Readers have been asking if Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering Worldย has a sequel.

My honest answer is that I don’t know.

However, this box has been whispering to me. “Come look.”

The box in the basement.

From out of the stack of albums pictured below, a little voice squeaks: “Play me, Shirley, Shirley bo burley.”

The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Robert Flack and The Mennonite Hour

The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Robert Flack and The Mennonite Hour --an eclectic mix!

So, I am cautiously approaching the door to the basement.

If you come with me, you have to first open the door that leads downstairs. ย This is what you’ll see:

The sign above the door used to announce the name of farm near Lititz. My mother likes alliteration.

The sign above the door used to stand across from our house in Lititz, 1960-1994.

A bookcase full of binders full of letters from my college years stands sentry in the corner of the room.

The letters home, 1966-1980's.

The letters home, 1966-1980's.

My friend and fellow Mennonite memoirist, Ted Swartz, suggested that I play with the idea of The Box in the Basement as my new blog title and just see what happens week by week as I make my trip to the underground and surface to tell stories.

I’d love to know if you like this idea. Please leave a comment below if you have your own suggestion. A simple yes or no vote would be very helpful.

And, if you have some similar treasures in your basement or attic, please tell!

Shirley Showalter

64 Comments

  1. Michael G. Cartwright on September 10, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    I love this idea. The double image of the box in the basement calls to mind spaces of discovery large and small. I look forward to following this new set of explorations.

  2. shirleyhs on September 10, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Thanks for starting the conversation, Michael. And thanks for the affirmation. I hadn’t thought about the doubleness of the image, but yes, it will be exciting to see how the small container and large container work with each other. Hmmm.

  3. Jane Halteman on September 10, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    Love the idea…and all of us might be encouraged, by your process of digging deeper, to do some of our own digging and writing, for family if not the larger audience you target! Go for it and we’ll be along for the ride.

    • shirleyhs on September 10, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      Thanks, Jane. If there are madwomen in the attic, there must be lots of other boxes in the basement too. ๐Ÿ™‚ I appreciate the encouragement!

  4. Elfrieda Schroeder on September 10, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I had a shelf like that in my old house but my university work has remained in a box since we moved in 2008. This is a good reminder to again process what is there, or at least have it see the light of day!
    Thanks for inviting us into your space. I, for one, am looking forward to more of your story and the shelf in the basement looks like a good place to begin!

    • shirleyhs on September 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      Moving three times in the last decade has meant shutting up some things for me, too, Elfrieda. I didn’t even include the enormous slide collection that I dragged out from under the garage. The musty smell alone kept me away. I’ll open mine if you open yours. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for adding your voice. I really appreciate it.

  5. Marian Beaman on September 10, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Does BLUSH have a sequel? I think you have already answered that question, at least subconsciously. I see the answer blaring from many levels of your house too.

    With a bookcase full of binders and a fan base full of readers the stage is set. Who wouldn’t want to read about a Mennonite flirting with the Beatles and the Beach Boys? Well, at least their records!

    • shirleyhs on September 10, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      Marian, if you scratch an English professor, you get a psychologist. ๐Ÿ™‚ It may seem that I have decided to you, and maybe you know my psyche better than I do, but I feel quite undecided about the long writing and editing haul of publishing another book. I DO have energy for reading and reflecting on what I find. I’m a little afraid that all I will dig up is my callow youth. But if that’s the case, I can comment on that!

  6. Carol Bodensteiner on September 10, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Your heart will tell you, Shirley. The encouragement of readers is really flattering. There are many reasons to write a sequel – satisfying readers is certainly one of them – but it has to be your desire, too, or the writing will never get done in a way that speaks to them as Blush did. IMHO.

    • shirleyhs on September 10, 2014 at 8:34 pm

      Yes, Carol. The heart. The beating heart — a necessity. Thanks for understanding internal reality.

      External calls for a book, especially when based on value that others may find in this project, do influence me. I’ll wait to see if a spark flies into my heart. Maybe the boxes, binders, shelves, and albums themselves will be full of sparks. Can’t wait to get started.

