Friday, October 25, 2013

Elizabeth (Martin) Martin

A Memorable Visit to a Cemetery

For the latest Red Room blogging topic, I am going to share this poem, which I wrote long ago based on a true experience when I still had time to research and ponder family history.  I had searched years before for this grave and had decided Elizabeth was probably buried in an unmarked grave on a farm somewhere, but I was searching in the wrong county.  I also had been in communication with one of Elizabeth’s brother’s descendants who moved to Kansas, and I had posted in Kansas asking for information, but no one seemed to have  the records I’d heard about. 

Then Sue Wilson’s husband inherited the Kansas records, and she shared the name of the cemetery where Elizabeth was buried, and I also found out that my great grandfather, who signed his named William F. Martin in Johnson County, was called Felix in his youth.  I went to the Jefferson County historical website and found that two women had very recently walked and recorded the graves in Pleasant Grove Cemetery off Route 37 south of Mount Vernon.  Gerald and I had a difficult time finding this  cemetery because only a very small sign on Route 37 was there for the current congregation meeting in the former Pleasant Grove Methodist Church building.  

Here is a poem I wrote in response to my emotional visit to Elizabeth’s grave.:

Elizabeth (Martin) Martin
Wife of William Felix Grundy Martin
5-1-1827 to 10-6-1857

Elizabeth came from Tennessee
To marry her cousin
In Illinois country.
An only daughter
With six brothers,
Her sister Margaret had died at three.

She helped out at home down there,
Content with others’ lives.
Then Felix’s dreams became her own
Which they must realize.
Though sad to leave her parents,
William Felix was a prize.

A preacher like her daddy,
Felix filled her heart with love.
Baby Margaret came along,
A second blessing from above.

Glorious sunshiny summer
Must end as all things do.
A horse threw off its rider
And troubles began to brew.

Her uncle, Felix’s father,
Was killed by that hard fall.
She comforted her young husband
Who cried but still stood tall.

Her death not three weeks later
Brought him to the ground.
For such excess bereavement
No comfort could be found.

Baby Margaret without her mother
Could not survive here long.
A third time family gathered
And sang a sadder song.

Beloved bride.  Beloved babe.
He must ride to Tennessee
To tell her parents what they’d lost
Here in Illinois country.

Time passed and much to his surprise
William Felix loved once more
And the sun began to rise.

The Civil War called him from home,
And all three brothers too.
For it seemed right that men must fight
When things were all askew.

Elizabeth had three brothers
Who’d moved up from Tennessee
And like the other cousins, they marched
Back home with Lincoln’s grand army.

Nine Martin cousins
Volunteered to join the fray.
Five came back and three died young
Their hair to never gray.

The war was finally over.
William returned to Louisa Jane.
He smiled to see son Will so big
And horse and farm again.

A three-room house they built with pride
Joys and sorrows came their way.
But he had learned when Elizabeth died,
That neither come to stay.

It was Elizabeth’s father’s turn to die,
Her mother Nancy was alone.
A younger son brought their mother up
To make an Illinois home.

Nancy saw the graves from long ago
Of the daughter still so dear
Of the babe she had yet to rock
And she shed another tear.

Nancy too returned to dust
A long way from Tennessee,
She was glad to join Elizabeth
Here in Illinois country.

I place blooms on these three graves
Where William Felix sobbed in grief,
Their early deaths gave me my life,
My great-grandmother was his second wife.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hanging with our Artsy/Theatrical Family Members

As a child, Jean Claire, our middle daughter, always seemed to have a kitten or a sketch pad in her hands.  Jeannie drew up drawing, and I loved all the pictures she created. Now that she teaches art, I love seeing her students’ work. 

