My 4th-great-grandfather, Thomas Freeman, son of John and Abigail (Hopkins) Freeman, was born 6 April 1787 in Eastham (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died 17 January 1864 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts. He married in Harwich, December 1810, Roxanna Cash, who was born there 30 November 1789, and died there 28 January 1863, daughter of Samuel and Patience (Phillips) Cash.
Thomas was a carpenter and Roxanna was a homemaker. The 1850 census shows them living with their 39-year-old daughter, Rosilla, and 10-year-old grandson, Gideon H. Freeman, and Joshua and Hannah Cahoon, both age 40. The 1860 census shows Thomas & Roxanna living with their 19-year-old grandson, Gideon. Thomas & Roxanna lie buried together in the First Congregational Church Cemetery in Harwich.
THOMAS FREEMAN Died Jan. 17, 1864, Aged 77 years. He was of the sixth generation from Stephen Hopkin, one of the Pilgrims who came over in the May Flower to Ply- mouth A.D. 1620
ROXANNA His wife Died Jan. 28, 1863, Aged 73 yr’s. 2 mo’s. Peaceful be thy rest, dear Mother All thy trials here are o’er Weary days and nights of anguish Never shall afflict thee more.
Roxanna & Thomas were the parents of four children:
1. Rosilla Hopkins Freeman, born 21 November 1811 in Harwich, and died there 10 February 1855. Rosilla is buried in the First Congregational Church Cemetery near her parents.
Miss ROSILLA FREEMAN DIED Feb. 10, 1855, Æ 43 Years. Dearest sister, thou hast left us. Here thy loss we deeply feel. But ’tis God that hath (illegible) us. He can all our sorrows heal.
2. Warren Freeman (my 3rd-great-grandfather), born 25 July 1814 in Harwich, and died there 16 September 1894. He married (as his first wife) in December 1836, his double fourth cousin, Priscilla E. Long, who was born 22 October 1817 and died 7 December 1846 in Harwich, daughter of Isaac and Esther (Ellis) Long. Warren & Priscilla were the parents of two children. Warren married (as his second wife) 12 June 1848 in Harwich, another double fourth cousin, Elisabeth Weekes, who was born 6 November 1822 in Harwich, and died there 18 September 1908, daughter of Isaac and Elisabeth (Allen) Weekes. Warren & Elisabeth were the parents of five children.
3. Sanford Freeman, born 8 October 1818 in Harwich, died there 6 October 1907. He married (as his first wife) 3 May 1840 in Harwich, Mehitable S. Baker, who was born 13 August 1823 in Harwich, and died there 14 December 1842, daughter of Joseph and Catherine (—) Baker. Sanford & Mehitable were the parents of two sons. Sanford married (as his second wife) 21 October 1847 in Harwich, Sarah Small, who was born 21 January 1827 in Harwich, and died there in 1921, daughter of Thomas Crowell and Sally (Allen) Small.
4. Zeruiah Cash Freeman, born 14 June 1825 in Harwich, died there 11 September 1833, age 8. Zeruiah is buried in the First Congregational Church Cemetery. I see a picture of her gravestone on the Find A Grave website, but I haven’t located it myself yet.
My 6th-great-grandfather seems to have been another deeply pious ancestor, and again, his wife Phebe, my 6th-great-grandmother, was not mentioned at all in the sketch I found about him. Researching my family history keeps driving this point home to me, women were certainly taken for granted in years gone by. Ammiel & Phebe lie buried in Island Pond Cemetery in Harwich.
Apparently Ammiel ‘made salt from sea water’ in addition to supporting his family by farming.
Salt making was an important industry due to the close connection of salt with fishing. The first salt produced on Cape Cod was made by evaporating sea water placed in large boilers over fire. This was the process during the Revolutionary War, but the quantity obtained was not very large and used a great deal of wood for the constant fires. The salt works that were built after the war consisted of large wooden “vats” for solar evaporation of sea water. Each vat could be entirely covered by a movable hipped-roof as protection from dews and rains.
~ Bourne Historical Society website
Dea. Ammiel Weekes, son of George and Deborah (Wing) Weekes, was born 10 April 1720 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died 12 February 1804. He married 2 March 1743 in Harwich, Phebe Small, who was born 12 October 1717 in Harwich, and died there 21 April 1793, daughter of Jonathan and Damaris (Winslow) Small.
