Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘daughters’


By Marylin Schultz




My Father In Front Of The Family Ford — Earl Russell Biggs II, vintage family postcard, circa early 1900’s, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


Images from long ago—letters, photographs, postcards, communicate family history, like ribbons tying up bundles of memories. I look into the sweet innocence of children’s faces and reflect on what I do know of their lives. Little Earl Russell Biggs, II, my father, placed in front of his family’s first automobile by a proud papa. There would eventually be four generations of men in the family, given that name. Family tradition had each generation alternating the names they were “known as.” My grandfather was called Earl, my father went by Russell. My brother was called Earl and his son was known as Russ, or the nick-name,” Rusty.”

The baby, Frances Louise Oliver, my mother, was as fair in complexion as E. Russell was dark. Their childhoods would also be in stark contrast. He was born in 1910, and she was three years younger. Frances was the adored, pampered baby of her family, with three brothers and a sister, much older than she. Frances always got what she wanted, I’m told, and became a woman who maintained that expectation from life.


My Mother — Frances Louise Oliver, family photo scan
© 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


Russell’s life probably began happily enough. His father and mother, Mary Dickens Biggs, lived in Childress, Texas, where he was a successful businessman in banking, and insurance, as well as owning a cattle ranch, where the family lived. Russell was big brother to Emma Ruth, five years younger than he was. In 1920, tragedy struck the young family. Mary Dickens Biggs, who was expecting their third child, died from the dreaded Influenza that took over 20 million lives in Europe and America.

The parents of E. R. Biggs, Sr. were no longer living, and Mary’s parents offered to care for the children, so the devastated father agreed. Russell and Emmy spent the next two years with the Dickens family, who were living on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota, where Felix Dickens, Mary’s brother, was the BIA Agent.

E. R. Biggs married his second wife, Lillian, and the two children were moved back to their Texas home. Very soon, however, Russell, at the age of twelve, was sent off to a Military Academy, and spent the rest of his school years there, only home for the summers and holidays. E.R. and Lillian had another son and daughter. It was one of those cases of a step-mother, whose “own” children could do no wrong, and the older children felt deeply, the deprivation of approval and affection. Emma, while still a teenager, had a baby, who was immediately placed for adoption, never experiencing even one embrace of the young mother who so desperately wanted to love and be loved.




(L to R) Paul, Harriet, Eloise, Mildred, & Grace Dickens, Russell Biggs (My Father) on right, Seger Indian School, Colony, Oklahoma, March 17th, 1912, vintage family postcard, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


I always wondered what it must have been like to grow up on Indian reservations, which the five Dickens children experienced. As we know from the postcard, they were in Oklahoma, then Minnesota and later in Washington State. As a child, I remember my father’s Uncle Felix visiting us a few times at our home in California. I have a few letters that he wrote to my Aunt Emma, which were from a reservation in South Dakota. These were at a much later date, when Emma was an adult.


Side B: Back of the Postcard of Seger Indian School, Colony, Oklahoma, March 17th, 1912, vintage family postcard, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


I finally met some of my Dickens relatives in an unusual way. After the deaths of my mother and father, I received all the family documents. In going through the papers I learned that Mary Dickens was born in McGregor, Iowa. My husband and I were scheduled to drive from our home in Bismarck, No. Dakota to La Crosse, Wisconsin, for a convention, the very next day. I looked at a map and saw that McGregor was only a few miles south, and across the Mississippi River from Prairie du Chien. I decided to see if I could find a trace of the Dickens family in the small, riverside town of McGregor.

It was a cold, gray November Saturday. The trees along the river were bare, but the drive along the river was peaceful and I was feeling hopeful. When I entered the town, I saw a building marked “Museum,” and I parked. The sign on the Museum door said something like “Closed. See you next Spring.” The only place open was the Hardware Store, so I went in. The woman behind the counter gave me a warm welcome. I told her of my quest for family members and asked if she knew of any Dickens who were still living in the area.

“Harvey Dickens lives about five miles west of town,” she replied. “Would you like to call him from here?” I answered in the affirmative just as the phone rang. She spoke to the person for a few minutes, and then I heard her say, “There’s someone here who wants to speak to you,” and handing the phone to me, with a big smile, she said, “It’s Harvey Dickens.” I gasped in amazement at the coincidence, and took the phone. I gave a very brief explanation of who I was. He invited me to come to his home, and I scribbled down the directions he gave, handed the phone back to the woman and thanked her. She smiled and wished me good luck, and I hurried to my car.