(She had a terrible time learning to ride her little bicycle in the first grade, and a family scrapbook note to her daddy asking him to please help her “roed buy myself” still touches my heart.  Little did we dream that she would be riding all over the Midwest in her adult life.)
Our rural school system had little opportunities for art or speech and theater,, although Jeannie took part in chorus and Junior-Senior plays, and finally the school had an art class when she was a senior.  In addition to her art work, she had a good voice and a talent for acting.  Fortunately, her 4-Club gave her many speaking opportunities, and she was the star at a very young age in their Share-the-Fun skits. 

Fast forward a few years after her marriage to Rick Eiler, and Jeannie dropped out of grad school to became a dedicated  mother. (I declare that her three children are her artistic masterpieces.)  Her first child, Leslie Ellen, set the stage that Jeannie would be required to become a dedicated stage mother. Jeannie has explained that from a toddler on, Leslie would act out anything she wanted to communicate.

Because of her psychology degree, I think Jeannie recognized and was tuned in to her children’s individuality, and  she proceeded to encourage them to develop those strengths. I am afraid I was guilty of offering what opportunities I could to our kids but did so more as a generic thing rather than honing into their individual talents and variations. There were swimming and piano lessons for all and eventually some voice lessons for Katherine and Mary Ellen and a few art lessons for Jeannie.  Gerry and Mary Ellen both loved sports although I was not a very good sports mother.
All four kids participated and profited from school, church, and 4-H activities. I wanted them to have  varied experiences, but failed to provide encouragement for extra effort in any area. I mostly just wanted the kids to have fun, which was not altogether a bad thing.  Having fun is very important. I think I simply assumed the children would have to pick and chose and develop their own interests, and they did, which was similar to the way I was reared.

And Jeannie and Rick did this too, for their kids were all exposed to school and sports activities.  Rick is a runner and a high school tennis and track coach, so he gave them an example of an athlete who found joy in physical activity, and the kids participated. Jeannie, of course, kept them involved in art projects.  But as they excelled in music and theater, by the time they reached high school, that is where their time and energy was used.

Leslie started her acting career at age six in Music Man in Rend Lake College’s summer theater program, and she never stopped until she left home and became a voice major at Belmont in Nashville, TN. Very soon Elijah was old enough to follow in her footsteps and was breaking his leg every opportunity he had.  Both of them often got a lead in their school plays and both of them were involved with singing, piano, and constantly performing.  Just as Gerry and Vickie’s kids gave us many days of happily watching exciting basketball, volleyball, and softball games, Les and Lige brought us great entertainment in the theater.  It was never easy to go over 400 miles to the northern top of the state and we couldn’t go to every performance we wanted to go to, but it was always more than worth it when we managed to make that trip.

When little sister Cecelie came along, she protested being expected to automatically follow her siblings’ activities.  Naturally community friends assumed she would be the star her brother and sister were and were telling her so. But like her parents, I tried to hold my tongue, so she was free to choose her passions.  She chose violin in junior high and made that a priority in her life, and we were proud.  Yet when we drove up for a junior high musical and saw her perform, we knew it would be a waste if she did not continue to use her vocal and drama talents as well.  As a freshman in high school, she is still excelling with her violin, but is not averse to participating on the speech team and is now involved in her first high school musical.  I am very glad.

The reason I am reflecting all this is that finally Leslie is back on stage.  For that too, I am very grateful. She was not able to participate in musical theater at Belmont, and although we certainly appreciated the quality music education she received that landed her a job with a music publishing company and all that she accomplished as a jazz singer, I really wanted her to be able to use her acting and comedienne abilities as well. 

And finally the opportunity came when she discovered the Larry Keeton Theater.  Located in a former school building, this non-profit Senior Center for the Arts has multiple activities going on including this dinner theater in the former gymnasium.  Deciding she needed to become acquainted with this group, Leslie auditioned for their October weekend presentations of Little Women, a new musical based on Louisa May Alcott’s  novel, and she was awarded the role of Jo.
With the Columbus Day holiday available, Jeannie made plans to attend on two weekends and to sandwich in helping her sister Katherine during the days between.  Of course, I wanted to go if at all possible to hear Leslie sing once more on stage. Rick had a conference, but Cecelie would come with her mother on Saturday, and we’d go on to Nashville. Elijah drove down Friday night, and  he could take Cecelie back with him to Bloomington, where Rick would come pick her up on Monday for Tuesday school. Unfortunately, there was van trouble coming down, and  Elijah had to go rescue them while Rick arrived to put the van in the repair shop. Thus, it was Saturday night before Jeannie and Cecelie reached Woodsong.  So seeing the Saturday performance and attending worship the next morning with Leslie and husband Mike was impossible.