The following is from Genealogy of the Family of George Weekes of Dorchester, Mass. 1635-1650, by Robert D. Weeks, published in 1885:
[Ammiel] was a farmer; also made salt from sea water. He was a deacon in the church, and an eminently conscientious man: at one time he resigned the office of constable, rather than collect taxes for the support of the gospel. He was strict in his regard for the Sabbath; and in order to commence its observance betimes on Saturday evening, (as is still nominally the custom in some parts of New England,) ‘every Saturday afternoon, while the sun was yet high, he would come in from his work, wash, shave, take his frugal supper of bread and milk, and sit down to the reading of his Bible.’
It is related of [his son Ebenezer],– as showing [Ebenezer’s] mechanical genius, and as illustrating the strictness of the views then prevalent in regard to the Sabbath,– that at a house where he, then a mere boy, stopped with his father to rest, on their seven miles walk to ‘meeting,’ on the ‘North side,’ [Ebenezer] so carefully examined a wooden spoon, that he was able, with his father’s tools, to produce a facsimile on Monday; and his father [Ammiel], while expressing admiration of his work, reproved him for breaking the Sabbath by his study of the model on the Lord’s day.
Ammiel & Phebe were the parents of six children:
1. Isaac Weekes (my 5th-great-grandfather), born 11 April 1747 in Harwich, died 12 July 1792. He married in Harwich, 25 December 1773, Thankful Nickerson, who was born there 17 November 1751, and died in 1838. Isaac & Thankful were the parents of four children.
2. Phebe Weekes, born 6 June 1749 in Harwich, died 3 February 1819.
3. Deborah Weekes, born 18 December 1751 in Harwich, died 23 October 1796. She married in Harwich, 16 March 1771, Seth Nickerson, who was born there 11 January 1751, and died there 3 April 1784. Deborah & Seth were the parents of five children.
4. Ammiel Weekes, born 11 January 1754 in Harwich, died there 7 October 1787. He married in Harwich, 22 July 1775, Mehitable Nickerson, who was born there 20 September 1757, and died 10 November 1822, daughter of Joshua and Thankful (Eldridge) Nickerson (my 6th-great-grandparents). Ammiel & Mehitable were the parents of four children.
5. Capt. Ebenezer Weekes, born 11 September 1755 in Harwich, died there 8 May 1815. He married (as his first wife) in Harwich, 8 November 1777, Dorothy Smith, who was born there 8 August 1759, and died 23 December 1778, daughter of John Smith. Ebenezer & Dorothy were the parents of a son.
Ebenezer married (as his second wife and as her second husband) in Harwich, 25 May 1781, Barbara (Godfrey) Small, who was born about 1747 and died 11 May 1798, widow of Capt. Elijah Small. Ebenezer & Barbara were the parents of three daughters. Barbara is buried with her first husband, Elijah, in the Weekes lot at Island Pond Cemetery in Harwich.
Ebenezer married (as his third wife) in August 1798, Hannah Fessenden, who was born about 1762 and died in Harwich, 7 April 1803, daughter of William and Mehitable (Freeman) Fessenden. Ebenezer & Hannah were the parents of three sons.
Ebenezer married (as his fourth wife and as her second husband) 25 December 1803, Mehitable (Robbins) Tripp, who was born 27 March 1767, and died 28 January 1844, widow of Reuben Tripp, and daughter of Nathaniel and Lydia (—) Robbins. Ebenezer & Mehitable were the parents of four children.
Ebenezer is buried near his third wife, Hannah in the First Congregational Church Cemetery in Harwich.
6. Mehitable Weekes, born 9 November 1758 in Harwich. She married in Harwich, 6 February 1779, David Clark, who was born about 1758 and died in Harwich, 14 January 1838. Mehitable & David were the parents of six children.
My 4th-great-grandfather, Isaac Weekes, son of Isaac and Thankful (Nickerson) Weekes, was born on 19 May 1780, “The Dark Day,” in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died there on 22 October 1841. He married there 9 March 1803, Elisabeth Allen, who was born 24 January 1784 in Harwich and died 11 July 1868, daughter of Seth and Anna (Gage) Allen.