  7. Dan Blank on September 10, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    I really like the idea of delving into the boxes/journals/albums as a way to connect your audience from Book 1 to Book 2, as you explore exactly what Book 2 will be. My point: BOOK 2!!!!
    ๐Ÿ™‚

    Sorry for the gentle nudge.
    -Dan

    • shirleyhs on September 10, 2014 at 8:41 pm

      Dan, I’m always honored to have a gentle nudge from you. It gives me courage to know you think I ought to go for it. Thank you.

  8. Dawn Nelson on September 10, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    I look forward to your sequel, whether it’s the letters on your blog or the book! I have a cache of letters, too.

    • shirleyhs on September 10, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      Dawn, thank you for giving me permission to go either way, knowing there can be value in both. AND, if this work encourages you to re-visit your own letters, that would be a real bonus. Do let us know if you open your cache.

  9. Saloma Furlong on September 10, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    I would concur with Carol. If the inspiration for it is there, I think you should write it. If not, then go with what inspires you or gives you energy. The answer lies within.

    • shirleyhs on September 10, 2014 at 8:58 pm

      Thanks, Saloma. You confirm what I have been feeling. I’m getting curious about what will happen!

  10. Joan rough on September 10, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Settle in and enjoy looking back in time. Your muse will lead you in the right direction.

    • shirleyhs on September 10, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      Joan, I think you put your finger on a key to this journey. Relax! Have fun! Wishing you the same, by the way. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Laurie Gray on September 10, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Yes! Just YES. Absolutely!

    • shirleyhs on September 10, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      Thanks, Laurie. I love when my former students surpass me in both books and enthusiasm. Thank you!

  12. Kathleen Friesen on September 10, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Yes. Whether you publish or not …
    “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” -T. S. Eliot

    • shirleyhs on September 11, 2014 at 9:48 am

      Kathleen, you and I shall never cease from exploration. These well-loved words come back to me often and age very well. Thank you for adding them here.

  13. Tina Fariss Barbour on September 10, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    I would love to read a sequel, or any other book that you decided to write! You have a gift, and I think your heart will show you how to share it. Meanwhile, delving into those boxes will be a wonderful journey, I’m sure.

    • shirleyhs on September 11, 2014 at 9:58 am

      Wow, Tina. Thanks. You’re making me blush. ๐Ÿ™‚ I like the idea of the heart showing me HOW. I’ve got a WHAT and a little of the WHY. With your encouragement, I can trust the HOW, too.

  14. Sherrey Meyer on September 10, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Oh, yes, yes, yes, Shirley Shirley bo Burley!

    • shirleyhs on September 11, 2014 at 10:01 am

      Fi fie, fo Firley!

      Ha ha. Thanks for catching the allusion, Sherrey. That could be a book title, couldn’t it? Bo Burley. Just a bit too obscure for the young’uns, I’m afraid.

      I do appreciate your vote. Thanks!

  15. Barbara McDowell Whitt on September 10, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    Shirley, go for it! You should write Blush’s sequel. Just today, as my husband and I were making our way back to our Kansas City condo following a reunion with my three younger sisters and our husbands in Ames, Iowa, I said I had been thinking that I should post, in a separate blog, the diary entries I wrote starting in January 1954 when I was 11 and in fifth grade, through December 1959 when I was a junior in high school.

    Your photos of your letters home remind me that I typed weekly letters home from college, often two pages of single space type. The two big pieces of advice my mother gave me before I left for college were “Don’t go over 120 pounds,” and “Write home once a week.” I managed to stick to both for all four years.

    • shirleyhs on September 11, 2014 at 10:06 am

      Barbara, you have certainly inspired me with your daily college journal. Thank you so much for taking time to share a record of small college life in the sixties. We have so much in common!

      One thing we don’t have in common is weighing no more than 120 pounds. ๐Ÿ™‚ My scales hit that number about 7th grade, I think. Then again when I got married. Then again when I was breastfeeding a hungry baby. Alas, I have made my “upper acceptable limit” much higher.

