Monday, April 27, 2009

Beating the Drums

A beating of tom toms (plastic buckets turned upside down) filled the St. John’s School gymnasium, where a single row of youngsters circled the gym wall and sat cross legged this afternoon.

Joe Crabb had enlisted Dr. Vann\ Burgess and me to help him present information to these children (kindergarten through eighth grade) who had been studying about the Trail of Tears.

After we arrived, the teachers called all the children together to sit on the floor in front of us and warned them to be quiet and encouraged them to be polite. They certainly were.

Joe told them about the arrival of probably 11,000 or more Cherokee to our end of the state, where more died on the Trail of Tears than any other segment. Why? Because of the unusual intensely cold winter that trapped the travelers between the two border rivers that meet at the tip of Illinois at Cairo.

On a large map of Pope County, Joe showed the kids where he lived and told how the Cherokee used a creek’s rock bottom on his farm to ford Sugar Creek.

In good weather, as Joe also explained, it took days to move a thousand people load by load across a river. With the record-breaking bad weather, such movement became impossible until the chunks of ice floating downstream finally diminished enough to allow the ferries to start their slow journey.

Thus, the detachments, each with around thousand people, bumped into each other’s camp sites and piled up. Food became more and more scarce as game disappeared and rations were used up.

Many families passed down the story to their children of sitting on their front porches and watching hundreds of Cherokee pass in front of them day after day. One such family was that of Theophilus Scott of rural Pope County. His great great grandson Dr. Burgess was a tiny child when his grandfather died at 96. However, by then younger family members knew the story and passed it on to him. Professor Emerius of Education from the University of San Francisco, Burgess shared a time line with the children and reviewed that early 19th century history with them as he told about his family and his own exploration of nearby Allen's Spring.

Because they were stranded, there was more time and need for interaction between the curious often illiterate white pioneers living here and the bedraggled, dispirited and depressed Indians sleeping on the frozen ground with their one blanket if it had not already been destroyed by the mountainous terrain, rough creek rocks, or snagging thorns. Moccasins too had often worn out, and bare feet bled on the snow.

Local men who had grist mills ground corn meal for the Cherokees. Some traded pumpkin pies for the Indians’ ration of coffee. Some whites took babes from their mothers’ arms to keep the infants from freezing. These local families promised to nurse them back to health and raise them as their own. And they did. When possible, they often kept the Cherokee ancestry a secret to help the child avoid the terrible prejudice against the people with whom the whites had broken treaties as they stole more and more of their land. Some whites, however, helped when they could and even let the Cherokee cut down their woods in order to have fires for warmth.

As Joe finished up the travel through Pope County, young inquiring minds started waving hands wanting their questions answered about what they had heard. They asked good questions and Joe gave good answers.

He had asked me to review briefly the trek through Johnson and Union Counties and ultimately over the Mississippi River into Missouri. He wanted me to finish with the story of Priscilla, the Hollyhock Girl of Mulkeytown, freed from slavery by Brazilla Silkwood who arranged her release from the Cherokee who had purchased her, we think, from the Borders plantation in Northern Georgia.

I was thrilled to be able to pass around a copy of the recently found photograph of Priscilla with the Harrison family that Betty Baker had received from her grandmother. Then it was dismissal time and parents were in the parking lot to pick up their children.

I hope some remembered to ask their parent if they could stay up to watch the third segment of We Shall Remain, which I am now stopping writing to watch. Next week we will learn about Geronimo.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Suddenly It Is Green Again

Almost overnight the greening that nature has been brewing surrounds us. The bushes and shrubs. The grass. The leaves on the trees. The green has all come alive once more joining the beautiful flowering that has been going on for a few weeks now. The temperature was in the 80’s today. As always on April 26, the lilacs are showing lavender. They know it is their responsibility to do so because it is our daughter Katherine’s birthday, and lilacs are one of her favorites.

Driving to Carbondale for our first Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association this afternoon, I tried to drink in every mile of the roadside beauty. The newly remodeled Morris Library is a venue to make our region proud. With its completion, once again Special Collections has been able to move back home from its temporary hangout during the remodeling.