The Dark Day is now known to have been caused by massive forest fires burning in the western states. A smoky cloud cast itself over the New England states making it so dark that the people had to light their candles and lamps at noontime. Many thought the end of the world was at hand.
The following is from Genealogy of the Family of George Weekes of Dorchester, Mass. 1635-1650:
He [Isaac] was a ‘well-to-do’ farmer; owned a large farm. He had his peculiarities: one of which was a fondness for puzzling his listeners by ambiguous language, which he would explain after enjoying their perplexity. He took delight in coupling apparent selfishness with generosity; as for example: the minister passing his orchard took an apple from an over-hanging limb; Mr. W. sent him a letter threatening prosecution for the trespass; on the minister’s prompt apology, and asking how much would satisfy him, he replied that he would be content with five dollars; the minister handed him the amount, which he took, and immediately returned with another bill of like amount.
Isaac & Elisabeth lie buried in South Chatham Cemetery, Chatham, Massachusetts.
My mother, Elisabeth White, was named after her 3rd-great-grandmother, Elisabeth Allen, and her 2nd-great-grandmother, Elisabeth Weekes, and her great-grandmother, Elisabeth Freeman. The maternal line was interrupted by the birth of her grandfather, Martin Freeman Thompson.
Elisabeth & Isaac were the parents of twelve children:
1. Jemima Weekes, born 28 November 1803 in Barnstable (Barnstable) Massachusetts, died there 19 August 1873. She married 23 November 1825 in Orleans (Barnstable) Massachusetts, David Eldridge, who was born 4 June 1803, and died 11 February 1888, son of David and Sarah (Higgins) Eldridge. Jemima & David were the parents of six children.
2. Isaac Weekes, born 27 September 1805 in Harwich, died at sea 11 September 1825, age 19.
3. Sally Weekes, born 3 September 1807 in Harwich, died 28 December 1853 in Central Falls (Providence) Rhode Island. She married 6 January 1831 in Harwich, Capt. Charles Coffin Baker, who was born 6 July 1805 in Dennis (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died there 17 March 1892, son of Allen and Rebecca (Baxter) Baker. Sally & Charles were the parents of nine children.
4. Capt. Reuben Weekes, born 21 December 1809 in Harwich, died there 23 March 1865. He married (as her first husband) 17 January 1832 in Harwich, Mary Hopkins, who was born 4 July 1813, daughter of Moses and Betsey (Crocker) Hopkins. Reuben & Mary were the parents of two children.
5. Ebenezer Weekes, born 27 November 1811 in Harwich, died there 10 May 1897. He married (as his first wife) 18 July 1834 in Harwich, Elizabeth “Betsey” Burgess, who was born 16 September 1811 in Dennis, and died 21 September 1845 in Harwich, daughter of Nathan and Desire (Baker) Burgess. Ebenezer & Betsey were the parents of four children. Ebenezer married (as his second wife and as her second husband) 12 March 1846 in Harwich, Malinda (Rogers) Allen, who was born 31 October 1816 in Orleans, and died 16 January 1892, daughter of Adnah and Mehitable (Rogers) Rogers. Ebenezer & Malinda were the parents of two children.
6. Joseph Weekes, born 4 September 1814 in Harwich, died 6 January 1854 in Port au Prince, West Indies [now Haiti]. He married (as her first husband) 1 December 1836 in Harwich, Sally Ward, who was born 7 July 1817 in Wellfleet (Barnstable) Massachusetts and died 5 November 1879 in Orleans, daughter of Benjamin and Sally (Rogers) Ward. Joseph & Sally were the parents of three daughters.
7. Thankful Weekes, born 19 August 1816 in Harwich, died 29 December 1886 in Waldo (Alachua) Florida. She married in Harwich, 11 November 1837, Capt. Truman Doane, who was born 28 December 1812 in Orleans and died 31 December 1881, son of Lewis and Tamzen (Freeman) Doane. Thankful & Truman were the parents of seven children.
