Dragonfly Tidings

10.17.13 ~ Harwich Center, Massachusetts

…dragonfly magic…

On our mother’s birthday, October 17th, my sister Beverly and I went early to the cemetery in Harwich for some time alone with our parents and our memories, bringing along Papa’s ashes in a nature-inspired wooden casket.  After we placed some flowers around the gravestones of our parents and grandparents, a small red dragonfly landed on our parents’ stone.  Its presence was a special gift…

10.17.13 ~ Harwich Center, Massachusetts

…more dragonfly magic…

A little later, as we were remembering our grandparents, the dragonfly flew over to perch on their gravestone, too, just above the “E” in White.  And there was another special moment after the rest of the family started arriving.  A small red dragonfly landed on my brother-in-law’s shoulder and stayed there for a long while.  John was the one who was Papa’s primary caregiver for all these years, and it was good to have him appreciated and acknowledged in this meaningful way.  I like to think it was the same dragonfly, but can’t know for sure…

10.17.13 ~ Harwich Center, Massachusetts

When we had all gathered around in a circle, Tim read my little essay about my father – I knew I couldn’t read it without sobbing – and then my cousin Matthew read messages from his father (my uncle) and his sister (my cousin).  And then everyone began sharing their own memories.  After that, Beverly lowered the casket full of Papa’s ashes deep into the ground, and then most of us took turns shoveling the earth back over him.  It was a beautiful autumn day and our little ceremony felt so natural and intimate.

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…returned to the earth…

Our parents are together now.  The next thing I knew, everyone – there were 14 of us – wanted to go to another cemetery in Dennis, to see where our great-grandparents and two generations before them lie buried.  (Swan Lake Cemetery)  It was quite something to show my granddaughter the graves of her 5th-great-grandparents, who were immigrants from Norway and Ireland, and tell her how they met here in America and raised their family on Cape Cod, and how he was a sea-captain…

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…favorite things, Papa was very fond of this baby lynx picture in his last years,
we kept it hanging on the wall in his bedroom…

After that little expedition we all made our way over to Yarmouth to eat at the Hearth ‘n’ Kettle, a favorite restaurant of the family.  We toasted those who came before us with Cape Codders (vodka, cranberry juice, lime wedge) and enjoyed a delicious leisurely dinner.  And then we returned to our rented house and had my parents’ favorite birthday cakes as we gathered around the spacious dining room table – lemon jello cake in honor of my mother and chocolate butter-cream in honor of my father.

10.17.13 ~ Harwich, Massachusetts

In the evening we piled into the living room and watched a football game while shelling and munching on peanuts, and drinking Papa’s favorite beer.  It was my kids’ idea – they have fond memories of shelling peanuts with their Grandpa while he was watching football on TV.  It was good to be with family - sharing memories together – some of us had not seen each other in a very long time.

Whenever we were at a funeral, for people or pets, ever since I was a little girl, my father always advised us to remember the good times.  And so we did.

Love, Bicycles & Canoes

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These are my maternal grandparents and I had never seen these pictures before Saturday.  While Tim & I were out shopping, getting ready for our daughter’s wedding, my cousin was scanning and sending some pictures he found of our grandparents in their younger years.  Only today did I notice that June 8, Saturday, was their birthday.  Thank you so much, Matthew, for remembering!

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Grandfather was born June 8, 1905, and Grandmother was born June 8, 1906.  They were married 30 November 1929.  I never knew my grandfather smoked a pipe – but I always knew he was a perfect gentleman!  The dog was their beloved pet, Honey.

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Above are my grandparents and their two children, my mother and my uncle.

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It’s hard to make them out, but my grandparents and uncle are sitting on the stone wall and my mother is in the canoe.  I see her passion for canoeing started in her childhood. She took us canoeing often when my sister and I were children.  I’m in a very sentimental, wistful, thoughtful mood this week – five days before the wedding!

humble genealogist…

FerdinandGeorgWaldmüller.peasant“Young Peasant Woman with Three Children at the Window”
by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller

I don’t mean to belittle the accomplishments of those whose names we memorize for tests and whose statues we admire.  I just think it’s time to make a little room for the rest of our ancestors – and I’m happy to report that this is already happening.  You never had to be famous, rich, or educated to leave a trace, but unless you were, you tended to be overlooked.  But now, that’s all beginning to change, and at the vanguard of this democratization of history is the humble genealogist.
~ Megan Smolenyak
(Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing)

Mothers Day

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…image by Hanneke Koop, used with permission…

I miss thee, my Mother!  Thy image is still
The deepest impress’d on my heart,
And the tablet so faithful in death must be chill
Ere a line of that image depart.
Thou wert torn from my side when I treasured thee most -
When my reason could measure thy worth;
When I knew but too well that the idol I’d lost
Could be never replaced upon earth.
~ Eliza Cook
(Melaia & Other Poems)

Happy Christmas!