It was good to hear Melissa Hubbard and Dr. Herman Peterson review for us the work that the 1930’s historians--George Washington Smith, history professor, and John G. Mulcaster, retired Makanda station master--accomplished for the l00th anniversary of the Trail through our region. I especially liked Melissa’s explanation of how the professional historian worked one way collecting documentation while Mulcaster, the amateur like so many of us doing current research on the Trail, worked out in the field interviewing old-timers and thankfully taking the few photos we have of buildings that have since perished. And it felt good to hear Dr. Peterson express gratitude for both kinds of researchers.

We saw a short preview of the next episode of We Shall Remain that will be shown in our region at 8 tomorrow night. Vickie Devenport and Harvey Henson of Southern Illinois University Carbondale had the wonderful “Mapping the Trail of Tears in Southern Illinois” on display in the beautiful new round reception room where we gathering before and after the meeting in the new auditorium. It was fun to see the new coffee bar nearby named Delyte after our beloved SIUC president, the late Delyte Morris. He was there when the library was built in 1955 replacing the old Wheeler Library.

After the meeting at the library and the board meeting following, Gerald and I had a date with our daughter’s family to celebrate her birthday. Gerald had stayed home to follow both Gerry's and Erin's softball games--and I would have liked to also.

Katherine was hoping to be up to going out to get out of the house, but I had also offered to carry in our supper. That turned out to be her choice. So the menu was chicken and dumplings with slaw from Cracker Barrel with some of their old-fashioned bottled sodas. I’d taken one birthday cake in yesterday, and her sister Mary Ellen had sent a second cake yesterday afternoon along with a beautiful bouquet of lilies that Katherine adored. David brought out the ice cream.

Brian carried the flowers and cake into Katherine yesterday because Mary Ellen was much too sick to go in—not wanting to expose Katherine to the lingering cold that seemed to have suddenly turned into something worse. (Mary Ellen came down with Trent and Bri and Fifi in order to meet with a realtor about some acreage they are in process of buying. Brian was already down here farming.) By today Mary Ellen’s whispering voice was more inaudible than yesterday. When Brian took her to urgent care, she had to get four prescriptions from the pharmacy before she and the kids drove back to Lake Saint Louis. Since Brian stayed down to farm, he was able to join us for the birthday celebration tonight.

It was really fun and restful to avoid the crowds at the local restaurants, and Samuel and his buddy Tyler were able to join us for cake without too much interruption to their basketball playing in the driveway. Scooter was glad to be included in the birthday party too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dogwood Time on the Trail of Tears

Weather was perfect yesterday as fifteen of us filled the Rend Lake College van to travel river to river on the Trail of Tears and then up to Silkwood Inn, the home of one of the most famous of the those who dropped on the Trail here in Illinois.

Whereas the Cherokee experienced a white landscape of ice and snow during the winter of 1838-39, we traveled with the spring beauty of snowy white dogwood filling the woods. Pink dogwood, redbud, and blue-purple sweet Williams were blooming the entire journey in yards and roadside. Road edges also held an abundance of may flowers, which always please me with their umbrella-like circle of leaves.

On our way to Golconda, we stopped at the Vienna park. While some viewed the poem on the totem pole put up in honor of the Trail, others of us spent as much time as we could in the visitor’s center for the Tunnel Hill trail with its fascinating railroad collection.

Back on the van we experienced the tiniest inconvenience as highway workers were repairing the bridge and highway through the cypress swamp. We had to wait a few minutes for our turn on the one-lane available, but we did not have to stop and build a corduroy road as the Cherokee and many early pioneers did.

We sat on top of the Ohio River levy at Golconda and imagined the influx of 11,000 or so weary walking travelers stopping in Kentucky to wait to come slowly over on the steam ferry that Mr. Berry had there charging them a $1 a head. (I deliberately chose to say “a head” rather than “per person” because these folks were treated much more like cattle than like people.) Many Cherokee were frightened of water travel. We don’t know which detachment saw the steam boat explosion that killed one white and one Cherokee on a return trip to pick up another load in Kentucky, but I am sure that incident did not reassure them of their safely. We continued on down beside the river past the remains of the old lock and dam system and the former houses there for the Corps of Engineers employees.

We enjoyed the many beautiful old Victorian houses that make Golconda so pretty as we drove to the 1840 Buel House. There I told the story passed down by Mrs. Buel, who in a previous home was cooking pumpkin and was shocked when a couple of the hungry Cherokee were enticed by the aroma and came calling. Not able to speak English, they still communicated their hunger and she fed them the pumpkin.

Rev. Daniel Butrick in his journal did not experience the hospitality that some of the 25 or 30 homes may have shown. He was in Richard Taylor’s detachment—one of the last. Not only were they greeted by curses abounding in this rough little river town, but after they passed Golconda and prepared for camping by chopping wood for the night’s fire, they were chased off. Even worse, this same thing happened a second time. By the third camp site on government land, it was too dark and late to chop wood for a fire. With so much of the game already hunted and supplies used up because of the unexpected delay between the rivers where ice floes stopped river traffic, the last detachments probably suffered the greatest scarcities.

Our van riders were given GPS directions written by Joe Crabb that would take them on a beautiful summer drive on the original routes just south of Route 146. There the Theopolis Scott family and the John Farmer family sat on their porches and watched the thousands of exhausted Cherokee trek by. We pointed out Hound Ridge Road that leads to the Joe Crabb farm where the detachments used the rock bottom ford to get across Sugar Creek. Joe’s farm is the second site to be certified in Illinois by the National Park Service and the National Trail of Tears Association.

We stopped next at the delicious smelling Chocolate Factory for a rest room break and a chance to indulge in an selection of candies in all shapes and sizes. I had never been there before, but had to be impressed with chocolate shaped for all different professions and hobbies. I resisted the temptation to buy the sweet treat for myself but was able to buy a birthday greeting in chocolate for Katherine’s birthday this Sunday. It even has colorful musical notes on it for our musical daughter.

On through Vienna and West Vienna (Boles), we looked out at various Trail sites and I told as many TOT stories as the shake and noise of the van allowed. We stopped beside the road where the old Bridges Tavern once stood before it burned in the 1930s. The tavern was a large two-story home used as the family home and an inn for early pioneer travelers. We pointed out the barn which has inside the log structure of the Bridges Store, where the Cherokee bought the forbidden illegal whiskey that caused so much grief when the drunken ones fought and hollered through the night disturbing the rest the tired walkers craved. This log building is the only known extant building on the Illinois Trail of Tears.

Stopping next at the first certified site in Illinois, we visited Camp Ground Cemetery where the old Trail is quite visible just north of the church house (which wasn’t there in 1838). The cemetery wasn’t there either although the George Hileman family, which had secured the title to the long-standing camp ground and built their home there, had lost two children and buried them in the field. The Hilemans not only sold corn meal from their grist meal to the hungry Indians but also allowed them to chop down the trees there for fire and warmth. Oral tradition had made it clear when the cemetery was added to the church that one hillside was not to be used for new graves because that was where the Cherokee had been allowed to bury their dead during that awful cold winter stay. SIUC’s Harvey Henson and his students have verified nineteen unmarked graves in that area using non-invasive technology.

We moved on to Anna, which also was not there in 1838, and we stopped for lunch at
Country Cupboard in The Potato Barn. I love to go there and know that my husband came here as a little boy with his father to buy seed, feed, and overalls. The display of artifacts always makes me wish I had the money and the place to put at least one or two of the many antiques that capture my fancy.

We’d been given a menu early on the van, and so many choices made our mouths water and the task of deciding difficult. Lori Ragsdale, RLC Community Education Director and our van driver, had called in our orders. Thus, our table and food was waiting for us. Everyone’s food was fantastic, according to all the comments I heard on the van afterwards. Then when we thought it could get no better, we were allowed to choose pie for dessert. My blackberry cobbler was perfect. Cindy Pickel and Lisa Hartline, who share the Godwin family tree with my husband, have done an outstanding job of offering a destination where memorable meals await.

We next stopped at the Jonesboro Square in front of the bank where Winstead Davie’s store house once stood. We had to point out the way to the Old Fairgrounds where Lincoln and Douglas debated, of course. And then on around the square and down 127 South near the extinct Flaughtown to the Old Cape Road, one of the many routes taken by the 11 detachments. The rural spring scenery was peaceful and lovely. We passed the sign leading to Ron and Deb Charles’ Trail of Tears lodge and restaurant (open on Friday and Saturday nights) and on past Lyerla Lake and finally to Reynoldsville and Route 146 again. (This south-bound stretch of Route 146 towards Cape is also Route 3 coming down from Chester.)

With the Mississippi River hidden by levies and trees although we could also see the trees over on the Missouri side, we traversed beside the river north and stopped at Ware. Here on Route 146 is where the Willard’s Ferry Landing Road would go a short distance west to the Mississippi River landing in 1838 and east through swampy land back to Jonesboro.

We had one more stop to make on this old Willard’s Landing Road, and that was in the Clear Creek, Dug Hill, and Dutch Creek area where 3000 or 4000 were stranded at the same time the later detachments were stranded at Camp Ground and all the way back to Golconda.

We were on a tight schedule to make Silkwood Inn at Mulkeytown by 4 o’clock. But Lori had it figured perfectly as she drove us up Route 127 to Murphysboro for another quick afternoon break. Right on time we reached Priscilla’s home where she lived with Brazilla and Mahala Silkwood after she was rescued from slavery on the Trail of Tears. We were sorry Barbara Spencer was prevented by illness from meeting us at the Inn, but her husband Gail graciously met us and had the Inn open for us to tour.

It is always shocking to see how small the Inn is to have provided a home at various times to 16 orphans. Fortunately the Silkwoods’ hearts were as big necessary when the next orphan came along. The descendants of the orphans and the descendants of Priscilla’s hollyhocks make our region richer yet today.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Spring Week at Woodsong

As I drove into the Shawnee National Forest on Tuesday, the pinkish purple blooms on the redbud trees brightened the still bare tall black-limbed trees all around them. The drive there had been stunning with the redbud at the height of its glory. Inside the forest, there were also a few scattered dogwood showing white blossoms and foretelling that time was running out for the redbud. Sure enough by this morning, though still lovely, the redbud trees had begun to shed the blooms for green leaves. And everywhere in yards and roadside, the white of the dogwood was beginning to dominate.

Tuesday Gerald left the house early to go with his friend Herman on an Angel Flight. Before I was through my breakfast and coffee, however, he was back home because the weather had cancelled their flight. I unexpectedly needed to figure out something for his lunch before I left the farm, and I did and hurried on to errands in town and my plan to consider going up Hamburg Hill to revisit the cut of the 1838 road there.

I knew I would not go unless I completed errands quickly enough that I could go there and back in time for our grandson Samuel’s jazz band concert that night. Since this group of youngsters had just won superior at state recently, I wanted to hear their performance. Sam’s junior high band was playing at the high school before their jazz band played, and Sam and fellow trombonist Ben were going to be improvising together. Coming home, I cut through the country by way of Goreville, one of my favorite towns in the universe (cause my grandparents lived there), and I was home from the forest in time to fix our supper. Gerald and I were sitting in the auditorium as the curtain was ready to open.

Gerald did take the Angel Flight on Wednesday, so he wasn’t there for lunch. But I had the same sort of rushed day with emails and phone calls to take care of as I worked on the final collection of handouts to mail to Rend Lake College for copying for the thirteen participants who will be on our river-to-river van trip this week. On Tuesday we will traverse Route 146, the designated Trail of Tears auto tour across our state.

After I completed the handouts and stopped to replenish our fruit supply, I went through the drive-in for supper and then hurried to the car wash to get the mud from Hamburg Hill taken off so Gerald wouldn’t feel he needed to do it. I arrived early at our village church in Crab Orchard for a First Place meeting at 6. I had neglected the Bible study all week and needed to attempt to catch up before the others arrived. With only three of us there, we lingered sharing our thoughts, our troubles, and our opinions in addition to the Bible study review. Consequently, it was later than usual when I arrived home to hear Gerald’s stories about the day’s Angel Flight and find out who won Georgia’s and Texas A&M’s games. The stories were interesting as always, and we had won both games.

Thursday afternoon I left the farm with all kinds of extra trucks there as once again some service was helping Gerald burn off our fields of native grasses. I thought this was a government requirement for these fields, but he explained that it was just the recommended plant culture. The two women in charge were careful to burn by creating V-shapes that allowed wildlife to escape safely. The eggs of one turkey nest, however, required our brother Keith and nephew DuWayne to come rescue them for their incubator.

Again I had a tad of shopping to do, ran by Katherine’s, and got a sandwich at Subway before meeting Jari Jackson to go to our Southern Illinois Writers Guild meeting. It was a Critique Night. I had hoped to have something new to read, but hadn’t completed anything. I did grab an article out of the file cabinet marked for revision and was amused to see it was written when my youngest daughter was still in high school as her son is now. I decided it was a little too old to share, but I may yet revise it someday.

It was fun just to relax and listen to the wide variety of offerings presented by more prepared members. When I got back to the farm, Gerald was in bed with the light on and his book of Appalachian humor in his hands and was fast asleep. I debated whether I should wake him and tell him good night or let him wake on his own when the book fell from his hands. That seemed the simplest, so I went on downstairs to check emails and surf a bit.

Friday morning for me started with a long welcome phone call from that youngest daughter who has been too busy with house revamping lately for leisurely calls. The weekend soft ball games would start on Saturday, and Gerald was hurrying to mow the yard and finish his shop project of modifying a sprayer for Scott, the next-door neighbor. This lengthy project turned out to be more complicated and challenging than Gerald, a perfectionist, anticipated. He was glad yesterday to take the completed sprayer home to Scott. In the meantime, our son-in-law Brian had arrived at the other farm for some weekend farming, and at the end of the day he dropped in and ate a waffle with us.

Yesterday Vickie and Geri Ann had gone with Gerry to Auburn University to watch Georgia play, and we were following them and also Erin at Oklahoma University at Norman, where she started the first inning with a RBI double. Gerald was also trying to follow Lucas Hileman at Baylor in the other room on TV.

Interspersed with the games for me was a trip to the village to return overdue library books and collect Revolutionary Road that the library had ordered for me. The florist shop where I owed a bill was closed but the wonderful owner/hostess of The Mustard Seed in adjoining quarters assured me she’d see that LaRonda got my check. There in that haven of crafts and antiques, I could not resist a small good-looking and inexpensive alarm clock for a downstairs bedroom. Then I took a drawing and some photographs that needed framing up to Tom Ribedeau, photographer, wood craftsman, teacher, and owner of the most beautiful long driveway imaginable through a certified wildlife habitat. I went back to Woodsong for more softball inspired by the beauty of the drive and Tom’s delightful personality.

After sleeping with the sound of rain on the camper all night, Brian dropped in to say goodbye before he headed home to the city. I was able to hand him John Elder Robinson’s Look Me in the Eye that I had told Mary Ellen about and wanted her to read.

As always today I was inspired by siblings Miranda and Caleb as they participated in various learning activities in our preschool classroom. Watching their faces as they learn new things and discover new words and new concepts is a joy. Since our story was about Jesus healing ten lepers and only one saying thank you, we played with band aids and wrapped bandages. Miranda had noticed my tiny “owie” on my hand and her band aid is still there tonight. Caleb was very interested in counting the ten pennies, ten marbles, and ten pencils that Miss Kim brought. He quit his independent play to go over and sit on her lap to try and figure out what this counting was all about. He could say the word “two.”

Since Erin’s game today was on ESPN, we watched as we ate lunch and then went downstairs to the bigger TV to see the rest of the game. David dropped in to pick up some left-over vinyl for a project he was working on to try and make Katherine’s chair more comfortable. We were quite unhappy to see Texas A&M lose, but despite our sadness, we had to be proud of Oklahoma’s D. J. Mathis who was back on the mound after a shoulder injury. D.J. played with Erin for Southern Force here in Illinois and won everyone’s hearts with her enthusiasm, and probably knew she needed to keep walking Erin.

At our evening service, Becky Belt handed me her copy of The Shack that Kim had finished, so it looks like I have plenty to read in the week ahead.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Priscilla's Photo Keeps Me Busy

Odd how a life in the 19th Century that ended in 1892 has kept me so busy recently in 2009.

Although I surfed a bit (okay a lot) last night, I completely forgot it was Wednesday night--my appointed night to write. Never mind that I had a Wednesday doctor appointment and Wednesday evening meeting, I still forgot that it was Wednesday. That is okay. I was obviously too tired to write although I did write a paragraph on Facebook since some of my kids and grandkids congregate there and I like to see what they are up to just as I do all the wonderful bloggers that I follow.

Anyhow let me tell you why my schedule has been overfull. Codell Rodriquez, an area newspaper reporter, who was covering a program that the Trail of Tears Association board participated in at the John A. Logan Museum at Murphysoboro, heard me say I was looking for a photograph of Priscilla, the young girl freed from slavery on the Trail of Tears and who lived the rest of her life as a member of the Silkwood family in Mulkeytown.

As a result of putting my request in his story, Betty Baker, who descended from the Harrison family with whom Priscilla lived the last 16 years of her life after Mr. Silkwood died, phoned to say she had a photo. The photo taken in 1891 was a large gathering of the adult children and some grandchildren of Isham and Laura (Annear) Harrison. Betty's grandmother said the third adult from the left was Priscilla, who was considered a family member.

Codell wanted to do a follow-up story about our finding a photo, and I agreed since I was glad to help the TOTA with publicity before our April 26 meeting at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Morris Library, which is holding its rededication today of the remodeled library. Then Codell's paper moved his deadline up on him, and suddenly when I was supposed to be preparing for trip to Freeport, I was going to town for the interview and also passing photos on to Dr. Herman Peterson at the SIUC library, who made a special trip to our village to pick them up. (There were other photos of many members of Harrison family--unfortunately no individual picture of Priscilla.)

When I wandered into the kitchen Monday morning after our triip and Easter Sunday activities, I was somewhat shocked to see Codell's story on the front page. I have been covered up with emails and phone calls ever since. Some who phoned or wrote also descended from the Harrisons, some have Priscilla's hollyhocks growing in their yards, and some had been just been thrilled with memories stirred about Mulkeytown, and so forth.

I have Writers Guild tonight and it is a Critique Night, our first in 2009, and I don't think I have anything to share. Maybe I will find something. Anyhow I decided I better blog before I leave home for INR reading and trip to Carterville.

If you are interested in more about Priscilla, check the Southern Illinoisan story:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Blessed Easter at Woodsong

After a leisurely breakfast with the newspaper, we went to our village church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Our three little ones in our preschool classroom looked adorable. Wearing pink with ruffles and lace, Miranda explained, “Grandma made my dress.” When Miss Kim took pictures, we knew we were not the first to admire these children today, because one-year-old Caleb without prompting posed and said clearly, “Cheese!” Bobby, looking sharp in dress pants and matching vest, was all excited that Grandpa was coming to dinner. The Easter card he made was to be for his daddy and grandpa.

In the service after Bible study, many had visiting family members with them to worship as a family on this special day. Our oldest member, Zella Cain had family members filling two entire rows. And that was only half of her family, she told us. We sang, “Up From the Grave He Arose” and other traditional hymns. Deanna Odom had a special reading for us, and we sang “Happy Birthday” to Dewayne Covey, who had been looking forward to this tradition, and he had visiting cousins and aunts and uncles there to participate.

Our beloved interim pastor had a second sermon prepared—he and several had gathered earlier at the church for the sunrise service and breakfast that Gerald and I seldom make. In the early years, I would have been out on the lawn hiding eggs and candies in our children’s nests they made on Saturday—just the way my mother was taught to do as a child. Then when our children took over the nest filling for their children, I would be in the kitchen preparing the ham and lunch for the bunch when we came home from church.

Today was different. For the first time in our 52 years of marriage, I did not dye Easter eggs. For the first time in decades, I did not cook Easter dinner. For the first time in several years, most of our children and grandchildren could not be with us. Yet it has been a special and blessed Easter.