8. Capt. Alfred Weekes, born 8 April 1819 in Harwich, died at sea, 5 June 1854. He married about 1844, Mary Ellis, who was born 13 September 1823, and died in 1918. daughter of John and Hannah (Rogers) Ellis. Alfred & Mary were the parents of three daughters.
9. Elisabeth Weekes (my 3rd-great-grandmother), born 6 November 1822 in Harwich, died there 18 September 1908. She married (as his second wife) 12 June 1848 in Harwich, Warren Freeman, who was born there 25 July 1814, and died there 16 September 1894, son of Thomas and Roxanna (Cash) Freeman. Elisabeth and Warren were the parents of five children. They lie buried in First Congregational Church Cemetery in Harwich.
10. Betsey Clark Weekes, born 5 July 1826 in Harwich, died there 15 July 1911. She married there, 30 November 1848, David K. Maker, who was born 30 August 1823 in Brewster (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died 19 June 1866in Harwich, son of William Hiram and Deliverance (Long) Maker.
11. Melinda Weekes, born 16 August 1828 in Harwich, died 16 March 1831, age 2.
12. Isaac Weekes, born 16 September 1831 in Harwich, died there 8 July 1893. Isaac was named after his father and his older brother, who died at sea.
Cousins marrying cousins, close or distant, was very common on Cape Cod and throughout New England, which makes figuring out relationships tricky but utterly fascinating. I’ve tried my best to figure out the tangled roots and shoots from my 3rd-great-grandparents!
Warren Freeman, a watchmaker, son of Thomas and Roxanna (Cash) Freeman, was born 25 July 1814 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died there 16 September 1894. He married (as his second wife) 12 June 1848 in Harwich, his double fourth cousin, Elisabeth Weekes, who was born 6 November 1822 in Harwich, and died there 18 September 1908, daughter of Isaac and Elisabeth (Allen) Weekes.
Warren married (as his first wife) in December 1836, his double fourth cousin, Priscilla E. Long, who was born 22 October 1817 and died 7 December 1846 in Harwich, daughter of Isaac and Esther (Ellis) Long. Warren & Priscilla shared two sets of 3rd-great-grandparents, Joshua and Mary (Cole) Hopkins and Edward and Mary (Woodman) Small.
A year and a half after Priscilla died, Warren married Elisabeth, Priscilla’s half third cousin. Elisabeth’s and Priscilla’s great-grandmothers, Hannah (Paine) Allen and Jane (Small) Long, were half sisters, both daughters of Hannah (Hopkins) (Paine) Smalley by two different fathers.
Warren & Elisabeth were also double fourth cousins, sharing the same two sets of 3rd-great-grandparents, Joshua and Mary (Cole) Hopkins and Edward and Mary (Woodman) Small.
On the 1870 Federal Census, Warren was recorded as living in Dennis Port, age 55, a “huckster”, with real estate valued at $5000 and a personal state of $3000. Warren is buried with both his wives and two of his children in the First Congregational Church Cemetery in Harwich.
Priscilla & Warren were the parents of two children:
1. Thomas Freeman, a blacksmith who was born 15 August 1837 in Harwich. He married Rosilla F. Allen.
2. Clemantina Freeman, born 26 March 1842 in Harwich, died 24 May 1858, age 16. Clemantina was buried next to her mother, Priscilla E. (Long) Freeman, in the First Congregational Church Cemetery.
Elisabeth & Warren were the parents of five children (all born in Harwich), but they only had one grandchild together, and only one great-grandchild:
1. Elisabeth Emma “Lizzie” Freeman (my 2nd-great-grandmother), born 4 September 1851, died 4 October 1876 in Harwich, age 25. She married 5 July 1874 in Harwich, Capt. Martin Edward Thompson, who was born 4 August 1850 in Dennis and died in 1928, son of Martin and Ann Isabella (Hughs) Thompson. When Elisabeth died her 18-month-old son was left without his mother. She lies buried in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis.
2. Warren Wallace Freeman, born 3 July 1853, died 27 August 1868, age 15. Warren lies buried with his parents in the First Congregational Church Cemetery.
