August 10, 2012

A Legacy

My dad was just 12 years old when he went to work in the woods. Twelve years old when he was given a hard hat and a chain saw and big metal lunch box, and told ‘Now you go to work. Forget about college, forget about the future, forget about whatever plans you may have made. Your place is here, helping to support this family.’ His first job was hooking up the logs to the dozer, so they could be dragged down to the landing and measured for the mill. By the time he was in high school, he would only go for half days so he could spend the rest of day out working in the woods. Many times he was out there working alone. And once when a tree came crashing down on him, he nearly died out there alone. And yet the next day, he got back up and he went to work again.

My mom was only 15 years old when she came home from school one day to an empty house. Her mom had taken her younger brother and sisters and moved to another town, but as the oldest and practically a grown up she was left to fend for herself. All she was left with was a couple of cans of tomatoes & some shell macaroni, and the utilities paid through the end of the month. A few weeks later when the electricity was turned off, she started cleaning houses to get it turned back on. And she’s been figuring out how to take care of herself, and the people that she loves, ever since.

The other day a friend told me that because I had gone to Yale for law school, she had always assumed that I must have been a “legacy” or some sort of trust fund baby, that my family must have been really wealthy.

I thought to myself: not wealthy, but rich.

Because from my parents I was taught what it is to work hard, and that when you fall- or when this world knocks you down-you pick yourself back up. Again and again. And you go on. To not count on anyone else to build a life for you, but to go out and build it yourself. Because that life, the one you build with your own two hands, it’s one worth fighting for.

I am the product of a WV logger and somebody’s cleaning lady.

And for my money, I can’t imagine a better legacy to pass on.

  1. Amy

    Its too early to make me cry!

    This was a great post, thank you!

  2. Erin Oveis Brant

    i adore you and your beautiful heart.

  3. Gina King-Wilkins

    An Absolutely marvelous story…thank you for sharing your legacy!

  4. katie yuen

    I love hearing you talk about your family :)

  5. Jill Bergeron

    Seriously, is this your story, Mary! Character.. you have it. You’ve earned it. You lived it and survived. Bravo to you for striving above your circumstances.

  6. Kare

    Your parents are the cutest!

  7. Lauren Wakefield

    Wow. That gave me serious chills. And I knew half the story. You seriously have a gift when it comes to words.

  8. Tira J

    Beautiful.

  9. Jessie Emeric

    beautiful & thank you for sharing. love ya for always keeping it real.

  10. Faye Bernoulli

    I love reading these stories about your parents! They are such awesome people.

  11. Paul Manke

    And I think you turned out pretty well.

  12. Mary Veterano

    This is such an incredibly powerful story and an even stronger sentiment! Wow, just WOW! I believe in making your life what you want it to be so much! Thank you for sharing! :)

  13. Stephanie Stewart

    Love this, Mary. You are a legacy, a beautiful legacy that love and hard work gets you places in this world. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Hillary O'Dell

    Beautiful. I hope you realize what an inspiration and role model you are for the youth of our home. We are so so proud of you.

  15. Amanda

    Even though I knew the story, reading it again was touching. Reminds me very much of my personal history. Keep on keeping on!!!

  16. Athena

    i heart you, Mary. So damn much.

  17. sharon elizabeth

    Seriously….. LOVE… like air hugs and ninja kicks.. LOVE!

  18. Sandra Fazzino

    Thank you for sharing, Mary.

  19. Steph Connell

    Being vulnerable is your strength Mary and I’m so glad you are because we need to hear inspirational stories like this! I have a similar story and now that I’m nearing 50 I feel like I’m still fighting for what others are given at birth. But just when you think your alone….along comes Mary!:) xo

  20. Jil

    your willingness to share is beautiful – so much love!

  21. Sindy

    So beautiful.

  22. Tricia

    Just when we think we can’t love MM any more :) You’re so inspiring, so amazing. I hope you really know that! xoxo

  23. Jenn Stark

    I love that you shared this story on here, Mary. You are one of the best storytellers I know. xo to you & Justin!!

  24. Ciiku

    WOW.

  25. Stacy R.

    Thanks for making me cry! Your writing is always so beautiful, you are such an inspiration to the kids of loggers, coal miners, cleaning ladies and factory workers here. Look, a kid from Fenwick Mountain went to Yale and now photographs huge weddings! I know you are so busy but maybe one day you could come back to the career day they have at RHS and inspire another kid to shoot for the stars!

  26. Eleonora

    Wow! Your parents must have lived a hard life… but that’s what made them so strong!
    As I read today: "Stability was overrated. Crises and adventures, on the other hand, could actually teach you something." I think it’s your parents’ case.
    Thanks for sharing such a private & powerful story. You represent an ever-ending inspiration for us!

  27. Brooke

    Your parents’ story reminds me SO much of a book I just finished. The life lessons passed down to you are do much more valuable than any trust fund.

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