In the meantime, Gerald’s only sister Ernestine and her husband Don also arrived Saturday evening in their camper from Rock Springs, WY,  along with their beautiful dog Lacy.  So as it turned out, Jeannie, Cecelie, and Elijah were able to all have supper at Woodsong with their Uncle Don and Aunt Ernie, and Jeannie could spend the evening visiting with them. Brianna and Trent soon came over with Trent’s weekend friends Tim Marten and Brock from back in Waggoner country. They picked up Lige and Cecelie to join Sam in Marion for whatever mischief they could cook up. (I never heard a report on that except I know they visited a spook house.)  Mary Ellen was over for coffee early Sunday morning to visit Don and Ernestine before the Eilers and I left for our delayed trip to Nashville.

I consider Don and Ernestine among the “artsy” relatives. Ernestine has great appreciation for native American art and culture, and as a seamstress, her mother’s artistic talent is duplicated.  A favorite sewn Christmas ornament that she created pleases me each year as it captures her and Don’s essence.  Their backyard is a work of art with rock and fossil artifacts they have collected as they have explored the mountains and wilds of Wyoming. Don, a retired English teacher, is a writer, and Ernestine, a retired librarian, is a prodigious reader. I was disappointed I was unable to be there Sunday afternoon when Gerald’s brother Keith and wife Barbara and our niece Vicki Escue came to the farm.  I also had to miss the Tuesday morning family breakfast at Jonesboro, but I enjoyed every minute I had with them until they went on down to visit the Union County relatives Monday night.  I had assumed they spend at least a week here, but they had some other places they needed to go on their way home to a cat that was missing them.

Jeannie, Lige, Cecelie, and I arrived at 108 Donelson Pike in time for the excellent Sunday dinner before the afternoon musical and enjoyed visiting with the other seatmates at our table.  I was eager for that curtain to go up, and I was not disappointed when it did.  Leslie was a perfect outspoken determined Jo, and I loved her every line and every song.  With all the musical talent available in Nashville, the cast was excellent, the multi-height set  effective, and the March sisters—Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy--and their cohorts made us laugh and cry as well as reviewing some Civil War history for us. Finally we were hugging and congratulating Jo, who joined the other cast and their directors Ginger Newman and Jamie London for an after-session with some high schoolers, who had been invited. They each told a bit about themselves and answered the students’ questions.  Afterward with her GPS to guide her, Jeannie treated us to for dinner with Leslie and Mike, who met us at the restaurant.

Like Leslie, Mike is a musician and he started to Belmont as a guitar major when the intensive use of his arm prevented him from playing for a year.  Graduating Magna Cum Laude in Biblical studies, he had also become a personal trainer and is employed full time in that now. He has written his own e-book and participates in various Strongman events with Leslie cheering him on.  If you want to read more about this grandson-in-law, check out this link:

We did not want to say goodbye to Les and Mike, but it was a long trip home ahead of us made even longer by road construction closing our entry onto 24West to one lane.  Almost an hour we crawled and stopped and started allowing cars to merge when necessary, but Jeannie handled it all with skill.  When we stopped for gas, Elijah took over and she got some deserved rest. We arrived back at Woodsong by 11 and went to bed promptly as Elijah and Cecelie had to leave at 5 a.m. to meet Rick in Urbana.  Jeannie and I didn’t have to get up that early, and we enjoyed another morning visit with Don and Ernestine before we started on our goal of helping Katherine with some projects.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Visiting Our Sports Oriented Family

