Linda Scott DeRosier


Linda Scott DeRosier
RMC MLK Day Retreat January 2003

Songs of Life and Grace

That Creeker woman is at it again. Her new book, Songs of Life and Grace, a memoir of her father and mother--Life and Grace--is now available from the University Press of Kentucky.
Songs, like Creeker, is a memoir of Linda's family. It focuses on her mother and father, Life and Grace Preston and is a reflection on her people and her place both before and after she was around to chronicle that time.

It was written in response to all those folks who read Creeker, who wrote and asked for more—those who wrote of ways their stories intersected or paralleled hers, who suggested she incorporate their stories into hers and look more closely at the generations that preceded them.

Songs of Life and Grace is a hymn to the homefolks—a song to the breakneck beautiful young Grace, who refused to sleep on unpressed bed linens and thus spent every Tuesday afternoon ironing sheets--a song to intense, middle-aged Grace who tried each Christmas to pass along her ways to her two girls by hand sewing an elaborate velvet dressing gown for each of them. Songs is a tribute to the frail and failing Grace, old much too soon, who for all her ill health kept cultivating her flowers.

Songs of Life and Grace is also a tribute to Life, who married Grace when he was just a boy and supported her in word and deed for nearly sixty years. Linda sings to young Life, who saw his car as freedom, yet never once drove away from his family. Songs is about Life, who sacrificed his strength to years of bacon grease and backbreaking manual labor but who never once headed to work the mines in pants without a crease in them or without a fresh white handkerchief folded in his pocket.

Songs of Life and Grace begins with Life stopping his car to talk with Grace on the polky dust road right smack dab where Three Forks of Greasy Creek meet up with one another, within 100 yards of Grace's homeplace. The two met, married, and had their first child—Linda—on that homeplace, which was part of the land settled in the early 1800s by Grace's Great-Great-Grandfather, Elias Mollette.

Songs traces the union of Life and Grace, beginning with the imaginative leap that brought them to marriage after scant two weeks of courtship. It follows them from their chance meeting on the banks of Greasy Creek in 1936 almost through the last decade of the Twentieth Century, when they died within three weeks of each other—in the bedroom they had shared for the last thirty years of their lives—hardly ten miles from the place they first met.

We see Life and Grace choose whether or not to go out on strike during wartime, make the frequent train-bus-trudge roundtrip to Kentucky to prove they never broke from home, and insist that if one of the family sat to supper, all of them must be present at table. Songs takes us into the lives of Linda Scott DeRosier's family, extended back into the 19th century and forward into the 21st as she attempts to sort and sift through what got passed along to "generation next."

The picture on the cover of Songs was taken around 1910, and from the collection of Uncle Asberry Preston’s girl, Eula Lee Preston Perry Preston(1907-2002). She’s the little girl in the pink dress standing directly in front of my Pop Pop on the upstairs porch. The picture itself is of the Life Preston Homeplace on some after-church Sunday afternoon with a gaggle of kids and grandkids gathered for dinner. That’s Great Grandpa Life standing off to the left side—wife Elizabeth sitting in the window [holding her pipe, we think]. That house is proof that those Prestons were carpenters from way back--the first Preston-built house on Two-Mile, I think. The house was located between Two-Mile and Offutt
above the mill dam on Greasy Creek where Life plied his trade grinding whatever needed to be ground. To his death, whenever one of us had a job to do my daddy would advise us “now, get in there and grind.” Thirty-some years ago, when Aunt Eula got the picture reproduced, framed, and hung in her parlor, Daddy looked at it for the first time, shook his head and said, “Now you think about that old sumbitch raisin’ all them kids down there on nuthin’” That was Daddy. That was his family and he was always proud to be a Preston. lsd 9/1/03

The cover of Creeker has long been my favorite picture of my family--the Lifie Jay Prestons of Two-Mile--and all four of us are there, too. That's Daddy and Momma [pregnant with Sister] and and me, on our porch in Fall 1946 and I believe the picture captures much about the way we were. Daddy had just finished building those steps he was sitting on and he'd sat down to have himself a cigarette. Momma was ready to hang out her wash--those are clothespins in her hand and you can see the end of the clothesline too. Uncle Ernie, whose camera chronicled our lives had called me over from playing in the yard and snapped that picture.
If Momma's washing, it must be Monday. If Daddy's home on Monday, he must be laid off from the mines. Yet there we were, smiling. I knew Momma would take care of me. Momma knew Daddy would take care of us. In fact, all three of us knew Daddy could take care of everything so we had no reason to be anything but optimistic. Such was the story of our lives. lsd 9/1/03

Selected Works

Songs of Life and Grace
Songs of Life and Grace is a loving tribute to her father, Life, and mother, Grace. Indeed it is the personal story of Linda's extended Appalachian family reaching back to the early 1800s when they claimed the land in deep Eastern Kentucky.
Creeker: A Woman's Journey
"There is nothing typical about this memoir, which is full of not only the language but also the values, humor, and perseverance of DeRosier's family.”—Kirkus Reviews

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