Harvey had given good directions to his farm, and I found it with no problem. The plain, two story home, painted a soft yellow, with dark green shutters at the windows, was well cared for. There was a row of pine trees to the west of the house, offering a buffer from the prevailing prairie winds, and a hedge of Lilac bushes between house and out-buildings. The tires of my car made a crunching sound on the neatly graveled driveway. Harvey opened the door of the house before I started up the steps. His smile was wide.

“Come on in, little lady, it’s cold out there!” He introduced me to his wife, Louise, and immediately I felt the genuine warmth of their welcome. They already had a box of old papers and photographs for me to look at. Harvey was a slightly built man, about 70 years old. Louise, looking comfortable in sweater and jeans, offered me coffee, as we sat down around the kitchen table.

“We have four children, but they’ve all moved away,” Louise said, filling my cup.

With a sigh, Harvey added, “Not much to keep them in a small town in Iowa, and none of ‘em was interested in farming.” Harvey took photos out of the box, pointing out each individual by name. “Better write down those names on the back,” Louise gently chided. “No one but you can identify them anymore.” I listened carefully, not recognizing any names until he said, “And this is Uncle Felix.”

“Yes,” I said, now excited, as he handed it to me. “Did he have three daughters, who lived in Washington?” He smiled broadly, and replied, giving me their names. We had made a connection, as it turned out that his grandfather was my great-grandfather. We looked at more photographs and he gave me the names and addresses of other cousins that had done more research into the family history.

We were engrossed in each others’ family anecdotes, laughing at the funny little quirks that all families have, and the morning flew quickly by. I turned down an offer of a noon meal, and told them I needed to get back to La Crosse.

“Now, if you can come back, I’ll take you to the cemetery; quite a few Dickens there,” Harvey said.

“You keep in touch,” Louise whispered in my ear, as we exchanged a hug.

“I promise I will, and thank you so much. It was a great pleasure to meet you. I feel like I’ve been with old friends,” I replied.

“Nope, better than friends, we’re family!” Those were Harvey’s last words to me as I got into my car. That brief visit opened up a whole new chapter in my family history, and as I drove across the bridge over the wide Mississippi, I felt truly blessed.




Editor’s Note: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, professional photographers offered customers the choice of placing photographs on postcards, like the “packages” they sell today. Some were taken in a studio and others at different locations. The photo of Frances was taken in a studio, and the other two at the homes of their clients. Images From The Past was partly inspired by conversation on the postcard piece Joshua Trees & Desert Sands — Jan 25 1947.




_________________________




About Marylin: Marylin (aka oliverowl) is a freelance writer living in Wyoming. She has written essays for a weekly column in the Ventura Star Tribune and collaborated with her grandson on two picture books for children. She currently writes with the Cody Writers. Her previous pieces for red Ravine include the travel essay Rollin’ Easy and a Writing Practice, Kindness.

In 2010, Marylin was published in the book, From the Heart — Writing in the Shadow of the Mountain, a collection of work from members of Write On Wyoming (WOW), a group of authors and aspiring writers living in northeastern Wyoming. Her contributions to From the Heart include two works of fiction, To Love Bertie Lou and The Appointment Book, and a collection of haiku, Seasons in Wyoming.


Read Full Post »

Cutting The Cake, Amelia's hands cutting the cake, the day she turns 70, Central Pennsylvania, photo by QuoinMonkey, November 2007, all rights reserved.

Cutting The Cake, Amelia’s hands cutting the cake on the day she turned 70, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I’m sitting in Amelia’s kitchen. The smell of homemade chicken and dumplings spins across the room. My brother and sister-in-law stopped over for breakfast. Amelia made Canadian bacon, grits with butter, crumbled bacon and sharp cheese bits, scrambled eggs, scratch biscuits, orange juice, and French Roast.

My sister-in-law had us in stitches over a story about a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We were cracking up over our second cup of coffee, and it reminded me of all the rambunctious activity, laughter, and fun that’s taken place in this kitchen. Mom has lived here over 40 years. I find it comforting that she has the same Ma Bell wall phone with same old-fashioned  “ring” and the same 20 foot coil of cord that extends all the way across the kitchen so she can chat while she cooks.

In this fast-paced world, it’s nice to be able to go home.  And for home to still be there. Home and hearth were so closely connected in Mom’s generation. And many generations before her. These days a family is lucky if even one parent can stay at home, much less the whole family sitting down to a home cooked, family meal around the kitchen table at the end of a long day.


Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Mom turned 70 last Saturday. She’s seen a lot of change. The week before, my brother called with an idea to fly me home. My five siblings chipped in to buy a ticket from Minnesota to Pennsylvania so that I could surprise her. Everything went like clock-work, from pre-Holiday ticket prices, to flights, to coordinating busy schedules. It was meant to be.

It was so hard to stay at my brother’s for two days without calling Mom and spoiling the surprise! The first surprise was the party with my 4 brothers, 1 sister, and all of the extended family. I didn’t get to see this part, when she walked in with a huge smile on her face (I was hiding out in an appliance box!). She hugged everyone, my sister placed the tiara on her head, and she sat down to open presents. When my sister gave the verbal cue, “It’s too bad QuoinMonkey can’t be here.” Out I popped, arms spread, singing Happy Birthday off-key from a wrapped, bowed and ballooned, dishwasher box where I had been hiding the last 20 minutes.

Who's Inside The Box?, Mom's 70th Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey's nephew. All rights reserved. Mom burst into tears. I was soon to follow. I’d never seen her so surprised! (She’s very intuitive and we were rarely ever able to keep any secrets from her when we were growing up.) We exchanged a long hug. The whole family poured into the kitchen, and dove into all the homemade Southern food. There was banana pudding, pork barbecue, beef barbecue, hushpuppies, biscuits and sausage gravy, black-eyed peas and rice, sweet tea, lemon meringue pie, and a glorious birthday cake. (Hey, all family, please chime in in the Comments if I’m forgetting anything!)

Home and hearth. What matters to you? Each time I come back home, the grandkids, nieces, and nephews are taller, the parents and siblings are older. Health fluctuates, situations challenge and change. Home connects me to the past, and forges the future. It’s as if everything I ever did tumbles through a parallel universe. It’s good to spend time with my family.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Read Full Post »

I’m more haunted by the things that haven’t happened, than I am by the things that have. Half worn radials rumble over the railroad tracks near Winnetka and Bass Lake Road, wipers slap another day of dreary fog and rain; I drudge up the things that haunt me. Porcupine quills in tender skin.

There were no trains in the distance. I thought of Liz’s photographs of mustard engines, rusty graffiti, barrel shaped cabooses. She stopped at a crossing to take a few shots; there were two other men there, shooting the trains. One carried a long tripod, stood firm with his son. The train backdrop blurred behind them.

It’s comforting to me that people still love what is old, what is dying, what has passed.

Nostalgia. I’m haunted by nostalgia. I don’t have many regrets. I’m not a regretful person. I try to make amends. And live with the fact that I made the best decisions I could, for the time and maturity. If I’m going to cut myself that break, I have to cut others the same.

I’m haunted by not knowing. Not knowing what will happen to Mr. Stripeypants. He’s clearly in so much pain and cannot tell us why. Not knowing the right decisions to crucial questions about my future – about money, writing, teaching, art. That haunts me.

There is risk in moving into new territory. It makes me uncomfortable. Do I have the strength and stamina? Or will memories of failure continue to haunt me.

I’m haunted that I didn’t go to my Grandmother Elise’s funeral. That is one regret I do have. I would do things differently now. I would love her, hug her, call her and ask all the questions I never got to ask.

I was 29. Maybe 30. Insecure. I remember when I got the call. No cell phones then. The phone clamored and rang. She’d had another heart attack and passed away. I cried and cried and cried. Sandwiched between Bitterroot Mountains and Big Sky, I drove the cherry red Subaru wagon all the way down to Hamilton, Montana. I cried some more.

I wasn’t thinking about the beauty. And Montana is a beautiful place. I was haunted by everything I had missed. The connections broken. I was grieving my grandmother. I was grieving the past. I wanted to let go. How could I let go of something I had never fully claimed?

I visited her graveside with my mother, Amelia, last June. It’s across the Savannah River on a slightly sloped hill, in a wide open, ancient cemetery, along the border of east central Georgia. A silk lily had flown loose from another grave. I picked it up, thought about placing it on hers. But then I noticed the tipped container near the flat granite stone of a stranger’s grave nearby, and slipped the lily back into the brass vase.

Empty-handed, full-hearted, I sat with Elise for a moment. It was brief, short. Silent. My mother was there. And my step-father, Louis. We visited a lot of gravesites that sweltering day in June. And I taped a lot of memories.

Last week, I started transcribing them. Each day, I stretch out with headphones attached to my laptop and listen to wav files, voices from the past. I laugh. I cry. I type. I rewind to catch obscure snippets of Southern drawl. I think, “This is my life.” I am not haunted. I feel a great relief to know the bits of truth memory has to offer.