With nephew DuWayne’s help, we made a good trip to Georgia this past weekend—the first time I’d been away from the Illinois since we made the same quick trip to visit son Gerry’s family last year this time. We arrived later on Friday than we’d hoped.  Our first slow-down was a wreck on the Paducah bridge.  Then an accident on down the highway.  Then a long long crawl through a construction site, and then the Atlanta traffic.  Where were those folks all going at 8 p.m.? 
Finally we found ourselves carrying our bags up steps graced with a novelty bulldog and a baby bulldog dressed in University of Georgia garb and then receiving hugs from Gerry and Vickie.  A little later Tara and Bryan and our three great grandsons arrived back home telling us all about the fall party they’d had a church and the sports events there.  While the boys bounced around batting their balloons they’d received, we had a nice evening visit while the baseball game played on TV.  Plans were made for the busy sports schedule that household had coming the next day. Multiple games are not unusual for them. Such schedules are taken in stride by this two-generation family living together in Watkinsville, next door to Athens, the home of the South’s oldest higher education institution.
Saturday morning Gerald and DuWayne were up and ready to go for early breakfast with Gerry and our oldest grandchild Tara, who both help Lu Harris-Champer coach UGA softball.  At breakfast they could enjoy all the pre-game talk before morning batting practice, and they were also rewarded with an early peek at new recruit Alex Hugo at third base, a sight Gerry assured them would be worthwhile.
I slept late and came down to Tara’s husband Bryan preparing bacon and eggs for Aidan (age 7), Maddux (age 4), and Payton (age 3).  He explained they let our daughter-in-law Vickie sleep in on the weekend since she gets them all to work and school on time during the week.  I stayed to visit with Vickie while Bryan took the boys for Maddux’s soccer photo. 
Soon they were back, and I crawled into the van with Bryan and the boys to go to Maddux’s 11 a.m. soccer game.  Vickie met us there and had lawn chairs waiting by the field bordered with tall stately pines. I was surprised at how disciplined and aware of rules these little guys were, and I admired the gentleness and sensitivity of the fathers volunteering to coach them. Maddux was in and out of play as only three players for each team were on the field at the same time, but he was happy because he got a goal. His dad was most pleased at how well he played defense.
Bryan could not go to the UGS softball game at one because his job was to take Aidan to his football game where Aidan is proud to play for a team called Packers.  (The last time he was at our house, Aidan was wearing his Christmas gift shirt that had Rodgers on the back, and I was confused. Aidan was shocked I had never heard of Aaron Rodgers.)  Bryan said he could drop me off at the softball stadium, and Vickie said I could ride with her in the pickup, but before the soccer game was over, Gerald joined us so he was able to see our sweaty enthusiastic Maddux running up and down the field.  Gerald had been afraid I would have trouble stepping into the pickup without a running board, so I rode with him to the softball game after we stopped for sunscreen and then at Subway for a sandwich.
It was a beautiful hot autumn day, but I sat in comfortable seats under a roof with Vickie, so the sunscreen was not necessary.  The fall schedule only allows for practice games, but the teams know they are important since this is their first opportunity to play together with new teammates and find out their potential for the spring season.   The previous weekend the team had met North Carolina at a high school facility half way between the schools since they are only allowed to travel 300 miles for these practice games.
Now for their first home game, they were playing Florida State, who had come to Athens with many enthusiastic fans to witness 10-inning games on Saturday and Sunday. With that many innings, Morgan Montemayor, Chelsea Wilkinson, and our granddaughter Geri Ann all got to pitch at least three innings both days.  What a pitching staff we have this year!  While we watched, Vickie was keeping their middle daughter, Erin, abreast of what was going on--just as she closely follows Erin's career coaching fall volleyball at a middle school in Texas where she teaches math. Later in the year, Erin will help coach basketball and softball, and I am sure Vickie will know what is happening with these games also.
