Friday, October 22, 2010

COMMUNING AT THE GRAVESITE OF THE GRANDPARENTS WE NEVER MET...

It was a rainy morning in this October 2010 in far-southeast Virginia, when my sister Mary and I visited the gravesite of grandparents we had never known but often thought about: They were James and Elizabeth, husband and wife, who died many years before we or any of our large batch of siblings had been born.

Their gravesite is located on Fitztown Road in what was once the old and historic Princess Anne County, now a part of the large independent city of Virginia Beach. Their stones were among the earliest in the small family emetery, located on property that was once the homestead of our grandparents.

Much of it now is designated as wildlife refuge, and my mother loved that land and would be happy to know that.
RMM... Oct. 2010

ODE TO A GRANDFATHER (GRANDPARENTS) NEVER MET

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I first wrote this piece as my  Fathers Day column for a local newspaper in 2008. I had not yet had the opportunity to visit the grave of my grandparents on the property that had been their Southeast Virginia homestead.
But in this October of 2010, my sister and I did visit that gravesite together.
It inspired me to share this column once again, and I dedicate it to my Virginia grandparents and to my sister and her family who made such grand arrangements for a visit to the area by my husband and myself.     RMM
 
Rose's ode to a father of another generation:
 
A DECADE AGO for Father's Day, I wrote about my paternal grandfather whose given name was Benjamin.  I had never met him; he died when my father was a teenager. But after all the years since his death in 1918, longtime readers of this column had begun to contribute information about him, and I had not previously known these things.
 
He was a native of the town in which I was born and still live. In recent years, I discovered that my father's father had a history with the city's water plant; he was the first non-Irish to sign the rolls of membership with the Knights of Columbus in our town; he was active in his community and his church; he was written of with great affection in the newspaper when he died in the Great Influenza epidemic in 1918, etc... 
 
In sharing him with you, I ended with the written wish that, "Someday, somehow, I hope my mother's father will also reach out from the past and say hello to me." In recent months, that has been happening. 
 
This given name of my mother's father was James, but he died so many years before my mother gave birth to me, I didn't know even that name. What little I did know was through my mother's small stories. He was a farmer in Creeds, Princess Anne County, Virginia. His property had experienced floods (perhaps in hurricanes) and been burned by wildfires. He was a practicing Christian, and she was the first of his children to "marry a Yankee and move to the north." (What would he have thought of that? He didn't live to see my mother married, but he might have enjoyed knowing that his southern Christian hymns became the lullabies of my childhood).
 
Through Mom, I knew he had a sense of fun, and a tenderness and protectiveness toward his family. I knew he worked hard all his life and had been widowed twice. I knew in 1923, when Mom was just 14, he had come into the house and collapsed and died on the spot. His wife died a few months later.
 
I had little hope of learning more, partly because his history had taken place so far away from here; and partly because my interest in him hadn't peaked until most people who might have known about him had passed away. Then my sister, who was stationed with the Navy in Virginia, acquired a photo bearing his name and the words "age 66." It was quite by happenstance, and the donor had said she had no other information to accompany that photograph. She only knew she was his great-great granddaughter and her grandmother's sister had been our mother.
 
I grinned when I saw the photo; he had a Buddy Ebsen-Jeb Clampett look. Then I looked again and thought about the person Mom had known, and I loved his look. 
 
I later learned that my grandfather's own parents were both born in England in the 1820s. They married there, apparently, and later settled on family land-grant property in southeast Virginia, in America, and raised at least five children there, including my grandfather.
 
I WONDERED, how could they or my grandfather have loved this land that brought such crushing work and regularly threatened them with wildfire and flood and other hardship? Then recently a Princess Anne County historian described for me the land my grandfather and his family seemed to love, and I began to understand.
 
It was partly farmland that had attracted people to this place, clear back to the early English settlers living on their land grants from the mother country, she said. The soil was tillable on the ridges; wildlife for food was plentiful along the waterways that threaded through the tidal and deepwater marshes; building materials were there for the taking, in stands of tupelo, bald cypress, black gum, red maple, hickory and several types of oak. Providing good spots for the settlers' mills were the many little creeks which wound their way to bay and seashore, where seafood was there for the catching too.
 
When the land was his, my grandfather and his family would canoe amid the swamp land forests, accompanied by an orchestra of birdsong above an understory of persimmon, sweet pepper bush, swamp azaleas and southern arrowheads...
 