I’m haunted by not knowing. By what I have yet to do. Not what I have done. The haunting is fear, I know it. And I use all the tools in my arsenal to work around it, move through it, sit with it, even in it, when that serves me best.

I know I have to go to these places. I’m willing to risk feeling. Deep, intimate feeling. In return, I understand what it means to feel joy. The payoffs are big. The gamble is great. I could fail. I could make a wrong decision, the right one for the time.

Speaking of time, it’s up. Rain pelts the windows near my desk. Billowing gray clouds give me a feeling of longing. Can I live with the past? Or not knowing the future? If I’m present, neither of them matters. My grandmother is with me every day. I can always go home.


 -related to post, WRITING TOPIC – HAUNTED

Read Full Post »

Blue Light Special, downtown Minneapolis from the car window, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Blue Light Special, downtown Minneapolis, shot from the car window, August 3rd, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I’m a creature of the night, a night owl all the way. On Friday afternoons, I’m pondering the wonders I’ll accomplish when daylight melts to dark. Maybe I adopted the tendency from my Mother. She was a night owl, too. And on a recent trip to Georgia together, we’d be up all hours of the night, writing and working on the family tree.

When I was younger, Mom and I would watch Lou Grant (who I saw in a guest spot on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm tonight) on the Mary Tyler Moore Show,  or Sam on Bewitched; then I’d give her a peck on the cheek goodnight, and head to bed. I had school in the morning. But the highlight of Mom’s day was just beginning – blessed time to herself.

With six kids, she never had a moment’s peace. Unless she slipped into the bathroom of our small ranch-style home for a long soak in Avon lavender bath beads and SkinSoSoft. Or stayed up late, riveted to a Lauren Bacall film until “This Is A Test Of The Emergency Broadcast System…” echoed down the hall.

In the 1960’s, baths and late night television seemed like the only options for busy mothers to have time alone. I’m probably projecting all kinds of things on my Mother. All I know is I have no idea how she did everything she did, and still managed to keep her sanity – unless it was to steal a few moments after the sun went down.

As for me, I just plain love the night. And her shroud of darkness. It’s quiet. And still. The light is fuzzy and falls around me in rusty yellows and browns. The focus is warm, far less than sharp, and sooths my restless heart. When the rest of the world is lights out, a whole underground culture emerges. I love to go out photographing the city at night.

Thanks for reminding me, ybonesy, my 6a.m. friend, how much I love the twilight, the space between day and night, the sullen gaps of light that blanket the night dwellers.

Around sunset, when the light shifts and the moon peeks her ashen head over the oaks, I’m buzzing with electric energy. Except for tonight, when I find myself needing rest. The clock strikes 12 in a midsummer night’s dream; it’s been a busy month. And I have an early day tomorrow.


 –Night Owl posted at Midnight on red Ravine, Friday, August 10th, 2007

-related to post, A Morning Person


UPDATE: the building with the blue neon ring is the top of the Fifth Street Towers I.  The bottom photo on the link shows both towers at night. Fifth I is a little shorter than Fifth Street Towers II which was built later. See discussion in the Comments of this post.

Here’s a link to all the buildings on the Minneapolis Skyline: Buildings of Minneapolis. If you click on each of the links you can see photos of the buildings.

Read Full Post »

By Beth Bro Howard


One day, when my husband was 40 years old, he came home from work, looking surprised and said, “I learned the most amazing thing today. When you smile at people, they smile back!”

Apparently, he had conducted his own little experiment while walking down the street. He would make eye contact and smile at people as they walked past him and he was delighted when they smiled back, which he noted, they usually did.

When he shared his discovery with me, I laughed and said, “I am so happy that you’ve learned this when you are 40. You could have lived your whole life and never known this.” At the same time, I realized that this was something I had always known. I’d learned it growing up with my father. My father had a wonderful, easy smile. His teeth were not perfect. He had an overbite, which accentuated the front teeth showing in his smile, offering a bigger grin.

My father didn’t just smile with his mouth, though. His whole face lit up. My father’s friend Paul Newman (not the actor) described my dad best in his memoir, when he wrote, “Kenny was a powerful and joyous force of nature that could not be stopped.” He was exactly that.

I grew up seeing my father bring that smile with him into every situation: from the breakfast table to a formal dinner; from greeting family and old friends to meeting total strangers. He used his smile liberally and especially when thanking someone for their help or for service rendered to him…even bad service.

