APRIL ADAMSON HOLTHAUS: AN EVERYDAY PERSON WHO DISCOVERED A TREASURE
A treasure more valuable than money …
Remember the expressions, “Can’t see the trees for the forest?” What about “Familiarity breeds contempt?” When I search for topics interesting enough to encourage folks to read through a blog post, I sometimes forget the most fascinating subjects and people live “next door,” and though they are familiar to me, they are never contemptible. I first met my blog guest, April Adamson Holthaus, a couple of years ago when I spoke to the Wolf Creek Christian Writers Network group in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. When I heard how she discovered a “treasure” buried in the mold and dust of a Louisiana basement, I knew I had found a regular, everyday person who did an out-of-the-ordinary thing.
April, thanks for stopping by. Please tell us what you found in that basement.
My patience was thin that typical hot sticky day in New Orleans. Four boxes were left on the top shelf of a makeshift brick and board bookcase in mom’s moldy basement. As I moved the first box, old stamps drifted down from its loose bottom. Curious, inside I found letters—hundreds of them.
Why would you describe your find as a treasure?
Immediately I recognized deceased family names. Also, postmarks dated to the early 1920’s. I read first-person accounts of my ancestor’s daily lives. Another box held small items belonging to my great-grandfather and others of three generations ago.
What did you do with what you found?
I shipped them to my home in Colorado. Later I opened each envelope and sorted letters by writer and decade. It was an overwhelming experience. Old family stories, told in the past over tea, were substantiated. I began to get a vision of what I needed to do to bring their lives to light for future generations. Then I wrote Bayou Roots: Legacy of a Louisiana Family.
Which woman’s story touched your heart the most, and why?
My mother. Sometimes those closest to us aren’t seen or understood for who they are as an individual. In our complicated relationship, she left me depressed many times. In the journals and letters she wrote, I began to hear her real voice. I let go of preconceived ideas of why she acted certain ways or said things I didn’t understand. She passed during my writing phase and I was able to move on from the needs she had placed on my life. It was a healing experience for me.
How much time did you spend bringing this genealogical treasure to book form?
Time is relative when you are wandering in memories. This book took about thirteen years of reflection; study of US history from 1820 to 2000; organization of materials and pictures, and research into specific details. Some of this was done on two trips to research libraries in southern Louisiana. I also read and cataloged over 400 letters, which held important details to go back five generations.
What did the journey from treasure-finder to published author teach you?
At first, I had no idea how difficult this journey would be. I enjoyed studying our family genealogy but had never attempted writing a story about each life. The journey to published author involved deep introspection of my own capabilities. Trying and beginning again; editing to make each sentence structured correctly, and finally telling their stories in a creative way that would encourage others who might struggle with similar trials.
Complete this sentence. “When people look at my life, I could be an example for a lesson in . . .”
Perseverance. At the time I began to envision this project I was a widow, then a caretaker for my mother, until she passed, and then months as a discouraged writer. I now see myself an example of an overcomer, a finisher.