3. Rosilla Ida “Rosie” Freeman, born 6 March 1856, died 18 March 1923, age 67. She married 23 February 1882 in Dennis (Barnstable) Massachusetts, Capt. Martin Edward Thompson, who was born 4 August 1850 in Dennis and died in 1928, widower of her sister, Elisabeth, and son of Martin and Ann Isabella (Hughs) Thompson. Rosie raised her nephew but never had children of her own. She also lies buried in Swan Lake Cemetery.
4. Ambrose Eldridge Freeman, born 21 April 1858, died 1944 in Boston, age 83. Ambrose was a confirmed bachelor with a fondness for alcohol. His little child’s rocking chair was given to Jonathan Freeman Rodgers by his great-grandmother, Emma Freeman (Thompson) White, who was Ambrose’s grandniece. The gift was made following a little episode in Jonathan’s young toddler life. One day his mother, absent mindedly kept giving him sips of a “Cape Codder” cocktail she was enjoying with her grandparents. His great-grandmother was the first to notice that Jon was getting a little tipsy, and made the observation that he was the spit and image of Uncle Ambrose! Ambrose lies buried with his parents in the First Congregational Church Cemetery.
5. Susan Flora “Susie” Freeman, born 22 March 1864, died 7 May 1963 at Woods Hole, age 99. She married 19 February 1891, Edward Ellsworth “Eddie” Swift, who was born 25 August 1861 in Falmouth (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died in May 1964, age 102, son of Ezekiel Eldridge and Lucy G. (Thompson) Swift.
Susie & Eddie lived at 10 School St., Woods Hole, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They had no children so my grandparents (along with my great-grandparents) moved into their house and cared for them there in their old age. My grandmother was Susie’s (Flora’s) grandniece. I well remember playing as a very small child in the yard there while visiting my grandparents and great-grandparents and 2nd great-granduncle and aunt! The lawn stretched down a hill to a harbor (perhaps a marina?), and the barns were full of sea crafts. Uncle Ed lived to be 102, and died when I was 7 years old.
In the picture above, I am being held by my 2nd great-granduncle Ed! By the time I was 2, Uncle Ed was bedridden and my grandmother would put me on his bed for a visit. Uncle Ed would ask, “And how old are you, Barbara?” I would bravely hold up two fingers while staring at his long white beard.
The following is from the Cape Cod Standard Times:
Falmouth Pair Married 70 Years [PHOTO] Caption: Mr. and Mrs. Edward E. Swift of Woods Hole show their marriage certificate dated Feb. 19, 1891. The Swifts are looking forward to their 70th anniversary celebration, to be shared with family and friends.
Swifts to Observe 70th Anniversary by Robert G. Elphick, Cape Cod Standard Times Staff Writer
WOODS HOLE, Feb. 3–A candy sailing ship shall cruise across a pastry map of Cape Cod, atop a cake to be baked in affectionate observance of a very rare occasion. The 70th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Ellsworth Swift of School Street. Mrs. Carlyle R. Hayes of Middle Street, locally noted cake baker and old friend of the Swifts, will have the masterpiece ready for the anniversary observance on Feb. 19.
Mr. Swift will be 100 years old on Aug. 25. Mrs. Swift will be 97 next month. Though confined to their antique-and-memory filled home overlooking Eel Pond, they remain articulate, cheerful and endowed with quick humor and ready memory.
“I used to sail a lot,” Mr. Swift recalled, citing trophies in Class B, for skill and speed with the 13-foot spritsail boats. While on the subject of boats and ships, he said his great uncle Elijah Swift ran the British blockade during the War of 1812, and in more peaceful times planted the elms that today tower above Falmouth’s Village Green.
Were Shipbuilders “Both my grandfathers were ship builders,” Mr. Swift added. Ezekiel Swift, he said, built whaling ships in Woods Hole, and Marshall Grew built other wooden ships for iron men in New Bedford.
Mrs. Swift is the former Flora Susan Freeman of Harwich. The Swift’s wedding certificate, larger and more elaborate than those issued today, states that the pair were married by the Rev. R. M. Wilkins, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church on Feb. 19, 1891, in South Harwich. The 70th anniversary observance will be at the Swift’s home, and will be limited to family and close friends.
Family includes the Swift’s grandniece, Mrs. John E. White, who came from West Harwich last September to care for the Swifts and her parents, Captain and Mrs. Martin Thompson. The Thompsons came to live with the Swifts five years ago.