Later in life, after heart by-pass surgery, the nurses at Evanston Hospital gifted my father a “Best Patient Award” and ribbon. I have no doubt that he won it with his smile, which may have been a rare sight for nurses in a post-surgical hospital setting.

I witnessed over and over again how my father’s smile put people at ease. I watched their faces brighten and felt its effect on my own face, too.

Even at the end of my father’s life, when he was very ill with leukemia and could not get out of bed, he would greet the day and me with a smile. The last thing he said to me was, “I hope to see you again.”

I said, “I hope so, too, Dad,” and we left each other with a smile.

After he died, the most frequent comment written in sympathy notes to our family was, “I will miss his smile.” We do, too.

Now, when someone mentions that they enjoy my smile, I sometimes say, but always think, “Thank you. It was a gift from my father.”



My Father’s Smile, photo © 2007 Beth Bro Howard, all rights reserved

    My Father’s Smile, photo © 2007 by Beth Bro Howard. All rights reserved.



Read Full Post »

A train whistle howls in the distance. I hear it every night at the same time. A night owl growl out the window. It comforts me. A ritual I’ve come to expect. Hearing. Ears. Sights. Smells. The smell of the sweatshirt I’m wearing, a combination of both me and Liz.

The taste of the sweet tea on the nightstand by the bed. Brushing my teeth with the pocket-size Crest, flossing in the morning on the way down the stairs, rubbing my hand across the cool oak banister. Coffee. French roast in the morning. While I am travelling it’s been International coffees with vanilla cream. Stirring, There is the ritual of stirring.

Travel rituals – checking emails, grounding on red Ravine, text messages from Liz, voicemails from home. Mostly I write late at night. And still try to get some sleep. The work here is exhausting. The rewards are many. When I am on a road trip, the rituals are different. I sometimes drive in silence, no radio. Mom fell asleep on the passenger side while I was driving through North Carolina on the way down, much needed sleep. I simply drove in the peacefulness.

Sometimes we talked, too, and caught up, and listened to old country like Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard. And Mom said she knew Brenda Lee when she was a kid. Lee’s family lived close by and she walked into the Winn-Dixie one night where Mom worked as a teenager.

I haven’t been home in a few years. I took advantage of the travel time to fill in the gaps. Other times, I slept and she drove. Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania. We landed here, near the Savannah. Rivers are grounding for me. The Savannah is the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina. It seems I have always lived near trains and rivers.

Something I’ve noticed when writing memoir, digging for gold, is to be around places, landmarks, music, and food that you want to write about. When you interview people, take them to these places, play the music, go out and eat the food. It excavates the memories even more when the senses are stimulated. Memory is connected to ALL the senses.

Daily travel rituals, the things I do every single day: shower, wash my hair, shave my legs, brush my teeth, put on clean cargo shorts and a T-shirt, walk down the stairs, drink two cups of coffee, eat a light breakfast, check email, check the blog, call Liz, usually morning and evening, write, take notes in my Supergirl notebook, check my horoscope, comment on the blog, make the bed, make sure I’ve got a pen and tablet in my pocket when I go out of the house, carry my camera and voice recorder.

I sit in silence first thing in the morning, and last thing before bed.

Everything in its place on my piles on the bed. I restore order before bed. Where Liz would normally be resting are notebooks and cords and camera bags and photographs I’ve collected from long lost relatives. Articles my mother has set aside for me to read, history travel books, information on the family tree. Maps and the TV remote. My bifocals fall from my wrist when I hit the tired wall and land right where they fall until morning.

I check the odometer when I drive. I try not to let the gas tank get too far below a quarter left in the tank. When we drove out to Clarks Hill and stopped for gas, a local rolled down his window and commented on Mom’s license place. It has GRITS (Girls Raised in the South) in part of it. He was a gruff looking guy with a scraggly beard and green baseball cap and scared me at first when he started yelling out of his beat up Ford pickup.

He wanted to make a point to ask me as I went to pump the gas, “Hey, does that mean the same thing up there that it does down here?” I laughed and said, “Yep, we were both raised down here. You can’t take the South out of the girl.”

At the moment, I’m finding it hard to concentrate while I write. So I want to gravitate toward making lists. It’s 1am and I have to get up fairly early. Time to myself is precious. So is time with my mother and my step-dad and uncle.

Time is a strange thing. You never know when you might not have it again. I keep digging. And the well is deep. It’s the daily rituals that keep me sane.