      Funny what pieces of advice we remember. And which ones we keep. I have a feeling you have always had wisdom figures in your life and have been faithful in following their advice.

  16. Melodie Davis on September 11, 2014 at 5:18 am

    To me it is always amazing all the stories I have forgotten when I delve back into those boxes and files (none of which are nearly as neat as yours, btw.) To have it so organized is a gift! Enjoy and I’m sure there is wider wisdom there also for others to ponder.

    • shirleyhs on September 11, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Thanks for your trust in the wider wisdom, Melodie. When I read my letters, I am struck often by their lack of wisdom. One thing that helps me is remembering Sylvia Plath’s letters home, even the published ones edited by her mother: http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Home-Correspondence-Sylvia-Plath/dp/0060974915#. Even soon-to-be-profound poets can seem banal or frivolous when writing home to Mom.

      As for organization, ugh, you should see my slides. Terrible!

      Thanks, though, for lending me confidence for the quest.

  17. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on September 11, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I join the clammor of “yay’s.” I’d love to read alongside you as you journey into the depths of boxes and basement.

    • shirleyhs on September 11, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      Thank you, Dolores! I’ll dive deep and hope to surface! Great to know you want to come along.

    • shirleyhs on September 12, 2014 at 9:18 am

      Thank you, Dolores. Staying with you this summer and listening to the memorial service at EMC for your sister in the late 1960’s was one of the nudges that led me to my own boxes and basement. I SO appreciate your interest and support on this journey.

  18. Laurie Buchanan on September 11, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    yes, Yes, YES โ€” I love the idea! And how fun that you gave your readers a virtual tour down to THE BOX IN THE BASEMENT. Great title!

    You asked, “Do you have similar treasures in your basement or attic?”

    Not a one. A dyed-in-the-wool minimalist, I’m pretty streamlined when it comes to things.

    • shirleyhs on September 11, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      Thanks, Laurie, for the feedback on the title. It will be fun to consider how to change website and blog to reflect the new adventure.

      It would be fun to have you do a guest post on how a minimalist deals with the desire to curate and document. Would you be up for that? You could do a minimalist post about it!

      • Laurie Buchanan on September 11, 2014 at 1:03 pm

        Shirley โ€” I’d definitely be up for it. Once you’ve had a chance to think about it a bit, if you’d send me an email with your thoughts, I’ll set them on the back burner of my mind to simmer a bit (LaurieBuchanan@me.com).

        Make it a shiny penny kind of day!

  19. shirleyhs on September 11, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Will do, Laurie. Thanks!

  20. Elaine Mansfield on September 11, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Sounds interesting, Shirley. I have a family memory box from my mother and grandmother in the upstairs of my house because my cellar is 250 years old and too moist in the summer. I would only suggest you don’t actually change the official name to your blog since you have so much traffic under your shirleyshowalter link. But maybe another section on your website? I don’t know. I try to keep it simple, and it’s still so complicated to figure out what to do next. I hope there’s a sequel.

    • shirleyhs on September 11, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      The attic is the alternative to our basement location. But in our house it is filled with insulation not inspiration.

      Good advice on the blog. I will definitely keep shirleyshowalter.com as the home base, but I can change the banner and the tabs (I think) so that people can know what I’m currently working on. Believe me, I never touch my website without help from much younger experts. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for the comment, Elaine. One of the things I will try to discover in ever greater depth is how memoir writing relates to my mission. Here’s a blog post that connects my subject to yours! http://www.shirleyshowalter.com/2014/01/01/reviewing-2013-and-setting-goals-for-2014-continuing-the-search-for-simplicity-legacy/

  21. Sharon Lippincott on September 11, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    If you need one more vote, count mine as a yes. Odd how long it takes MailChimp to get the word out about new posts.

  22. shirleyhs on September 11, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Thanks, Sharon. Not only for the vote but for the feedback. I don’t use MailChimp for blog post subscriptions. If you get an email for new posts from me, it should come from WordPress. I use MailChimp for Magical Memoir Moments, however.