Captain Thompson is a nephew of Mr. Swift. Until recently he has helped to run the hardware and ship’s chandler’s shop at the rear of the Swift’s home. The antique wooden sign over the shop entrance reads “Edward E. Swift, Dealer in Hardware, Cordage, Paints, Oil, Glass, and Galvanized Nails and Specialty.” The shop is rarely opened any more. Like the Swifts themselves, it is a survivor from another age.
Mrs. White said she is happy to be able to live with the Swifts and her parents and take care of them. “My parents observed their 61st wedding anniversary Wednesday,” Mrs. White commented. “My son is in the service and my daughter is at the University of Connecticut, so I have no one else to care for now, except my husband, of course. He’s a land surveyor and commutes daily to his office in West Harwich.”
Presented Symbol In 1956 Falmouth selectmen presented Mr. Swift with the cane marking him as the town’s oldest native resident. It was reported at the time that this was “a distinction that greatly pleased him.” The canes were made available to all Massachusetts towns many years ago by a Boston newspaper, to be handed down from one senior citizen to another.
“I enjoy books very much these days,” Mr. Swift commented. Each night Mr. and Mrs. White take turns reading aloud to the Swifts. “We are on Washington Irving now,” Mrs. White interjected. “Next we will do Dickens.”
Mr. Swift recalled that his middle name of Ellsworth was in honor of a relative who was serving at the time in the Civil War. He also remembered that he was born in Shiverick House when it was located in the parking lot that adjoins his present home–a short move to make in a century. He was graduated from Lawrence Academy, now the Falmouth USO and Legion Hall. In 1880, he then joined his father as E. Swift and Son, contractors, and in 1882 built the former Fay residence, now owned by the Oceanographic Institution. He also built the Congregational Church in Woods Hole during the 1880s, as well as many other structures long since passed into oblivion.
Open Shop The elder Swift died in 1909. The business was continued by his son until a shortage of labor and materials in World War I ended building operations. Mr. Swift remembers that we then opened his ship chandler’s shop at the rear of his home and has operated it until recent years, most recently with the assistance of Captain Thompson.
Mr. Swift was for many years clerk of the Church of the Messiah in Woods Hole, and remains today as clerk emeritus. A frequent visitor is the rector, the Rev. Mason Wilson. Additional friends will certainly be on hand Feb. 19 to mark a very special occasion and incidentally share in the enjoyment of a very special cake.
The following is from the WHOI [Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute] Historic Structures Survey, Swift House, 10 School St, constructed 1834, acquired by WHOI 1965:
Ezekiel Swift built the house and its two barns around 1834. The house was handed down through the years from his son, to his grandson, Eddie Swift, who was a well known character in Woods Hole. Eddie and his father formalized the family carpentry trade into a business known as E. E. Swift and Son in the late 1800s. The family building business survived until Eddie decided to open a hardware store in the barn behind the house. Eddie, who lived to be 103, and the hardware store survived into the 1960s. WHOI purchased the property on New Year’s Eve of 1964 and has used both the house and the barns since then. The house has served as offices for the Applied Oceanography group, now Ocean Engineering, and as home for other elements of departments.
The following is from a sign by a Woods Hole Spritsail Boat made by Edward Swift, donated to Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut, by Mr. & Mrs. John E. White:
Never launched or given her final coats of paint, this craft was built about 1910, and between that time and 1968 when it was given to this museum, the boat and the shop in which she was built were left essentially undisturbed, thus her pristine condition. Additional information is contained in the adjoining article excerpted from Skipper magazine. Length 13’4”, Beam 6′. Those Handy Little BCats by H.V.R. Palmer, Jr.
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…
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
On Friday November 9, Tim & I drove up to Cape Cod for the day, to attend a memorial service for my Aunt Betty in Harwich. The last time we were on the Cape was in the spring of 2009, far too long to be away, but so much has been going on in our lives the past few years.
It was so wonderful to see and hug my uncle (my mother’s brother) again, and two of my cousins. Two of my mother’s cousins were also there with their wives. We had some great conversations with them all about fond memories and genealogical discoveries. And my grandparents’ elderly neighbors from across the street were there, too.
