A Tribute to the True Inspiration of Rhoades to Bridges:
Eloise Tanner Stanton
She was the greatest woman five children were blessed to call Mama. I alone called her Marty. She was my best friend and the wind beneath my wings.
It is my deepest desire that my work has meant something to each of you as you have been introduced to Melanie Bridges and her family. The story of the Bridges family has only just begun. I invite you to join them on their journey over 150 years and seven generations.
Hopefully you laughed. Maybe you cried. Perhaps you simply pondered. Perchance you experienced a flood of all these and many more of your own personal emotions. Most importantly, I hope you that once you have finished the series, you realize that, no matter what battle they faced or their ultimate fate, the Bridges family’s Christian faith and family bonds endured above all else. I know this to be true because I am very proud to say this real-life Southern family of survivors is in fact my own amazing family. Each and every one of whom I love with my entire heart and soul.
If you have already begun to wonder which of my characters I am, the answer is many and none. My own personal life experiences have been woven among many characters so there is no “Olivia Bridges” in the novels. I have done this simply to provide a veil of anonymity for myself, my husband, and our children.
I give my mama credit as the true author of the Rhoades to Bridges series, as this is truly her gift. All those who knew our mama pleaded with her to record the rich tales I have recorded in the series as she was an exceptionally gifted and eloquent writer. Unfortunately, Mama never got a chance to write her books before she was unexpectedly taken from us. Words cannot express how very deeply I wish she, not I, were the one writing this letter to you.
In conclusion, I feel it important for you, my readers, to know something of my mother because as I wrote Rhoades to Bridges, I personally felt her presence with me more than I ever have in the sixteen long years since her death. I feel it is critical for you to understand something about the true soul who, I have no doubt, wrote this series. I merely recorded a legacy my mother somehow left hidden deep within my heart when she left this earth.
Mama was a truly amazing woman. When asked at my mother’s seventieth birthday what flower she would have been, had she been a flower, Jarvis Standifer, a dear friend of Mama’s who had recently suffered a stroke, simply said, in her garbled and stressed voice, “Weezie Stanton is the original steel magnolia.” I will remember those words forever. In her diminished mental and physical state, my mother’s beautiful friend summed up Mama’s entire being in those seven simple words.
After Mama’s death, my family and I kept waiting for someone to step forward from the darkness and breathe life into the stories she never got a chance to record. I never dreamed I would be the one ultimately called for this momentous task.
It was only when a cherished friend gave me a quote from Aristotle that Rhoades to Bridges was truly born within me. Aristotle once said, “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross lies your calling.” In Rhoades to Bridges, I have indeed found my calling.
A great man once said “Your imagination is nothing more than a preview of life’s coming attractions.” My family prays that my mother’s magnificent imagination, the basis for the first paragraph of Rhoades to Bridges, was indeed a preview of life’s coming attractions.
I have no doubt whatsoever that one day all of our prayers will be answered and that this, for now, imagined battle will be waged in a court of law and the triumph will belong to all the people who were taken so tragically from this world by the wicked disease of alcoholism.
I sincerely hope I have done Rhoades to Bridges justice but more importantly that I have once again made my mama proud of me.