Many decades later than that, I would see a family photograph taken by my mother on the property, in a season when the water stood among the cypress trees whose roots grew upward from the moisture into elongated "knees." Those knees, and the land and water all around them, glowed mysteriously from the light that filtered through the canopies of leaves and Spanish moss. (My family lost track of the photograph after our mother's death, but I still have the old camera with which she captured that scene).
 
Now that land, appropriately, is part of a large patchwork of wildlife refuges, state parks, national parks. "Princess Anne County itself no longer exists; it is extinct," the historian told me. "Most of its communities were absorbed into the independent city of Virginia Beach... As for Creeds, the community around your grandfather's land, you'd be hard pressed to find it listed anywhere."
 
MY GRANDFATHER'S NAME exists in genealogies and public records, and as his personal trivia gradually makes itself known to me, he is materializing. One late-1800s census, for instance, shows him as the owner of more than 200 acres.
 
Holding further concrete evidence of his family in Princess Anne is the still-existent family cemetery, deeded long ago to the family lineage by a daughter of my grandfather. Unlike many private burial grounds established long ago, it is still well-kept. It's also still in active use for descendant kin.
 
Knowing my grandather was a tender, protective husband and father, great sadness lies for me in the testimony of that burial ground. In a "virtual tour" by website, the first gravestone I encountered was for his wife Bainey C.(maiden name unknown by me). She was my grandfather's second wife when they married, and three years later, she and her unnamed first-born son died in childbirth and were buried together. I still am haunted by that stone.
 
In a grave near Bainey and her son is that of Jane (maiden name unknown), who was my grandfather's first wife. She bore him two daughters and then died sometime after that, possibly from childbirth complications so common to that era.
 
A double tombstone marks the graves of James and his third and final wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was 25 years old, nearly two decades younger than James, when she married him. For the good fortune of my grandfather and his family, she turned out to be the sort of woman capable of incorporating the daughters of his first wife so lovingly among the children born to Elizabeth and James, the family would forever seem unable (or unwilling) to declare which were half-sisters. ("We were ALL sisters. Together. As one," my own mother would declare).
 
A tombstone in the family plot near that of Elizabeth and James seems to indicate Elizabeth gave birth a year after their marriage. The baby, named Davana, died at the age of one. Elizabeth, however, went on to deliver a large and healthy family that was raised by both of them to be close and very caring to one another.
 
WITH THE DEATHS of James and Elizabeth occuring close together, their eldest son knew what to do. He willingly and lovingly stepped in to assume responsibility for my mother and her younger sister, who were still growing up. My mother always made me carefully aware of that, and in a sense I see him as a grandfather too. 

AFTER-NOTES:

*We also spent some happy time with a cousin, Rachel and her daughter Donna and family. I have gotten to know Rachel and Donna through facebook, and they are exactly like I imagined they would be. We felt so comfortable together, and why not? We are family, and that is truly how we feel about each other now.


*I was surprised to find the land today no longer seems to feature oaks and spanish moss along the waterways. But these mystery-shrouded places through which my mother often canoed will exist forever in my mind.

R.A.T. (Rose About Town) receives comments at randrmoore@gmail.com

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ZAC BROWN BAND A FAVORITE WITH FALLEN MARINE

The favorite band and favorite song of the fallen U.S. Marine who is the topic in the posting below was: Zac Brown Band and their "Chicken Fried."

Last October when he was laid to rest, "Chicken Fried" played all over our county, with vehicle windows down and volume up.

For the sad anniversary of the death of Lance Corporal David Raymind Baker, "Chicken Fried" is once again heard throughout our area. Some of us have wondered aloud, what would the Zac Brown Band think if they knew this?

Rest in Peace, Lance Cpl. Baker.

(Rose About Town accepts your comments to randrmoore@gmail.com)

REMEMBERING THE LOSS OF A YOUNG MARINE WHO GREW UP IN OUR COMMUNITY

THE ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN MY GAZETTE NEWSPAPERS COLUMN IN 2009, AND THE MEMORY OF THAT DAY, WHEN HIS FUNERAL PASSED THROUGH HIS HOME TOWN IN LAKE COUNTY, OHIO, STILL MOVES ME. EACH YEAR IN OCTOBER, I RE-POST THIS IN DAVID BAKER'S MEMORY. MAY WE ALWAYS REMEMBER THE SACRIFICES OF PEOPLE LIKE DAVID RAYMOND BAKER, USMC, AND THE SACRIFICES OF THE FAMILIES AS WELL. 


