Brenda O’Bannion pens a lovely, lyrical narrative of her grandmother’s life in By and By, I Reckon. Her story explores one woman’s life in rural Louisiana where inhabitants scraped a living and formed tight community bonds amidst adversity.
O’Bannion is a gifted author. I was mesmerized by her words. Today’s modern philosophy of instant gratification is a stark contrast in comparison to Leola Swilley Cochran’s life. The author wove snippets of her own life as they coincided with Leola’s, giving both perspective and context. Both women were teachers and had considerable experience with special needs children. O’Bannion’s respect and admiration for her grandmother is evident with this touching tribute as well as her vocation as a teacher. Her grandmother inspired her to work with special needs children from her stories.
Leola had a hard but rewarding life in east Texas. She became a teacher at twenty-three. After marrying her husband, John Thomas, they moved to a remote river road in western Louisiana where they primarily lived off the land. Although her life was riddled with sadness, loss, and poverty, her faith was firm and so was her resolve to make the most of life. O’Bannion recalls her family utilizing the phrase “by and by, I reckon,” which meant when it comes time. Even when Leola had to let go of family members, she selflessly loved and cared for her special needs daughter, Dawfie, who was her constant companion.
I enjoyed reading about Leola’s trials and tribulations. Her character is a testament to steely conviction, deep abiding faith, and commitment to family. Life tossed her a multitude of obstacles which she never balked at hurdling. Adding to the richness of the story, O’Bannion included photographs and answered questions at the end, providing more details.
Family history can vanish with the passage of time so I am glad the author took the time to record hers. Not only does it preserve one family’s stories, but it also allows readers a glimpse into how people survived with only bare essentials, sheltered within a supportive family network and community.