Wednesday Morning, 1am, June 6th, 2007

-from Topic post, Rich in Ritual

Read Full Post »

Magnolia, June 3rd, 2007, Augusta, Georgia, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 –Magnolia, June 3rd, 2007, Augusta, Georgia, all photos © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The magnolias are blooming in Georgia. And the mimosas, wisteria, Spanish moss. I don’t have to dig all that deep. Everything falls into place the minute I ask. My body is tired; I am holding all this in my brain. The 5th Street Bridge, one of the first Coca-Cola bottling plants, the haunted pillar, Richmond Academy.

Broad Street, one of the widest streets in the United States, and Green Street and Reynolds Street. Walking through Magnolia Cemetery where my great, great aunt is buried near her father who was a soldier for the Confederacy; watching my mother walk down the leaf crackling road with a plucked magnolia in her hand, laughing and smiling and content to be back in the South.

Chris Craft, June 3rd, 2007, Clark Hill Dam, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Riding in the Chris Craft along the shores of Clarks Hill Dam. Calling the aunt I haven’t heard from since I was one or two. Hearing her Southern drawl on the other end of the line and knowing she’s related to me, bloodlines, blood kin, though I haven’t seen her in 50 years. It doesn’t matter. Before she hung up, she said she loved me. And I believe her.

My step-dad seems the happiest I have seen him in years. It’s as if he has a new lease on life. I ask the questions, we drive by childhood homes. He calls me Shug and tells me about Audubon Circle and the minute my chubby, two-year-old hands squeezed his cheeks and asked, “Can I call you Daddy?”

Hearing my uncle talk about our ancestors in the Civil War, photographs and relics lining his den, on shelves, and in drawers. Arrowheads and 400 acres of family farmland, and an island near Brunswick that can be traced all the way back to King George the Third; there’s proof on a letter that reads:


GEORGE the Third, by the Grace of God, of Great-Britain, France and Ireland, KING, Defender of the Faith, and fo forth, To All To Whom These Presents Shall Come Greeting: KNOW YE, THAT WE of our Special Grace, certain Knowledge and mere Motion, have given and granted, and by thefe Prefents, for us, our heirs and fucceffuors, DO GIVE AND GRANT unto…

And the letter is signed by the Surveyor General and the Governor in Council and dated April of 1763. Back, back, back. I listen, should not be surprised. All that history and the shape of shovels digging through the mind.

The things I carry are:

a Canon Powershot, an Olympus digital recorder, a trusty wirebound Supergirl notebook, a bag of Sharpies, Dell laptop, LG cell phone, cords to connect and connect and charge, two weeks worth of clothes, a 4 GB memory stick, black Adidas slingpack, camera bag, two sets of bifocals, a rolled family tree, water bottles, maps of Augusta and Georgia and South Carolina, a couple of rabbit fetishes, a lion, a turtle from Wyoming, and questions, yes, all those questions fall from me like curled rain.

Ameila's Magnolia, June 3rd, 2007, Magnolia Cemetery, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

              –Amelia’s Magnolia, June 3rd, 2007, Magnolia Cemetery, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I carry the scent of magnolia, the purple of the martin, and the energy of all the ancestors, and I want to say I know what I’m doing, but I don’t. I have faith. I follow my nose and my heart and people seem to open to me. I watch generations before smile down on me, and generations to date, heal and let go. Soft kisses to the cheek and hugs all around. I am astounded every moment.

Tomorrow it is another trip to Clarks Hill Dam to meet my aunt who I found out helped her parents build the house I stayed in after I was born (and had photographed only hours before I called her). And I’ve located Mrs. Juarez but do I really want to spill the beans? Or should I save the story for the meet and greet.

Soldier, My Great, Great Grandfather's Grave, June 3rd, 2007, Magnolia Cemetery, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.I step across generations of sandy brown pine needles, past homes of Georgia brick. The land is red iron clay and the memories are mine. There is so much to say and too little time. I wanted to get something on the page, anything.

I wonder how long it will take me to sift the strainer and see what pours on to the page. It will not be everything. Only what is essential. Yet gathering these pieces leads me to feel complete.

It’s hard to explain what it’s like. All I can say is if you get the chance, go back and ask what you need to know. And write it all down. It is healing. It’s like discovering gold in a deserted mine where you thought the canary had sung her last note. But when you take a chance, and risk dropping down, you find the gleaming vein against a backdrop of emeralds. And somehow you know each line uncovers a rough-cut diamond made from thousands of years of lumpy coal, shining just for you.

Monday, June 4th, 2007

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »