Thursday, April 11, 2013

Blossom Time

On Saturday, I saw the first blossoming tree.  An ancient tree next to an old farm shed was abloom with pink blossoms that would have cheered the hearts of the long ago residents who lived in the house no longer there.  There is still a side walk with a little gate out by the road reminding us that once a country doctor lived here.  He would hitch up his buggy and take the midwife next door with him to deliver babies throughout our rural area. I know that because many years ago I used to ride to a club meeting once a month with his daughter who had inherited the house. 

Marguerite told me how as a little girl, there was a train that came to their little village of New Dennison.  The pastor of Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church would arrive on the train on Sunday morning from Carbondale.   Then he would ride with the doctor and his family to preach at what all the local people have always called Shed Church—the one with a cemetery over on Shed Church Road.   After driving back to New Dennison for Sunday dinner, the pastor would board an afternoon train to return to Carbondale

An elderly woman in the village of Crab Orchard on the other side of Shed Church told me how she became the pianist there as a girl and continued throughout her lifetime.  People would walk or arrive on horses or in buggies each week, and large crowds would celebrate Christmas with programs that made the season special.  Even when she was too feeble to go to church, she would make a point to play her piano at home each day.  She would go to bed early every night and before going to sleep would let her mind wander over all the good old days when her husband and she and their friends would play jokes on each other.  There was a pair of overalls that traveled to people’s clothes lines.  She would entertain herself with her memories until she fell asleep.  “Sometime I just laugh out loud,” she told me.

I like remembering these stories when I occasionally pass Shed Church or as I almost daily drive by the cluster of houses in the village of New Dennison.  I remember little Mildred Stapleton, who used to make dresses without a pattern for my three daughters, telling me that her family—the Lamberts—had a store there in New Dennison, and I think they likely sold yard goods as well as groceries.  (Mildred had a sister-in-law also in our neighborhood with the same name, so since one was tall and one was short, we would have to distinguish who we were talking about with an adjective in front of Mildred—in case you wondered why I said little Mildred Stapleton.)

The little Presbyterian church called Shed does not meet on Sundays anymore although the cemetery is still used for burials, and it is a lovely place for solitude and meditation.  I would never have guessed New Dennison once had a train track if Marguerite hadn’t told me. The little church building there was first a Lutheran church, I think it was, before that congregation dwindled and later a small Baptist congregation was organized and acquired the building.  I think there is a nearby cemetery up the road a bit connected perhaps with the first congregation, but it is overgrown and I have never searched it out as I have intended to do.  Evidently no descendants of those buried there exist in this area.

When I knew Marguerite, a school librarian, she was a widow living in a home full of antiques.  She had lived away but came back to her childhood home.  I was only in her home a couple of times, but I was impressed with the cherished furniture—one chair was supposed to have been used by Abraham Lincoln.  I grieved with the rest of the community when her home burned during her final years and the antiques went up in smoke.  I recently met a young woman whose mother had been Marguerite’s caregiver, and she told me how they took Marguerite into their home so she would not have to go to a nursing home after the fire.

Few hints of its rich past remain at New Dennison.  That beautiful tree filled with pink blossoms not only treated my winter dulled eyes with its beauty but it filled my mind with many shared memories about the lives of those who used to walk by. 

By the next day, the pear trees were bedecking the countryside with their bridal white blossoms. Out our lakeside windows, Gerald’s hyacinths are sharing their lovely soft colors, and paperwhites grace yet another flower bed.   Our little tree in the middle of the front circular drive is a mass of white blossoms.  Along the road to town, golden forsythia joins the bright yellow of dandelions popping up everywhere.   The redbud near our driveway is just beginning to blush a bit with the promise of more blossom beauty in another day or two.  Coming alive again, nature is bringing us joy and promises of the future as well as memories of the past.

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