Redwoods: Behind the Name

LC_TheRoaringRedwoods_compressedHelen is my heroine in The Roaring Redwoods.

I tried to change her name a few times, but just kept coming back to Helen.

I love the soft sounds of it. I love the old fashioned names that still hit the ear in a lovely way. Bertha doesn’t do it.

Helen does.

I have also known two amazing women named Helen (it was high on my list for girl names for Little Sir had he been Little Ma’am instead).

I met the first one when I got a job straight out of high school as the Social Service Assistant at a Retirement Home. Helen lived on the skilled nursing floor. She had no visitors. She had no children. She was my favorite. Any lull in my schedule had me drifting towards Helen’s room.

One day I was dressed in a denim skirt with Keds. She laughed and said, “Young women these days.” I think I got rid of the skirt that day.

Her hair was that beautiful white we’d all give up Clairol for if we knew we could have it. Her skin was tight and smooth. She dressed in smart suits that only showed their age by their thick polyester fabric. She is what you would describe in intellect and appearance as Smart.

Helen had been a teacher.

One of the activities I led was reading aloud. This was not as tedious as it sounds because the residents couldn’t read small print, so I read the news stories and some short stories by literary greats. I once stumbled over some pronunciation and Helen smacked me on the backside. It was impulsive, and I’m sure she wished she’d had a ruler.

Helen told me she had been married only ten years and every single day they had fun. Every. Single. Day. Only 10 years, but every single day had been filled with love.

Imagine.

She passed on my day off and I am so relieved she knew I couldn’t have handled it had I been there. Helen is that woman we all want to be like and wish we’d been friends with before age took a lot of her away.

The other Helen I was privileged to know was my former husband’s Aunt. I only met her once, but her life is legendary within his family. And, from what I can tell, deservedly so. She was in the Army, taught herself Norwegian, cared for relatives, traveled extensively, and the list goes on and on…

I only met her once and she was failing. But she still joined us for dinner and was lively and a joy to pass an evening with.

My fictional Helen has a lot of growing to do over the course of The Roaring Redwoods, but I hope she can do justice to her namesakes.

Because they deserve nothing less.

In fact, they demand it.