Ten innings seem to last a long time, but it provided more practice.  (Even when the home team did not need to play the bottom of the l0th, they played it to give batters experience against the Seminoles’ pitcher. Incoming high school players must regain confidence sometimes when they first experience college-level pitching.)  Of course, Gerry and Tara had a post game meeting, and later they had to be at a  clinic that an outstanding St. Louis pitching coach was presenting since he’d come down to see his Florida State daughter play against UGA.
It was a long day for the coaches before they were able to join us at home in the family room. Geri Ann came over while we watched the UGA football team play Vanderbilt and then had a home screening for Tara to see Maddux’s soccer game, which Bryan had photographed for her. Meanwhile the three little guys were actively moving throughout the room using up their last bits of energy and the one unbusted balloon before bedtime. Geri Ann had a paper to write and an exam to study for, so she left earlier than we would have liked.  Student athletes learn early the discipline of limited time to goof off.
Sunday morning I again slept in and woke to sweet childish voices downstairs and Gerald’s note on the dresser telling me to phone him if I needed a ride. I dressed rapidly in my red and black and repacked my suitcase to load in Bryan’s van. As I went down the stairs, there in the foyer below were the three little brothers laughing and wrestling together on a large leather football dummy.  They are able to entertain themselves with or without organized sports. I felt reluctance to leave this house where three little book bags hang on hooks on the wall behind the kitchen table and three little cowboy boots are lined up on the shoe rack in the laundry hall. The boys continued getting their exercise at the softball stadium as they went up and down metal stairs visiting, rescuing balls that came over the fence, and charming us with their sweet smiles.
UGA did very well winning at the softball stadium both days, and Gerry was an affable host when he took us to dinner before we departed for home. All of us are excited about the upcoming spring season now that last year’s freshmen are seasoned and the new recruits are looking good.  I chose to sit by Geri Ann at dinner as we were able to see so little of her away from the field.  She misses her little nephews since she moved into the dorm last year and then this fall is sharing a house with roommates. As we waited for our food, the two youngest boys were happily enthroned on Tara’s lap, and despite the fully scheduled weekend of work, she now looked relaxed and rested snuggling her little ones.  Geri Ann entertained them teaching them a new and complicated song. 
The food was good and the fellowship better, but it was time to start the long trip back to Illinois.  Fortunately, we had DuWayne who took over driving home and safely got us through a heavy rainstorm that made many cars pull off the road.  Afterwards we were rewarded with one of the most spectacular sunsets we had ever seen.  (The next day I read on Facebook that my dear friend Loretta White Ruff came through that rain and marveled at that same gorgeous sunset.  She drove from her now North Carolina home to Carbondale to visit her siblings.  They are rejoicing at her brother Sam’s respite at home from the St. Louis hospital, where he has been battling leukemia.  He will return for a marrow transplant.  I wondered our close our cars were together on that common highway.)
I also learned on Facebook that some time after we left, Gerry had attended Aidan’s baseball practice at his coach’s home with its own field for these kids.  It was Gerry’s first time to attend a practice of Aidan’s coach of two years, and he was very impressed.  I was impressed he had energy to attend one more sports event before the weekend was over.