We arrived back in Marion last evening from our trip to visit daughter Jeannie’s family and see Elijah and Cecelie participate in the 29th annual Showtime at Freeport High School. Before we refilled the gas tank and I ran inside Kroger’s to get fresh fruit and milk, Katherine phoned and said, “Mom, David has arranged to pick up a prepared Easter dinner for all of us, and we will bring it out to the farm tomorrow. There will be plenty for Mary Ellen’s family too if they are able to make it.”

We took Samuel on home as he was eager to check out the Easter egg doings at Josh’s house—his buddy just behind the park and their house. Sam carried in a large portion of the colored eggs that he had helped dye at the Eiler house and his Aunt Jeannie had sent home with him. So they became part of our dinner today.

He even was invited to participate in the dyeing session going on at my brother’s home when we stopped at Mattoon for a break. Jim’s wife Vivian, who always remembered her grandmother’s huge dishpan full of colored eggs for her many grandchildren, has always tried to approach that sense of bounty for her kids and grandkids. She and her sister Jo, who had arrived from Chicago by train the day before, were laughing and working with a dozen of so cups of color on the large dining table and assisted by my niece Judi getting ready for the egg hunt at their house today. When Sam unobtrusively took a wax crayon from the kit and put a star on an egg, his mother’s cousin Judi had a moment of wonder and confusion when she took a green egg out and unexpectedly saw a star on it.

So after we dropped Sam off at his house, we returned to shop for the few needed items. With the delightful surprise and neat gift for the next day arranged by our son-in-law, I did not even think about what I might need to buy to go with the little half ham I had stowed in the fridge for Katherine’s family and also Mary Ellen’s family if they were able to come down from Lake Saint Louis. I knew Easter dinner would be scant in comparison to some past feasts, but I also knew my children would understand.

David works extraordinary hours already both at the plant and at home helping care for Katherine and Sam, and that he would go to the work and trouble to arrange to bring an entire holiday dinner out to the farm was very touching—and absolutely lovely. When I phoned her an invitation, we found out that Mary Ellen’s family had gone to Springfield—she had known we might not even get back from Freeport for Easter.

So I took the usual leaves out of the dining room table. With Sam’s friend Josh added as a guest, we had six present. Thus, I was able to use the white china with pink roses that I bought long ago at the thrift store when our family had only six members, and the light green cloth that usually only fits the kitchen table. The green stemmed glasses (also from the thrift store) made a pretty table with lilacs and white tulips for the centerpiece.

While the men talked and rested, Katherine and I looked at photo books and enjoyed seeing Tara, Erin, and Leslie as tiny ones. Sam and Josh went looking for minnows and rode the “mule” and played with Scooter and whatever boys do outside.

All too soon the Cedars had to go back home, and Gerald and I were alone again at Woodsong after the flurry of weekend activity. We enjoyed ham sandwiches and reflecting on the day.

We knew from Facebook that Leslie, who’d been in Freeport for the weekend, had succeeded in getting her first car yesterday and was driving it back to Belmont. Tomorrow she finds out about her summer job. Gerry had been off work from recruiting and had been able to go to church with Vickie and Geri Ann at Athens. Like Gerald, I am sure they were in touch with Erin down at College Station and with Tara’s family in northern Illinois, who celebrated with Bryan’s family this weekend. We were still enjoying Gerry’s proud accounts of Erin’s winning home run on Friday and A&M’s second victory against Texas Tech yesterday. And the Georgia Dogs won all three games against Ole Miss this weekend despite rainy weather and lightning delays.

We know that softball is fun and despite its importance to our family, it is not that important in the grand scheme of things. We know that every one of our family members have challenges and concerns—some of which cause us to live life with broken hearts. We know that many good people are out of work in our state, and they didn’t sit down to ham and all the good food that David carried in. We remembered the poignant presentation of world hunger that we saw at Freeport’s Showtime. We know that they are still pirates and thugs and terrorists in the world despite our rejoicing at the captain’s release. We are grateful for a living God who is willing to help us through the struggles here on earth.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Everyone is Home Tonight--for Now

Well, everyone is back to their individual homes, and I am back on my blogging schedule while things are calm again. Because Gerry and Erin both had at-home games today, they got to stay there. I was in meetings at their game times, so I didn’t get to watch on the computer but Gerald did. He even had to fix his own supper. I think Erin and Gerry will be playing at home Friday and Saturday also. Both are free on Easter Sunday.

