Walla Walla writer's historical memoir eyes abandonment

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Debora S. "Deb" Rossi's mother, Mildred "Millie" Rising, was wrenched from her father, James Rising, and their farm as a 5-year-old.

Her mother, Annabelle Rising, who hated the farm, took Millie with her when she ran off, but shortly thereafter abandoned the devastated youngster into the hands of a resentful stranger.

Deb shares her mother Millie's story in the juvenile non-fiction chapter book "Millie's Shoes: A Life Restored," an offering from Tate Publishing.

Reeling from the sudden changes and abandonment, Millie was constantly punished in this new place. One time she was locked in a dark attic where bees stung her.

Things changed when a concerned adult contacted the authorities.

Millie's father couldn't take care of her because his responsibilities as the sole operator of their family farm kept him away from home all day.

A judge determined the best home for her was with her father's sister and brother-in-law, Minnie Mae and Jakey Shank.

The childless couple lived in a small Western Pennsylvania steel town where they struggled to keep a roof over their heads.

Yet they enveloped Millie in their home with positive guidance and loving care.

The dated high-top buttoned shoes she wore with pride became a source of ridicule when she went to school as a "new kid."

She was able to replace them when she received $5 as a gift.

She put away the old shoes, which represented her efforts to overcome her past and come to grips with the reasons her father couldn't keep her on the farm.

For years she yearned for her mother to retrieve her, but came to understand she was better off with her aunt and uncle.

Millie grew up and raised four children of her own, said Deb, her youngest, in the author's note.

"She was a good mother and she raised us well, but there were emotional scars from her childhood that never faded. I also saw an inner strength in her, born out of overcoming the challenges her life presented."

At 82, Millie entered a care facility with Alzheimer's. Into her final years, Millie still questioned why her mother had left her. She died at 93 in 2010.

Millie left behind 80 pairs of shoes, causing Deb and her sister to think "it was to prove to herself that she was not a 'poor little orphan' anymore," Deb wrote.

Deb believes her mother's story can inspire those with abandonment issues who suffered from the loss of a parent by death or divorce. The story can "show that happy endings are possible."

Deb taught 14 years in public schools as a para-educator and five years as a teacher. She and husband of nearly 40 years Norbert "Norb" Rossi live in Walla Walla. They have two adult children, two grandchildren and three dogs.

Aimed at intermediate readers, it's an involving, quick read that opens a window to life the 1920s.

It also shows that despite dire circumstances people can survive and do well.

The book will be released Dec. 18.

Deb plans to hold several area book signings, including from 9-11 a.m. Monday at Walla Walla Bread Company, 225 E. Main St.; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 8 at C&C Tarps Holiday Bazaar, 247 W. College St., Athena; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 21 at Book & Game Co., 38 E. Main St.; and 4-8 p.m. Jan. 12 at Hastings Books, 617 S. Ninth Ave.

For more details, see milliesshoes.tateauthor.com .

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