Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ancestors and Family Myths

My mother once told me that her g-g-g-grandmother came to America from Ireland when she was a young woman.  She said she had red hair and she was beautiful.  And single.  I have done some genealogy research and I can't find anyone who fits the description.  The family line I thought would be the place to look didn't work out.

Now I have these questions:  Did my mother make a mistake?  Is there another family line that I haven't found?  Does it really matter?

Single women are the most difficult to identify because their sir names are often lost when they marry.  This little tidbit of family history may forever remain a lost thought. 

The family I thought she would belong to came from Schotland, not Ireland.  Well, it's kinda close.  Maybe she was mistaken.  She would have had to come alone or as a single woman, and the ones I have found came to this country with a husband. 

Maybe there are women whose maiden names I have not located yet.  Did they come from Ireland?  Not that I have found. 

This seems like a puzzle that worries you for a while on a lazy afternoon, not something you would spend hours reading about.  And yet genealogy is the most popular hobby in the country.  It is a commanding hobby, but there is more to it than just something to do. 

I identify with these ancestors.  When I read or hear about our nations history or the history of the places where these ancestors immigrated from, I feel connected, I have a place in history.  I really want to know if my mother knew something I didn't know.  I want to share that piece of family history with her. 

I guess I'll have to keep looking.  Better yet, I have children and grandchildren I can share this information with.  And then I get caught up in the kind of homes they lived in and the farm or city they called home.  I want to know what kind of clothes they wore and the books they read.  They were real people and I love getting to know them and finding their dreams.  Did I measure up to their hopes for the future?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Red Viper

I thought about you today. A crisp wind was blowing, and the sky was clear. I was busy, too busy to take you out. I could envision you rising from your crumpled position on the ground. I loved to feel the tug on the string when you were caught by the wind. The jump, the dash to soar overwhelmed me and my heart went with you.

There have been many that took my heart, but, you, I remember best of all. The others before you were the small folded paper Dutch kites, and the little Deltas that were made from skewers and typing paper. Their bright wings and tails were like animated exclamation marks in the sky.

You were more stately and distinguished than other kites. Your face, like theirs, was small and bright. But nothing could compare to your great red swooping tail. I have had other snakes as long as you were, but they were plastic. Something about the material was not as graceful in the wind as your tissue paper. To put you and your sister, Yellow Girl, on the same line and revel in the dance was a truly artistic experience. You could have been named Fred and Ginger.

I remember the last day. There were torn and mended places on your tail already and some small circles where dew had stained you. These scars made you more distinguished like a veteran returning victorious from a daring campaign. The weeds had snatched at you many times, but they could not rip into you like the tree did. When it was over, I could only look at the shredded remnants and the broken frame and weep.

Perhaps someday there will be another great tissue paper snake soaring and dancing in the sky. I will name him after you: The Son of Red Viper.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Come Fly with Me

A speck of yellow in a pristine sky
Beckoned to me to come and fly.
A kite is nothing but paper and string
But I longed to do that very thing.

The kite joined the wind in a mystic dance
To dip and soar and rise and prance.
As I held in my hand the line of the kite
To that magic realm my heart took flight.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Is it Kite Season Yet?

Most people think March is kite season.  Well, it is, but don't waste this time in January and February.  There are a lot of clear days between now and March to test and practice.  If you are making your kites it's time to start.  If you are buying them, it's time to think about the new ones you haven't tried yet.

I like to make little folded paper kites that are cheap.  I get copy paper in bright colors and use flagging tape for tails.  Crepe paper streamers work well too, but you must be sure there is no moisture on the grass because any water, even just drops, will make the colors run.  Plastic flagging tape holds up very well.  Instructions to make a Mini Delta Kite can be found on my HubPages site.  It is a simple little kite that uses two sheets of paper and some shisk-ka-bob skewers to make the wings and the flagging tape for the tail.  You can ususally find the tape in hardware stores or places that have hunting gear.

Homemade paper kites usually don't have a life expectency of more than one season and maybe only one day if it gets in a fight with a tree.  Trees eat kites. 

I must warn you that kite flying is mildly addicting.  There are some truly attractive qualities about it.  When you take your little homemade gem out to test it, you may find that, inspite of the simplicity, it is truly a magnificent creation.  The first time it grabs the wind and darts away you may find your heart flying heavenward too.

Kite Fever is in the Air!!! 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My Mother's Christmas Present

When I was little, we always spent Christmas with my mother's family. We went to the house on Christmas Eve to be ready for Santa Claus to come. I was the only child that lived close, so I was sort of the star, or so I thought. Sometimes relatives came with children, cousins, second cousins, distant cousins. We kept in touch with the far-off as well as the close-by relations. For spending the night, it was often just Auntie, Tom, Jimmie, Momma, Daddy, and me.

On Christmas morning, we gathered in the kitchen where the coffee was brewing. I looked in at them; then we went to the living room where the tree was.

Auntie, who was actually my mother's aunt and my grandfather's second wife, came to offer me a glass of milk. To me she was a grandmother. I thanked her but refused. Her expression said she was crushed. She was tall and slender and sort of regal but oh, so gentle.

Tom was Momma's sister. She fluttered around the kitchen a little like Edith Bunker, making coffee, offering toast, and insisting on helping. I just wanted to open the presents. Yes, I know, Tom is a man's name. I always wondered about that, too. One time I asked Daddy why they called her Tom. I thought that it was a nickname. He said, "I guess they didn't want to say Zelma." Her whole name was Zelma Tom, but I didn't know that until I saw it on a legal document many years later.

I came back to the kitchen begging everyone to hurry. Jimmie was Momma's brother. "The gifts will still be there if I drink this coffee," He said, teasing me. He always looked handsome and sort of sophisticated, at least for our small town. This morning he was wearing a white shirt and slacks. His hands were manicured and smooth and he held his cigarette delicately in one hand and the coffee in the other. Jimmie loved to dance and taught me. I thought I was quite sophisticated when he took me dancing for my ninth birthday. I gave up on him and begged Momma to come.

Momma helped me with scouting the tree and the presents. We finally all got around the tree and I was allowed to deliver the gifts.

Momma always liked surprises, especially if she could surprise someone else. This year I had helped her wrap Daddy's gift. It was a pair of shoes. She wrapped them separately in odd shaped boxes. Of course, we knew that when he opened the first one, the game was up. I thought it was wonderful.

Daddy showed no excitement. He was always patient and seemed never to get in a hurry. It was quite frustrating. He was not handsome or tall like Jimmie. He gazed at me with mild humor. He was 16 years older than Momma, which, in my mind, accounted for his lackadaisical behavior.

Momma was patient as long as she could stand it; she began to shuffle the gifts and sort through the pile. She finally found the one from Daddy. He hadn't put it under the tree until Christmas morning. Sometimes he put it under the tree with no tag because she would open it as soon as she found it. She tore into the little package. I was completely disappointed. It was a box of bath powder. Nice bath powder, the kind she used, but hardly worth all this effort. She opened the box and finally found what she was after under the powder puff: the card. It read, "I would love you if you were a millstone around my neck."

She died of cancer the next August. I wish I had all the cards he ever wrote her. That kind of romance is hard to come by.