Leslie, however, will be arriving in Freeport tomorrow night from Belmont for the weekend, and we have reservations there for the next two nights. We are really excited about getting to see Cecelie and Elijah on Friday night in the annual extravaganza Showtime that knocks me off my seat and up on my feet every year. This is Cecelie’s first show since the grade school kids don’t always participate. For Elijah, it is his second year, and I am very eager to see him and the other talented crew since I had to miss his fall play.

I spent this morning looking at old 19th century photographs loaned to me by Betty Baker. I visited her yesterday afternoon after I had spent an hour on the phone interviewing 92-year-old Nola Hertel that Betty had connected me with.
At Betty’s, I heard more family stories and then was entrusted with the photos of the Isham and Laura (Annear) Harrison family of Mulkeytown, who were so important to Priscilla the Hollyhock Girl rescued off the Trail of Tears by Brazilla Silkwood. Priscilla spent the last 16 year of her life living with this family.

My morning was short today because I slept late after staying up late last night sorting and studying these Harrison family photos that Betty inherited from her grandmother Myrtle Snider Browning Penrod. Working with the photos at the dining room table, I was able to get noon dinner on the table for Gerald and me.

Then I shared the photos and information with two other folks this afternoon and evening, attended two back-to-back meetings at church, and in-between activities I got to pick up Sam and his trombone after jazz band practice and then visit with his mother Katherine awhile. She is excited about his upcoming concert next week with the high school band, so maybe I will finally get to hear this group that recently received a superior rating at contest.

Oh and I visited with Scooter, Sam’s dog, too. I forgot to put my large over-the-shoulder bag up when I entered the house, and Scooter rapidly found it and started scattering coins and stuff across the floor. I understand that when he escapes the front door, he gives everyone merry chases in the park next door. Yesterday it took their big dog Lucy, the golden doodle, to chase Scooter down and stop him until he had his lease on again. Today he scared Sam when he ran in front of a motorcycle driving through the park. I am sure he scared that driver too. Scooter is one of those little dogs who just seems to be everywhere. He is an adorable fluffy white puppy, and we can’t help but forgive him for his mischief.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Changing Plans

We thought we had the next two weekends all planned out. In fact, I wrote an email to our immediate family last night telling where we would be when.

However, our daughter-in-law Vickie’s grandmother here in our community died last night. Her visitation is tomorrow and her funeral is on Saturday. Consequently, people away from here are making plans in order to get here quickly.

Grandma Borum was a very dear lady, who has cared for many years for her adult daughter, who is handicapped and continued to live with her. Not too many years ago we enjoyed her and her daughter Janice’s company at all the wonderful family parties that Vickie gave for birthdays and various celebrations. As Mrs. Borum grew older and developed health problems and Janice’s health deteriorated, Vickie’s parents, who lived next door, pitched in more and more to help.

After Vickie’s father died, her mother has continued caring for her two loved ones with help from her brothers. Everyone has been amazed that she was able to handle all of this caretaking, and we knew it was only because of selfless love and dedication to her mother and sister that she endured always putting them ahead of herself. Fortunately someone had been trained to help very recently.

In the morning, Vickie and Geri Ann are driving up from Georgia and picking up Erin from the Nashville airport, so that Erin can attend the visitation. Gerald will be taking Erin over to Columbia, MO, after the visitation tomorrow night for the two games that have been rearranged for Saturday since rain is expected on Sunday.

Our granddaughter Tara and two baby boys, who were just through here last Sunday, will be coming down from the northern end of the state. We are grateful that her husband Bryan can come also to drive. I haven’t touched the bedroom where Tara had three hours sleep Sunday before driving north, so I guess you can say it is waiting for her.

With all this going on with the people we love, I will not be blogging again for awhile. We covet prayers for our family’s safety and health during all the traveling that is necessary during this time of sorrow. I’ll talk to you later.