Friday, November 10, 2006

Reading, Reminiscing, and Running to Doctors

Suffering my second serious cold this fall and running to numerous medical/dental appointments for family members and myself this past two months, I welcome distractions.

Gerald has kept us distracted with his photography hobby as he is digging into photo albums and making copies of old photos and sharing them with brothers and cousins. We cannot keep from doing considerable reminiscing as he finds yet another special person and special moment of the past.

Reading has always been one of the most pleasant distractions I can find, and I have done more than I should reading from the many books I’ve not been able to resist acquiring at the autumn book fairs that I have been a part of. I would always rather read the book of someone I know than that of a stranger although I enjoy strangers’ books also. I like thinking about the author and his/her view on the book’s topic.

At Sturgis, Kentucky, I saw the beautiful cover of Cumberland and knew I was probably going to buy it. The title instantly brought remembrances of our dear friend Chester Young and his admonition to us while visiting him and Tossie on our wedding trip that everyone ought to see the Cumberland Falls. And so, of course, we did. They were home on furlough from a mission church in Hawaii and we visited them in Tossie’s eastern Kentucky home in Jellico in 1956.

Tossie’s dad and mother had run a grocery store in town, and they still had dinnerware that had been given away to shoppers. We were given a complete set of the white dinnerware with a lovely pink tulip in the middle. There was a touch of brown. I cherished the dishes, which are all used up now. I placed them on a brown tablecloth with the large pink napkins I had bought in downtown Chicago during our engagement. This made a lovely table including the times I gathered pink smart weed from our rural roadside for the floral arrangement in the center.

Later the Youngs returned permanently to the states, and he taught history for many years at Williamsburg. An author and a minister, he was able to finish his third book with Tossie’s help before his illness stopped his writing career and eventually his life.

The setting for this novel was also the area of Kentucky where our granddaughter Leslie and her youth group has participated in teaching Vacation Bible Schools. Leslie has been enthralled with Eastern Kentucky because of those experiences.

I do not read much fiction, and I like it best when I am really reading more for the nonfiction elements than the story. I realized as I read Charles L. Roe’s historical novel this week that I probably had never read a fictional nor a nonfiction book about World War I. My knowledge of that war, which my Uncle Henry Rockenmeyer served in, was probably limited to a chapter assigned long ago perhaps in a history class. (And if I did not do my homework that day, I may not have even read a chapter on the war.) Roe had impressive ability to keep me interested and wanting to know what happened next whether I was in the Kentucky mountains or the war fields of Europe.

I was interested in his heroine Lily and her Melungeon ancestry. I had never heard of Melungeons until a very few years ago when a friend and her sister doing family history told me about them. They were giggling over a staid uncle they thought might be amazed by their discovery. Since my friend is one of the fairest blondes I have ever known, I found it hard to think this was her ancestry, but she was proudly claiming it was, and I could not doubt her. Roe‘s take on this special mysterious medley of humanity in the Appalachians was that the earliest were descendants of the Portuguese and Spanish who came to our coasts in the early 1500s and likely intermarried with the Cherokee. Lily’s mother was Rose-of-Sharon, whose mother named her after finding that reference in Song of Solomon to the comely black beauty. Continuing that tradition, Rose-of-Sharon named her daughter the second lovely descriptive title “Lily of the Valley” but shortened it to Lily to please the family.

The brief mention of Old Christmas in the novel again reminded me of Chester Young, who first taught me about Old Christmas and, thus, caused me to greater enjoy Jesse Stuart’s writing on Old Christmas.

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