  23. Judy Miller on September 11, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Loved your book Blush! So yes!

    • shirleyhs on September 12, 2014 at 9:14 am

      Thank you, Judy, for reading Blush and for commenting here. I appreciate the effort you took. It warms my heart.

  24. Tracy Lee Karner on September 11, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    hmmmm….

    I’m never good at yes or no votes; I’m not even good at ranking anything A, B or C. I graduated from a rare program in which we received “narrative evaluations,” and that ruined my ability to give simple answers to complex questions.

    The idea is intriguing (as all good ideas are).

    Perhaps the question “why not?” might illumine possible answers. You already know what’s involved in writing a memoir and what you might gain. It occurs to me that you might consider what might you lose by investing yourself in another retrospective book? And would the gains outweigh the losses?

    I’m sure you’ll make the right decision.

    • shirleyhs on September 12, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Tracy, I love narratives! The simple yes or no was just a way to make responding easy for folks.

      I love the why not question! Thank you for offering that. These responses have made me so grateful for the wisdom of my friends. I think I’ve been subconsciously playing a “why not” loop in my head, and it will stay there until the answers to “why” get a lot more clear. I am relaxed about opening the box and waiting, however. You and others have taught me that spiritual practice. Thank you.

  25. April Yamasaki on September 11, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Shirley, when I finished reading Blush, I immediately thought “sequel” – I’d love to hear more of young Shirley’s encounters with that glittering world, and I see your long list of comments as an affirmation of that!

    • shirleyhs on September 12, 2014 at 11:00 am

      Thank you, April. I appreciate knowing that you thought of a sequel right away. Childhood is such an important time, shaping all of what follows in life. But what follows is not a linear path and leads to “no crystal stair,” to quote Langston Hughes. Each life is full of fascinating continuities and discontinuities. Maybe I’ll find some clues to my own in those boxes.

  26. Clif Hostetler on September 11, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    I know at least one person who said they’re waiting for you to write about your time at Goshen College because that where all the secrets are. (said with a smile)

    • shirleyhs on September 12, 2014 at 11:06 am

      Oh Clif, I see your wry little smile as you say this. Thank you for the allusion to secrets. I think memorable memoir always takes us to secret places in the heart.

      The Goshen College years are actually represented in the picture above on the second shelf. The top one has my own college letters home. The bottom one contains some of my letters to the board, faculty, and students of Goshen College.

      One of my friends thought it might be interesting to use a double lens in a second memoir. The lens of the sixties at EMC justaposed with my other college experience 28+ years at Goshen College. That would be a complex box to sort through. Don’t know if I could pull it off. What do you think of this idea?

  27. Jann Hartman on September 12, 2014 at 3:26 am

    I have my own memoir in a looseleaf notebook with one page per year of my life. It started as an exercise to list life experiences. I also have postcard collection mostly from a trip west in a tiny 13 ft. travel trailer which recalls where we were on certain dates and more. Did I say I would love to read a sequel to Blush yet? A huge YES!! I have said before that I also grew up in Lititz ( WHS 65). BTW, I would like to invite you to our Class reunion next year at the Sutter. I put our webpage here, or you can contact me privately. We have friends in common! Looking forward to your new blog!

  28. shirleyhs on September 12, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Jann, thank you SO much for this comment and this invitation. I think you were the person who won a copy of BLUSH at the launch for traveling the longest distance to get to Lititz Mennonite Church?? If so, wow. Thanks again.

    I did check out the link to the class reunion invite. I would LOVE to come back to the Class of 1965 reunion, but I already have a conference I am signed up for at the same time in Virginia. Please give my regards to all who might remember me. And if you want me to contribute a copy of BLUSH as a door prize, email me: shirley.showalter at gmail.com.

    Thanks for putting in a vote for the new blog. Please stay in touch!

  29. Elaine Nissley on September 16, 2014 at 9:28 am

    I also have a “box in the basement” which I brought up last Valentines Day. It contains love letters that John and I air-mailed for over 2 years while he was in Belize in alternate service.(1969-1971) When we read them, it makes us feel 20 again! The free-ness of young love is so invigorating! These letters also refresh our memories of details of our young love and young lives that we have long forgotten! And the entertainment of reading these is for our hearts alone. No one else would treasure these memories like we do! I almost feel sorry for the young lovers of today who only text, email or Skype. They will never be able to bring out that box of memories and relive them.
    A sequel to :”Blush??? Yes!!

    • shirleyhs on September 16, 2014 at 9:38 am

      Elaine, we must be about the same age. Stuart and I wrote to each other as he was in voluntary service and then grad school. I would go to my mailbox and just love it when there were two or more letters (sometimes) and feel sad when there were none. I LOVE the idea of rereading them together as a Valentine’s Day activity. Thank you for that one. And thanks for adding your voice here. Stay in touch. As I go on this journey, I hope you find your own ways to relive the past and reflect on the graces of YOUR life.

  30. Edie on September 16, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Hate to ask you to write another book, but It sure would be interesting! I would love to hear more on the perspective of another Mennonite gal growing up in Lancaster County the same time I did!

    • shirleyhs on September 16, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Edie, thanks for registering your hope here and letting me know that you are an eager reader. I appreciate the fact that you recognize the reasons to hesitate, also. I’m going to give myself at least six months of exploration before I decide, and if you want to follow along here, you can subscribe after you leave a comment.

  31. Sue Stuckey on September 16, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Exploring the box in the basement sounds very interesting and quite relatable. I’m a saver and enjoy looking through my boxes, trying to get in the mindset of that girl, 40, 50 and even 60 years ago. Ted & I did the letter thing during a college summer when he was in SST. I think I wrote almost everyday on special stationary that had little cupids on the envelopes. Mail service in Haiti wasn’t very regular. He might get 6-10 letters at a time and received lots of teasing from his classmates.
    I appreciate and can identify with so much of what you write and look forward to what comes next.

    • shirleyhs on September 16, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      Thanks, Sue, for registering your vote and for this story. Stuart and I led a unit in Haiti in 1980, and a few of our students had sweethearts back home. They ALL clustered around the mail carrier, hoping it would be their own lucky day and clamoring for news from home. It must be hard for the current generation to understand how much of a life-line letters were to those in the past separated from their loved ones. Thanks for stopping by and for your vote of confidence.

  32. Linda Gartz on September 16, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Love the title, “The Box in the Basement.” Intriguing — and if you lead readers into it the way you led us into this post – it has the essence of mystery and discovery — like Howard Carter peering into King Tut’s Tomb. “What do you see?” Asked a colleague. “Wonderful things!”

    A sequel would be terrific. I might say I was also impressed with those neatly standing 3 ring binders and spiral notebooks on the shelf. I can tell you that after pouring over the contents of my bankers’ boxes (and recently the letters to and from me 1969-70 (mostly from my now-husband and my mom) when I lived in Munich), I re-discovered a lot — stuff I had totally forgotten. Some of it pretty wacky! That’s another story!

    • shirleyhs on September 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm

      Wonderful things! I can only hope, Linda. Thanks so much for giving me this chuckle on a Wednesday as I am writing the next blog post.

      I hope I find a few wacky things also. That sounds like fun!

  33. […] search. That’s why I decided last week to see how much memoir I might still have inside as I explore the Box in the Basement. I wasn’t being coy. Should I write a sequel to Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering […]

  34. […] I go back to the box in the basement, searching for myself in the 1960s, I hope I will find evidence of my little piece of participation […]

  35. […] We looked at the long list of weekly activities I am now doing. Emily and Kate responded with some great suggestions to my request that we find a way to simplify website, newsletter, blog, and social media presence to give me more time for that project I announced way back in September 2014 — the box in the basement. […]

  36. […] I’ll also spend some time with that pesky Box in the Basement. […]

  37. […] came home from the DC trip and returned to my “box in the basement” project […]

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