   This day is All Saint's Eve, Oct. 31 2009. My husband Bob and I are here on Riverside Drive in Painesville Township, awaiting the funeral procession of a native son---22-year-old local Marine Lance Cpl. David Raymond Baker.
   Baker was killed Oct. 20, 2009, while leading a patrol in the volatile Helmand province in the southern regions of Afghanistan. He has been carried home for local services, and soon he will be on the move again, to lie at rest among the heroes at Arlington National Cemetery.
   Everybody can't be everywhere at once, and the funeral procession from an Eastlake funeral home will slowly wind itself across so many places before it passes here, on its way to services at Zion Lutheran Church in Painesville.
   My husband and I have chosen to station ourselves along this road across from the school in which young Baker spent so many of his days of growing up. I am here not as a reporter, but to support him and his family; to stand witness to his sacrifice and to show respect to him.
   We hear from people, as they stop to station themselves beside us, that miles of freeways all along the route are lined with people holding flags, and some have found a way to hoist huge flags above the highway.  
   Some people say the nearby city of Painesville, where the services are being held, is all but shut down by the respectful crowds who've lined the highways and side streets with their flags and hands on hearts.
   All along Walnut Street as we have driven here, and even outside the procession routes, we have seen the flags and signs set up in Baker's honor. Here on Riverside Drive, homeowners have begun to come outside, to stand like sentinels in front of their houses; others have begun to walk in from the side streets.
   We have arrived quite early, and although the rain has almost stopped, the dampness and the darkness hold command. Despite the weather and the early hour, we are amazed how many people have arrived before us.
   Some, like us, have passed a railroad bridge abutment up the road from the high school. That concrete abutment, on a bank above the roadside near the Grand River, has always been a site for mischief, in the form of graffiti applied by graduating Riverside High School seniors. This time the painting seems appropriate and has been installed as carefully as youthful spirits will allow. In red, white and blue, the words stand out in Baker's honor.
   We find a place to park, and a clutch of flags is handed to us by an old war veteran, to pass along to those who have no flags. The numbers build up steadily on both sides of the road. Old people, young people, all ages in between... families and friends... people alone or in small groups, arriving with their flags, in ATVs, jeeps, cars, trucks, bicycles and on foot...  All will stand and quietly wait, showing no impatience...
   Many, like my husband and myself, are strangers to the young Marine. Most declare a common purpose: "to honor and support him and his family."
   It doesn't seem this mostly silent congregation has been organized by a group or is politically motivated; it seems instead they have arrived by individual volition; and some by sudden impulse. We scan our eyes in both directions along the roadside and soon we cannot see the beginning or the end of these long lines. Cars of people continuously come in for the purpose that has drawn us here, and soon they begin to seem like a procession in themselves.
   This somber mission matches well the somber nature of the weather. The mood is quiet and subdued, as if we've all lost one of our own. And in a way we have.
   As the time grows closer, the clouds droop heavily; the dark sky lowers by the minute, and a chilled wind sets the flags a-flutter. We see the flashing lights and motorcycle escorts that signal the young Marine's arrival. As they pass, the sky begins to shed more sprinkles until it's hard to tell the raindrops from the tears on people's faces.
   From a grove beside me, a sudden gust of wind strips sharp-edged maple leaves from off the trees, and they pass before my eyes like golden stars---not unlike the symbols of the wartime Gold Star Mothers, an organization for mothers who have lost sons and daughters in service to their county.
   And I, a mother of three sons, am reminded sadly once again, this fallen hero, the young Marine Lance Cpl. David Raymond Baker, was also someone's son.

ATTACHED photo by Rose Moore
"A sign in front of Riverside High School honors Lance Cpl. David R. Baker as his funeral procession passes through out community."
 
(Rose About Town accepts your comments at randrmoore@gmail.com)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

HALLOWEEN GOTHIC: BOB & ROSE IN COSTUME?

 

BOO TO YOU FROM HALLOWEENS PAST...

 

A BEWITCHED ROSE-ABOUT-TOWN LOOKS BACK ON OLD HALLOWEENS

As a youngster, I loved Halloween--not for candy, but for costumes. Briefly in my little world, I could walk around as someone else--like a child playing dress-up with bits and pieces from an attic trunk.

The search through bureaus, trunks and closets was a joyful part of it. Sometimes the outcomes were surprising.

The first costume I remember was a grown-up's cast-off gown. My mother nipped and tucked, and slashed the hem to suit my height (or lack of it), and wrapped a brilliant scarf around my waist. She draped me with a fur-piece from her single life, and presto! I was transformed into a 1930s movie star!