Friday, October 04, 2013

A Season of Change

As I looked out the living room windows, two scarlet patches of leaves were there in the midst of the green to delight me. A tree that Gerald planted over 11 years ago.    Looking out the kitchen window across the driveway and behind the garden, tall brown corn awaits the combine.  On down the lane, our neighbor’s lush green soybean plot is pleasingly speckled with yellow leaves. Everything is changing for the end of this growing season and  preparing for winter’s rest.
Brian and Mary Ellen are working as fast as they can to gather this summer’s corn crop with  its over-the-top yields.  After last summer’s drought, they are rejoicing over these abundant results from their hard work.  
Mary Ellen has learned to drive the pickup with the trailer behind pulling the golden grains to the market. This is not easy to do, and she was fearful at the prospect.  Yet that did not stop her from jumping in to assist in this way.  Brian put new tires on the trailer so that she did not have to fear a blow-out that might very well topple a wagon. 
I am amazed that she has been able to quickly learn this new skill, but I should not be.  One adjective I have used to describe her since she was a little child is the word “competent.”  Need rice crispy treats?  Little Mary Ellen was good at it.  Need your hair fixed?  Mary Ellen could do it.  Drive a tractor?  Mary Ellen did.  Sew a garment?  She did it all the time.  Make a gift?  Her craft skills were fine.  Need a pianist?  Yes, Mary you out.  Or a soloist?  Sure.  She was always my helper in so many ways.
In college, she shone in ag communication classes and organizations. She even took one semester out to work as a secretary.  After graduation in the middle of a recession, she went right to work as a reporter on our local newspaper, and took and developed photographs as needed leaving the old Marion Daily Republican building in the middle of the night if necessary to meet a deadline. It scared me to death but did not faze her.  But, of course, she wanted a better job with benefits and advancement possibilities.
No agriculture jobs were available with the ag crisis going on, so she gave up looking for the  better job in Illinois, and she decided on a move to Nashville, where she  joined her sister Katherine.  That was a great place for someone who loved music as both those daughters did.  Temporarily she stayed in Katherine’s apartment and took temporary jobs, where I am sure she was appreciated for her competence by that agency.  Soon she was hired as a writer for Tennessee Magazine.  And eventually she was editor.  She was enjoying her success and the travels it provided her and all the fascinating people she met, and then her former boyfriend came back into the picture. 
I had it in my head that the boyfriend might be giving her an engagement ring that Christmas at Pondside Farm, but that didn’t happen.  What did happen is he gave her the ring down in Nashville; and on New Year’s Eve,  she called us to say that they were being married that night in the chapel on Music Row. They had just decided.
Should we drive down?  No, Brian’s mother was much too far away to make it from New York and maybe it would be fairer if we didn’t come either.  His cousin and fiancĂ© were in town from Florida  to offer support, and her girl friends were helping her with flowers and cake.  She had time for a whirlwind shopping trip, and she looked gorgeous in her short two-piece wedding dress in the beautiful photos that they had to share with us.
We had an exciting family celebration  when they came up for the weekend at Pondside Farm.  From there, Brian had to go back to northern Illinois where he was working in his home area, and Jeannie sweetly drove Mary Ellen back to Nashville.  That long-distance marriage did not last long until phone and flight bills made it easy for them to decide they wanted to be together more than on the weekend, so Brian moved down to look for work there.  That did not last long either because Brian was offered a full-time job with DeKalb that he had been seeking, and were soon settled in Iowa.
As Brian advanced in his career, there were moves from Iowa, where their two children were born, to Michigan to Indiana to St. Louis, and finally to their country home five miles south of Waggoner and its population of 250 while Brian worked north of Springfield.  So there were lots of houses for Mary Ellen to decorate and settle in, many schools to help her children adjust to, family medical needs to be attended to, and eventually a successful real estate career that had to  be aborted with the move to Waggoner and then rebuilt in Springfield, where she continued developing her public relations skills and experience, which she always had a talent for. . 
Now with their two children starting their own adult lives, Mary Ellen is back in her home rural community with Brian working in an office in their home and driving into St. Louis when necessary.   For the moment, Mary Ellen is a homemaker and a truck driver, who still likes to help me out carrying in a meat loaf or slow-cooked ribs or sharing egg salad she said they would get tired of.  It is so fun to have her nearby to talk to and to see what new thing she has achieved with the home they have moved into. 
Until harvest is over, she is sharing this busy season with her husband.  Brianna was home for Murray State’s fall break, and she rode the truck with Mary Ellen while they caught up with Brianna’s news about life as a college freshman, What will be next?    More real estate?  She is good at that.  Another move if Brian’s work calls for it?  She’s good at moving too and making friends wherever she goes.  A completely different career?  Whatever it is, I know from past experience that she will be quite competent.