By Donna B. Pacini-Christensen
I was Donna's neighbor and friend in Pepperell Village when we were girls.
I lived one block behind her grandparent's block. We met when we were
approximately 11 years old, after my family moved to Pepperell. In
June 2017 I spoke with Donna for the first time since we were young
adults. We reminisced for about three hours on the phone. It was good
to reconnect, to embrace our friendship once again. We have many
parallel memories. I too enjoyed watching my mother get ready for work.
I would make my mother a cup of coffee and sometimes help with her hair.
I can imagine our mothers stopping to talk with one another in Woolworth's.
I can envision Donna being a delighted little girl exploring the aisles in
Woolworth's. I loved the baby turtles. I also thought the turtles were all
girls! I had baby turtles as pets and a charming parakeet that I believe
came from the Woolworth's store Donna mentions. There are numerous things
Donna shares in her book that I recall. Many things that she wrote about
her mother are as I remembered. I especially enjoyed the touché story
where Donna's mother instantaneously revealed her vast knowledge about
musicians, and I appreciated her poetry, letters, and drawings. This
book was difficult for Donna to write, but I am delighted that she has
written about her family and her Pepperell Village memories. They are
my memories as well, and like Donna I cherish them. The wonderful people
she speaks about in her book were wonderful people that I knew too.
Donna B. Pacini-Christensen paints a personal multifaceted kaleidoscope
that spans a lifetime in this soul-bearing book. I am sure writing these
memories took her through an emotional roller coaster. Her feelings, like
the colors of the rainbow, are on transparent display. She hides nothing.
Reading her recollections and life stories left me realizing that many of
the people and situations could very well apply to my life and me. The
most interesting aspect I felt while reading was my ability to visualize
the people, places, and experiences she was offering up. The way the book
traverses her emotional bank account left me not knowing what the next
paragraph would bring. In this way I embraced a state of full separation
from my usual need to predict the path that an account would take. The
more I thought about this, I realized it was as if Donna and I were having
a conversation. We were swapping stories around a campfire or over coffee,
with belly laughs, even a tear or two, and everything in-between.
My Precious Mother, by Donna B. Pacini-Christensen is a heart-felt
biographical account of a childhood spent with a woman of incredible
talent, enormous compassion, and forward-thinking values, yet left
tragically flawed because of the life and times of the 1940's - 1950s,
which robbed her of opportunities to realize her own potential as an
artist and as a woman. Donna's mother Genell's circumstances led her
to a dependency on alcohol, but despite this, she managed to lovingly
instill her daughter with personal values of empathy, passion for
inclusiveness, and love for the arts and literature. This family,
like all families, had flaws.
S&H Green Stamps, iron-skillet cornbread, fishing for catfish with bare hands,
nightshift at the cotton mill, fig trees, grandparents, favorite dolls,
chewing gum—this is just a small sampling of the lush details Donna B.
Pacini-Christensen uses to piece together a quilt of vignettes about her
childhood growing up in small-town Alabama. These tales are far ranging
in experience—from a vivid depiction of the sights and scents at Woolworth’s
Department Store, to a competition the author has with her mother about whose
generation has the best musicians, to memories of her mother eating chicken
backs so her daughters could have the better pieces—and they are all infused
with admiration, appreciation, and abiding love for the people who came before
her, who had little and struggled greatly but who created opportunity for
those who followed. This memoir will stay with a reader for its honest and
clear-eyed portrayal of people who, though flawed, exhibited their magnificence
in the way they led their everyday lives.
Donna B. Pacini-Christensen's descriptive writing style took us back
and allowed us to recall experiences common with our generation.
Whether shelling pecans on the front porch, or feeling your roller-skate
slide one way, while your trapped foot went in another direction, her
perspective always shines a happy light. Like so many siblings, she
and her sister lived through the same events, yet their memories as
well as their Life's outlook have opposite views - one is positive,
accepting, and optimistic; the other is negative, cynical, and pessimistic.
We prefer Positivity!
With her book My Precious Mother, Donna B. Pacini-Christensen has
written a stunningly beautiful tribute to her mother, grandparents,
and a childhood filled with love and laughter. Through the photographs
and vivid anecdotes included in these pages, I felt like I truly got
to know the people in Donna's family, and I cared for them deeply. The
detailed sensory descriptions enabled me to travel back and experience
small-town life during a simpler time. This book is a tribute to all
imperfect families (which, in reality, is all families because no human
is perfect) and shows that love is the most powerful and important gift of all.
Donna B. Pacini-Christensen is a published novelist, poet, and reviewer.
She writes novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, songs, and
literary/music reviews. She is a vocalist and for the last seven
years has performed with her husband Tim 10-12 times each month at
senior facilities. They also perform private concerts. For nearly
nine years Donna and Tim have co-hosted a monthly open mic music
showcase. They have co-hosted numerous poetry showcases. Donna is a
photographer with a passion for photographing live performances and
nature. Many of her photographs are on websites and in print publications.
In 2004 she started A Starry Night Productions with her husband.