not unusual to have a warm spring day, then the next day a cold grey cloud will cover the mountain range darkening the Western sky.
Then suddenly, without warning, as the grass and trees begin to green, large lovely snowflakes drift daintily across the landscape, covering the first crocuses, pansies, and daffodils in white. The towns and villages nestled at the foot of the Saw Tooth Mountains are transformed into a dreamy-like frosty wonderland in pastel.
The memory of one Idaho springtime lingers, frozen somewhere in the annals of my childhood. Just as a chilly wind can transform the Idaho landscape, in 1959, when my mother was hospitalized, a definite change occurred in me.
It was that Easter that marked the end of my childhood. As the lyrics of an Irving Berlin song say, “Once you pass its borders. You can never return again.” Prior to this event, to my recollection, my mother had not been that ill my entire 10 years of life. A terrible reality and uncertainty gripped me with toxic fear, “What if my mother dies?”
My brother, Bill Shacklett, and I had a childhood that would remind you of the “Little Rascals”. We had a club known as the, “Yellow Door Clubhouse.” Our Mother was right in the midst of our escapades making curtains for our clubhouse, baking cookies, and anything else that would engage her resourcefulness. One summer, Mom helped us sponsor a neighborhood dog show and even a haunted house. The thought of losing our best playmate was unimaginable.
All attention was on mother’s illness. Consequently, while Mom was recuperating, my brother, Bill, and I were left in the care of our favorite aunt Myrtle. Although Aunt Myrtle was near 70, never married, and childless, as I remember vividly, this aging woman with her dazzling silver hair and cheerful smile had the most wonderful playful, childlike heart. Even in these unsettling circumstances, a visit to her house was bound to be an adventure that Bill and I looked forward to with anticipation.
In 1910, my great grandfather moved the Anderson family from Rapid City, South Dakota to Twin Falls, Idaho. His daughter, Myrtle, had a room — a fascinating, mysterious chamber, crammed with discarded family artifacts from that move. Bill and I spent hours exploring, pretending and hiding in that treasure packed place filled with old trunks, wooden crates, and assorted boxes.
This time, nothing could distract me from my thoughts about Mom not even an imaginary game of exploration with my brother. Without knowing how to express my feelings, I was consumed by my anxiety. Only now decades later can I reflect on this event objectively. To my knowledge, this was the first time I was cognizant of fear and loneliness.
“They’re beautiful, just beautiful!” Aunt Myrtle exclaimed as each shiny white egg was dipped into bowls of bright colors, lay out of sight for a minute, and then lifted onto a platter laden with soft shades of green, blue, red, and yellow.
No doubt, the egg decorating activity was supposed to get our minds off our circumstances to make things as normal as possible for Bill and I. Aunt Myrtle must have sensed that I was not fully engaged. As Bill was busily dipping one egg after the other, Aunt Myrtle quietly walked into her bedroom and moments later came back waving a dollar bill.
Slipping the money into my pocket, Aunt Myrtle whispered softly, “Gloria, I want you to go to town for me. You see, you are going to be the Easter Bunny this year. Find an Easter treat for your brother, OK?”
My heart sank. The Christmas before I had found out who Santa was, but I was still uncertain about the Easter Bunny. With that directive, the Easter Bunny’s true identity was revealed, and this year it was going to be me, the big sister. I must admit that I was not thrilled about the possibility. Growing up and giving up the fantasy world was far too foreboding for a ten year old who was clinging desperately to the last moments of childhood.
As I walked to town with more money than I’d ever had at once, I began to contemplate my situation, “No more Easter baskets filled with chewy jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, or soft cuddly toys. What could be worse? No more surprises for Gloria on Easter morning!”
Then as I entered Woolworths, I sauntered to the center of the store where a clerk was personalizing chocolate bunnies with white icing. For a moment, my thoughts turned from myself. My heart jumped for joy as an idea occurred to me, “The Easter Bunny will bring Bill a chocolate bunny with his name on it!”
Fifty-five years later, I have discovered that Easter is more than a surprise basket filled with colorful confections. It marks the most significant event in all human history — the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. As I became an adult, God continue to show me that the many giants of loneliness, anxiety, and despair were allowed in my life for a purpose. He chose not to change my circumstances, but used those circumstances to change me.
There is one God and He has a plan and purpose for our lives far beyond human fantasy and imagination. In my own life as I have gotten older while coming to the end of myself, I have come to this conclusion — life is characterized by “turnings.”
In order for life to make sense, one must make a decision to turn one’s life and will over to the care of God. Turning one’s life over to the care of God is an event, but turning one’s will over to God is a daily commitment, trusting in a greater power outside oneself. That is how we can live triumphantly on this planet!
By the way, my Mother did recover from her illness. Later in 1959, our family returned to back to Murfreesboro. Until her death in December, 2005, my mother, Ginny Shacklett, endeared herself to all who knew her. This woman of excellence quietly wove a legacy of God’s love wherever in her sphere of influence. When we dismantled her home and discovered many treasures, one those was a letter that she had written to Bill and I in August of 1965, the day Bill and I made a decision to turn our lives over to Christ. Here it is.
Sunday, August 29, 1965
Dear Bill and Gloria,
Good morning to you on the most important day of your life. In accepting Christ as your master and guide for all the years to come is the most important decision you can make. Believe in Him, always, and know that His plan for you is best no matter what may happen. May you in accepting Him into your life always find peace and contentment which is His plan for us. I am so proud of you as my son and daughter and in the years ahead continue to be a source of pride for the God who created you.
Love and my prayers always,
A Christian is….
A mind through which Christ thinks,
A heart through which Christ loves,
A voice through which Christ speaks,
A hand through which Christ helps.