THANK YOU FACEBOOK

  

( Recent events have reminded me how important family is. I am also reminded of how special extended family can be, cousins especially. One of my second cousins, Nyna Giles, is writing a memoir about her mother*, my first cousin Carolyn, and another second cousin, Kacy Ferrar, recently posted the picture above on Facebook. Both of these have taken me back to my own memories of my cousins and Grandma’s house. I dedicate this to all of them.)

            

  

My mother grew up with nine brothers and sisters. As a result of that reality my brother and I inherited 18 first cousins on the maternal side.

The best part of that is we were born with friends. Every holiday or special occasion we would pile into grandma’s dining room with us cousins sometimes overflowing into the kitchen. None of us jitterbugs ever minded being set up at the long table covered with oil cloth because it meant we were out from under our parents noses. 

Pigtails could be pulled, unwanted food easily gotten rid of by a quick shove onto someone else’s plate and kicks under the table couldn’t be reprimanded.  

All of us flying in and out around that farm house like wild honey bees during those gatherings, the joy we all felt as children, as cousins, of just being, escaped us. We thought it would last forever. Of course, it didn’t. 

As I have written about so often, soon after the war prosperity was beginning to bloom and most of my aunts and uncles moved to various parts of the state and country where they could find work. Thus the fracturing of the close knit family began and my loving ties to my cousins unraveled.

My mother, though,  remained very close to her four sisters and brother who lived nearby. They were the threads that kept us cousins connected as we grew up and went our own way as adults, leaving behind fading memories of Grandma’s kitchen and a life that would never again be. We were never to be together again in that utopian state. Nor were we to know then that the only gatherings later on where some of us could reacquaint ourselves would be when we were grieving the loss of one of our own.
  

Christmas cards would be exchanged by a few of us throughout the years, but basically I would say most of us lost touch for many years. Everyone seemed busy with their own lives, their own children in their own dining rooms and kitchens during the years. Looking back, I realize it was such a loss of time for all of us. 

   
 
Perhaps the longest relationship as a young adult for me would’ve been with my older cousin Carolyn in New York. Carolyn was like me more than any of my other cousins.  Most of them were just happy to get married, have children and work at what they liked. I was different.   I had been born with big dreams. I couldn’t help it. It just was. Dreams of something beyond my existence in the small industrial town where I lived.

 My cousin Carolyn, when I was still young, was able to fly away and realize her dreams. She was our family’s shining star. She was the one who had made it. It was Carolyn. She was the hand that was there to pull me out and inspire me to not be afraid of wanting more. Unfortunately, as the cruelty of life sometimes reveals itself, throughout the years, circumstantially, no one was there with an understanding hand for her. 

I guess the point of all this retrospective and what inspired this blog is that through Facebook I have been able to connect with so many members of my extended family that throughout the years I have lost. My cousins, second cousins, maternal cousin’s, fraternal cousins are back. We’re not sitting in the kitchen at Grandma’s table in Ohio, but we are connected and we are back as an extended family. For that I am most grateful. Thank you Facebook. 

Copyright© Sandra Hart 2016. All Rights Reserved

* The Bridesmaid’s Daughter, Nyna Giles (coming 2017/18)

Bedtime Stories

 

Her white hair was pulled so tightly away from her face and knotted on top of her head, stretching her wrinkled skin so that it morphed her face into something scary. Her high collared black dress disappeared into the colorless quilted cover that fell to the floor from her throne – the fourposter bed on which she lay against a mound of pillows. I stood there looking up at my grandmother, not moving. I was afraid. She looked like the witch I had seen in Snow White. This is the only memory of my father’s mother that I have stored. I’m not sure where those impressions are kept and what neurons are fired in my brain, but that is all I have saved. That one experience, that one moment in time, the snapshot saved of my father’s mother when I was four.

Maybe in reality she was not at all what I remember, but somehow a child’s eyes can be clairvoyant, more often than not. Stories I have heard since about my grandma fortify that perhaps I was able to see things as a four year old more clearly than the adults around me realized.

Seventy years later, my scary grandmother lives on through me in several ways. I have inherited the gene for her white hair and I also have her bed. My life has unfolded, year after year, while sleeping in the comfort of that big cherry fourposter. I have nursed three children, cried myself to sleep when I lost a husband, then my parents, and throughout many nights have kept my grandchildren safe from their ‘boogeyman dreams’ in my scary Grandma’s bed. And from the comfort of that old bed I have been blessed to have been awakened slowly by 15,330 beautiful Eastern sunrises popping over the New Jersey Shore hills.

IMG_0275.PNG

My ancestors supposedly bought the German bed made of Kirscholz when they traveled from England to America. Large slats with high posts secured by substantial wooden screws hold the bed together, the horse hair mattress laid across the slats, provided them and the generations to follow, comfort fit for a king.*

IMG_0276.PNG
I was told by my father that William Tecumseh Sherman, a relative of my great, great grandmother Sherman has slept in my bed. Whether this is true or not, I have no proof, but my father, a southerner, always called it “The Burning Bed,” referring to Sherman’s march through Atlanta. I have a suspicion that is why the valuable bed that my Ohio mother loved, in his eyes, was not so valuable to him and therefore, his Yankee daughter was more than welcome to it.

So I guess what it all comes down to is the eye of the beholder. My scary grandmother through the eyes of a four-year-old, maybe wasn’t so, so scary after all, but just very ill, and the ‘Burning Bed’ through the eyes of a southern gentleman was really just a beautiful work of German craftsmanship. In most things in life, it comes down to one’s interpretation. Our brain gathers the information, maps it, and then we interpret it in our own way because of prior impressions.

IMG_0279.JPG
My son will get the poster bed this summer and it will begin a new life with another generation. Yankee based since 1949, she will travel to Nashville to live in a bedroom in a lovely plantation house in Confederate country. She will be loved and well taken care of. I think that will suit her just fine. General Sherman may roll over in his grave, but that is another story for another time.

* Horse hair mattresses priced in six figures last for years and years and are now owned by mainly royalty and billionaires.

Copyright 2014 Sandra Hart. All rights reserved.

IMG_0269.JPG