memories are…

6.21.08.ptwn

…June 2008, doorknob, Provincetown house…

For memories are always impure, joined together in another order – doubly exposed, impossible to separate, part of a different kind of logic and a confused chronology which is the hallmark of memory.
~ Lars Saabye Christensen
(The Half Brother: A Novel)

It’s surprising how much of memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.
~ Barbara Kingsolver
(Animal Dreams)

a wooden way…

Ural Owl by Sven Začek/National Geographic

ural owl by Sven Začek, Estonia

After great pain, a formal feeling comes -
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs -
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round -
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought -
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone -

This is the Hour of Lead -
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow -
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go -

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #372)

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.

10.17.13.9284

…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.

When You Cross the Bridge

2001-Dadscanned

As many of you already know, my father died peacefully at home, in his sleep, on September 19.  I’m still in a daze and it still seems like a dream.  When I finally got to bed after he died, I started thinking it would be nice to have a memorial for him on my mother’s birthday, October 17, at the cemetery where his ashes will be buried next to hers.  The next morning my sister called me and said she hoped I would like her idea, and her idea turned out to be the exact same idea that I had.  So it was settled.

2001-Dad2scanned

When we were little we always went to visit our beloved grandparents on Cape Cod for our mother’s birthday.  So we are both looking forward to one last trip up there with Papa, bringing his ashes in a beautiful biodegradable wooden box my sister found for him.  The gravedigger will have the earth ready for him before we arrive and we will all stand in a circle and say whatever we want to say before we lay him to rest.  I’ve never planned a funeral or memorial before, and I’ve never been an executrix before, either.  For some reason the planning is comforting.

2001-Dad3scanned

We’re renting a large house nearby.  Even though it was closed for the season the owner has kindly opened it up for this special occasion.  When the owner sent an email to confirm the days, he wrote, “We should be ready for you to check in anytime after 1:00, but give us a call when you cross the bridge and we will meet you at the house.”  When I read this it made me cry.  All Cape Codders and all of us who love the Cape know what “when you cross the bridge” means.  And the funny thing is there are two bridges crossing the Cape Cod Canal, and either one will do.

1953-BATedscanned

…1953, Bachelor of Arts in Bacteriology…

The first three pictures were taken by me in 2001.  In 2000 my father fell and crushed several vertebrae.  He was in the hospital for a while and needed to use his cane afterwards.  Papa had made a trail meandering through the woods on his property and he maintained it while taking his daily walks.  Walking through the woods with him countless times is a memory I will always treasure.  He would use his cane as a pointer as he identified various nuts, leaves, wildflowers or the entrance to an animal’s den.  Or he would point it up into the tree canopy when he heard a familiar bird call.  The cane was carved and used by his father and now I have it for safekeeping.

1983-Easterscanned

…Easter, 1983, my parents…

Sadly, in 2007 Papa fell again, this time breaking his femur and his pelvis.  He never made a good recovery from that unfortunate accident.  There were no more walks in the woods. He was mostly in a wheelchair after that and suffered from dementia.  The last six years have been so difficult for all of us, but especially for him.  When I found these pictures taken at an earlier, happier time, they helped me to overlay the recent memories with more pleasant ones.

1985-Septemberscanned

…Labor Day, 1985, my parents with three of my aunts…

Many thanks to our Aunt Em, who came up to visit us from Maryland last weekend, and to visit Aunt Lil, too, who seems to be doing as well as can be expected in the nursing home. Aunt Em brought and gave us some of her pictures – the last three are from her.

cease to recollect…

"Houses of Squam Light, Gloucester" by Edward Hopper (1882-1967) American Realist Painter & Printmaker

“Houses of Squam Light, Gloucester” by Edward Hopper

The Props assist the House
Until the House is built
And then the Props withdraw
And adequate, erect,
The House support itself
And cease to recollect
The Augur and the Carpenter -
Just such a retrospect
Hath the perfected Life -
A Past of Plank and Nail
And slowness – then the scaffolds drop
Affirming it a Soul -
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson)

never find again…

“In the Boat” by Konstantin Korovin (1861-1939) Russian Impressionist Painter

“In the Boat” by Konstantin Korovin

I suppose every old scholar has had the experience of reading something in a book which was significant to him, but which he could never find again.  Sure he is that he read it there; but no one else ever read it, nor can he find it again, though he buy the book, and ransack every page.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Love, Bicycles & Canoes

JohnEmmaWhite2

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!

EmmaHoneyJohn2

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.

WhiteFamily

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

JohnBettycanoe2

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!