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My new reindeer ornament!

We will be doing a lot of celebrating this holiday season, planning to enjoy family and five different Christmas trees, including our own. Tim has a vacation this year so we’re off to visit our children and siblings soon. But first we had our winter solstice gathering here, enjoying candlelight dining, music and good conversation with dear friends on the longest night of the year.

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On Saturday Tim & I and Dima & Larisa went to celebrate with my sister, brother-in-law, aunt and father at their little house in the Connecticut woods. My sister has been dreaming of a boxwood Christmas tree and this turned out to be the year she found one! Isn’t it pretty? So simple and sweet. I think she may be planning to plant it outside in the spring.

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The ancient ones were delighted to see Larisa and seemed to be enjoying the festivities, but we didn’t stay too long because they do tire out from all the bustling excitement of having company. The four of them will be having a quiet Christmas dinner on the 25th. We’ll be heading for New York, Virginia and Georgia.

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Auntie and Larisa

I brought Dad some clementines and fondly watched him enjoy peeling and eating one. Sometimes I hesitate to share pictures of him because part of me wants to remember him the way he looked when I was a child…

12.22.12.dadAfter my mother died Dad and I used to drive up to Cape Cod to visit her parents, my beloved grandparents. He always brought along a little supply of fruit. As I was the driver, he would cut the fruit into bite size pieces with his pocket knife and share them with me, popping mine into my mouth so I wouldn’t have to take my hands off the steering wheel.

Most of the time Larisa was with us, riding in the back seat, and sometimes Auntie would come, too. One summer day when we were using the air conditioning in the car, Larisa had brought some chocolate with her. We stopped at a rest area to use the facilities and she left her chocolate in the car. When we returned to the car she was very disappointed to find her chocolate melted into a gooey puddle. But not to worry! Grandpa took that glob of chocolate and held it out close to the air conditioning vent in the dashboard for many miles until the chocolate had hardened up again. If his arm got tired he never mentioned it. That’s grandfather love for you!

We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot at which, year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous circle. Many of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then, have ceased to beat; many of the looks that shone so brightly then, have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped, have grown cold; the eyes we sought, have hid their lustre in the grave; and yet the old house, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest, the laugh, the most minute and trivial circumstances connected with those happy meetings, crowd upon our mind at each recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had been but yesterday! Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home!
~ Charles Dickens
(The Pickwick Papers)

incentive to vote…

“Montreal Star” political cartoon by Arthur G. Racey

We are not just republicans or democrats, liberals or conservatives, moderates or extremists who have trouble finding or defining community.  We are part of the great communion that embraces the living, the dead, and all who will come after us.  Our ancestors – we share them if we go back far enough – have been rogues and heroes, courageous and cowardly, sung and unsung, hardworking and indolent, cruel and kind, mistaken and visionary.  Ancestors are not just our blood kin, but the people whose beliefs, ideas, and creations have shaped us.  Whether we know their names or not, they live in us as we will live in those who come after us, whether or not we have biological children.

As part of the preparation for voting – and as incentive to vote – we might do well to contemplate this communion, invoke the wisdom of the ancestors to help us keep faith with the descendants.

~ Elizabeth Cunningham
(Tikkun Daily, October 26, 2010)

ancestor, self, descendant…

“Autumn Trees – Chestnut Tree” by Georgia O’Keeffe

The ancestral viewpoint is formative to the way society subtly changes over the generations.  It helps codify the protocols, procedures, and customs that the present establishment upholds; it also forms a norm against which reactionary and reforming spirits can rebel.  These two notions of conformity and rebellion, like two intertwining shoots about a sapling, define the growth of the trunk.  The influence of our descendants is a more subtle one.  We need inheritors to guard what we have established, but we cannot entirely dictate and mold them to our desires.  Our descendants will modify and change what we leave them.  The continuity of society is woven from many generational needs and influences.  Only when we stand at the hub of time, as ancestor, self, and descendant concurrently, do we become fully aware of the contract that our partnership involves.
~ Caitlín Matthews
(The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year)