As I mentioned before, my Aunt Betty was a woman of very strong faith, and a lovely, gracious, generous lady. I think she would have been pleased with the simple memorial her son arranged for her. On a table in front of the altar there was a picture of her, a single rose in a vase, a pencil, and her Bible, complete with her notes in the margins and many underlined scriptures. My uncle recalled how much she loved roses and how he made sure she received one for every birthday and every wedding anniversary. And he felt the pencil was a fitting token of her love of writing.
After the reception Tim & I went to the cemetery at the First Congregational Church in Harwich, where a number of my ancestors, my grandparents and my mother lie buried. I left them each a white rose from the bouquet we were given to take home after the service. Of course there were tears, there had been tears off and on all day, but also a deep feeling of peace and connection.
We couldn’t leave the Cape without visiting the sea, and so decided to go to the West Dennis Beach, and there felt anew the truth of Isak Dinesen’s words, “The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.” The first picture is looking southwest over Nantucket Sound, the second is a bit of the wrack line, and the third is seagull footprints in the sand.
Tonight there will be a full moon. Today is the day my mother died, nineteen long years ago. She was only 59. I was only 34. So young, the both of us. Fifty-nine seemed like such a long way off then, and here I am now, at fifty-three, wondering at the last nineteen years, each day so long in the living and yet the years speeding by. My son is 34. I look at him and try to imagine him motherless, as I became at his age.
It’s amazing that I still miss her so and often wonder what life would now be like if she was here… Somehow I want to do something in her memory, but I’m not sure how…
Mom was a nature lover and avid bird watcher. One time she found a baby owl that lived in our bathroom for a while until it was ready for release. Our childhood was spent camping, canoeing, and hiking. She was a physical therapist and loved to read. If she wasn’t outside, she had her nose in a newspaper or book.
Her high school classmates said of her: “With charm of soul possessed by her, she rules herself.” So true. Until I left home, I was unaware of the “war between the sexes.” My parents had a true egalitarian relationship. Mom disliked cooking and it was unremarkable to me that Dad did the cooking and Mom mowed the lawn. They modeled interdependence and mutuality for me and my sister.
She loved her grandchildren, my children, and took each of them separately for a special week-long visit at Grandma’s before she was too ill to enjoy them. After her special visit, my then ten-year-old daughter declared her intention to move in with her grandparents. Her grandma gently explained to her that it wouldn’t be as much fun if she was living there full-time.
Mom didn’t have any sons, so she adored her grandsons, who were thirteen and fifteen when she died. My older son was her little shadow and loved following her around, helping to feed her chickens, weed the garden, pick vegetables for dinner, or whatever else they found to occupy themselves out there. There was a special bond between them and he took her death the hardest.
It’s kind of funny, Mom had no interest in art or interior decor. My sister and I, who have more of an eye for balance and color, were continually exasperated at how she arranged the furniture and how nothing seemed to go together. One day while Mom was at work, my sister took it upon herself to make new curtains for the kitchen, paint it and put down some pretty shelf paper. Mom didn’t seem to notice and merely shrugged when my sister pointed it out to her and asked her if she minded. We later learned that her mother, who was an artist, had tried many times to give her daughter a hand with the decorating, but her efforts were for naught.
Some things skip a generation, and if my sister and I are like our grandmother, my daughter is very much like my mother. Especially in the wanderlust department. Mom loved the adventure of travel, and as Dad puts it, she dragged him to Greece to live for a couple of years when an opportunity to do that presented itself. And they took trips out west and through Canada to explore another of her passions, the culture of Native Americans. They also took a trip to the Ukraine, the land of my father’s ancestors.
Yes, I still miss her and her Seminole skirt. Had she lived I’m sure we would have found her rumored New England Native American ancestor by now. Yesterday I immersed myself in genealogical research, which was an occupation we both enjoyed. My goodness, what would she think of all the online research now available? When she died she was learning to use the online genealogical bulletin boards that seem so primitive now.
Well, I could go on, but this is long enough. Somehow I think my mother knows that she may be gone, but is by no means forgotten. And that I’ve learned that all we have is now, and that when all is said and done, that is enough.