Beneath the neighbors' porch lights, I got a better look and saw the vintage fur was made of little foxes, with eyes and little teeth and paws, each pelt clinging to the next. I was terrified!

My mother stood protectively behind us in the shadows. I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I feigned illness. I couldn't wait to get back home and peel off those scary little animals. I soon became more independent in my costume choices.

When I was eight or so, I loved the smiling Aunt Jemima on the pancake mix and syrup. For Halloween that year, I decided she was who I'd be. I meant no harm; Aunt Jemima was to me a warm and friendly presence.

I tied a big red handkerchief around my head and donned a dress and my mother's apron, and then I sneaked down to the big coal furnace and smeared my face and neck with coal soot--an addition apparently unnoticed by my busy mother as I went out the door with my crowd of siblings. Mom wasn't happy with me when I returned that night from trick-or-treating. She refused to help me clean my face and ears and hairline, though for a week it seemed impossible to remove the soot from underneath my fingernails. "That's your punishment for disrespect," my mother told me. Even at my tender age, it was clear to me she felt I was disrespecting an entire race of people different from ourselves.

One year, Buster Keaton comedies from the silent movie days were a costume inspiration for me; no one recalled those silent movies I had read about, and I was mistaken for a bum!

Another year I dressed as Moonbeam McSwine, bad girl from Li'l Abner comics. That costume was a flop, because my mother saw the scanty outfit and promptly censored it into something else entirely.

In Halloweens of my teens and slightly beyond, I trick-or-treated or went to costume parties as a flower child, an Appalachian apple seller, a garbage man, a mail man, a housewife, a mechanic, a "Babushka Woman", a schoolmarm, a beatnik, a pioneer... With painted stripes on white pajamas, I was even once a jailbird!

My props included mops, sun bonnets, baseball caps, berets, pails, curlers, pillows, grease, wrenches, bubble-gum, blacked-out teeth, tambourines, bongo drums ...

Sometimes I wasn't really sure myself who I was meant to be; improvisation was the point and half the fun. As a teen, I showed up at a costume party as MYSELF, and won the prize for most original; the meaning of that wasn't really clear to me.

Similar to that was the Halloween that fell on the eve of my eldest child's birth, when I still felt well enough to escort young nieces and a nephew trick-or-treating. One homeowner spotted me behind the kids and urged, "Come forward, little pregnant mommy; what a costume!"

In modem Halloweens, trick-or-treat has rapidly faded, and grown-up costume parties have all but disappeared. Ten years ago, however, a relative-by-marriage delightfully revived the costume party for a lucky few of us, with a costume gathering in her family's cozy barn. Eureka!

That year I didn't think about my costume until an hour before party-time, when I dug into my closet, threw on a Russian shawl I'd never found excuse to wear, stuck colorful large hoops into my earlobes, grabbed a decorative straw chapeau from the hall tree, and went as "Gypsy Rose." I was escorted by my husband who appeared before me as an aging tie-dyed hippie whose crew-cut silver hair didn't look like any 60s hippie anyone of us had ever seen.

A Hunter's Moon was brilliant in that Indian Summer night. There was a campfire in the neighborhood, and some of us pretended we were smelling burning leaves, an aroma that has been against the law for many years.

For a little while that evening, we all were laughing kids again; and none the worse for it!

(Rose About Town can be reached these days at randrmoore@gmail.com. Though Rose may be up in the air on a broom this Halloween, feel free to leave a comment at that gmail address).


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

OCTOBER: A GOOD TIME TO HAVE YOUR HEAD IN THE CLOUDS...

 

 

TAKE US HOME, COUNTRY ROADS...

It's a blue-sky afternoon as we approach our deep and winding valley, after lunch on "Spaghetti Day" at our favorite little diner in the country.
Yesterday, when we returned from the south, all we could see was rain; and that's what we saw when we awoke this morning.
Soon, however, the colors still remaining in our fading country autumn re-asserted themselves.

A CARPET LAID BY TREES....

When we returned here yesterday from our travels, we could see our trees were mostly bare. They had laid a plush carpet of leaves on the lawns.
Tomorrow, we knew, would be a day of outdoor work...

BEAVERS' PROGRESS...

In the gloom of dusk on our first day back here in our valley, we looked down toward the creek that runs through our property, and we could see the beavers had added yet another story to their dam.
Click onto and enlarge the photo, and I think you can see that dam.
DAM(N)!!!..