Thankful

As seen on a rural church sign:

It’s not happy people who are thankful…
It’s thankful people who are happy


(painting by Henry A. Bacon 1877 of Mary Chilton stepping onto “Plymouth Rock” /
Mary Chilton is my long ago relative)

Back in the early 1950s my grandmother, my dad’s mother, did extensive genealogy work.
She had her reasons and I confess that I am so grateful she did

It is because of her exhausting work that both my family, my cousins and I,
have a valuable gift of our lineage.

Lineage, that being the line from whence we come.
Even the Bible offers us the extensive lineage of Jesus—
We are also all a part of that same extensive lineage, yet that story is for another day.
Today’s tale is about a single family’s lineage and the gratitude for that lineage.

Now if you’ve read my posts regarding my adoption,
you know I actually have two family trees.

I have a biological tree that I know very little about.
And I also have an adopted tree, a tree and a people that have each embraced me
as their own.
It is a most extensive tree.

What my grandmother started almost 70 ago was no easy task.

She had to do a lot of leg work on her own as well as seek the help of many others.
She had to write a myriad of letters and make many personal phone calls to various state
record departments as well as to state historians in order to enlist their help in
researching her family’s past.

This was long before there were computers, databases, DNA Genealogy companies—
as archaic landlines were the standard norm.
Most calls were considered long distance…meaning you paid extra for long-distance calls.
But my grandmother was determined.

What she didn’t realize then, in her seemingly very personal quest, was
that she was giving her lineage, her grandchildren
one of the greatest gifts she could give.

That of a collective uniting history.

In those days there were no immediate connections, so her quest took time.

She had to request birth, death and marriage certificates.
She had to scour family bibles and records.
She had to have documents notarized and verified.
She traveled to courthouses.
She had to get the assistance of others in other states to visit distant courthouses
and churches and cemeteries in order to do a large portion of the digging.

For you see, my grandmother knew she had come from a line of people who
were important to the founding of this now great nation and she needed the proper
validation to be able to be granted the acknowledgment by such organizations as
The Daughters of The American Revolution, The Daughters of the Mayflower, The Pilgrims Society,
The Colonist Society, The Huguenot Society, etc.

This woman, who was born in 1896 in a small country town in the middle of the state
of Georgia, had actually come to be there by way England.

But from England, it was first to Plymouth…and from Plymouth, Massachusettes it was
to various towns in the colony of Massachusetts then to the city of Bristol in the colony
of Rhode Island, next, it was to the city of Savannah in the colony of Georgia
and finally to the tiny town of Molena in the state of Georgia…
but the final resting place was to be Atlanta, Georgia.

Her 10th great grandmother was Pricilla Mullins of London, England.
Pricilla Mullins was married to John Alden of Essex, England.
John was a cooper aka, a barrell maker.
John had a dream and Pricilla shared her husband’s dream.

They were on that fateful ship that we tend to remember each Thanksgiving,
just as we remember that first colony of Plymouth and of that first
celebration of not only survival but the beginning of thriving in a new land.

The Alden’s first daughter born on this new mysterious land was named Elizabeth–
the purported first white European girl born to the Plymouth Colony.

So yes, Thanksgiving is important to me on a family’s historical level…
but it is more important to me as a grateful American.

For it matters not how we came…be it those who were first here on the continent,
or if we came via Plymouth, a slave ship, Ellis Island or came with a visa in our
hand seeking citizenship…we have come…
We also have come in various shades of color.
Red, White, Brown, Black, Yellow…

We fought and died creating a new nation just as we’ve fought and died keeping her free.

It troubles me terribly that our society has developed a tendency to gloss over Thanksgiving…
basically jumping from Halloween to Christmas in one fell swoop…
But we can blame that on our obsession with materialism…
which is in actuality a loss of thankfulness.

Yet what is most troubling is that we now have many voices crying out that we rename this
day of thanks.
Some smugly stated that this is only a day of overindulgence and eating.
They claim Thanksgiving is not a day this Nation should recall let alone recognize.

One of our fellow bloggers, Citizen Tom, offered the following post regarding
our Nation’s Thanksgiving observation and celebration.

I highly recommend taking the time to read his post as it is a beautiful reminder
as to why Thanksgiving matters.

AN AMERICAN FIRST THANKSGIVING

This from President Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next
to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being,
who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is,
or that will be–
That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–
for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming
a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions
of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–
for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty,
which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner,
in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government
for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–
for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed;
and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;
and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath
been pleased to confer upon us

Reflection

Around and around the house the leaves fall thick—but never fast, for they come circling down with a dead lightness that is sombre and slow. Let the gardener sweep and sweep the turf as he will, and press the leaves into full barrows, and wheel them off, still they lie ankle-deep.
Charles Dickens

DSCN2460
(image of fallen leaves upon a creek / Troup Co, Georgia /Julie Cook/ 2013)

As the Northwest winds whip our usually temperate southern air into a frenzy, ushering in the first truly bitter cold temperatures of the season, the day is busily spent readying for Winter’s official, albeit a month early, arrival. Hoses are emptied and packed away, bird feeders are cleaned and refilled. All potted plants must be moved– especially the large potted fruit trees still bearing green fruit, all indoors to “safety”, as once again we prepare for another time of transition.

All sounds rather “Marthaesque”, as in that diva of DYI, but trust me, it is anything but as it is just me, myself and I who are/ is doing a frantic haphazard job of herding things here and there lest the freeze takes any prisoner tonight.

Today I sit on the edge of yet another birthday. I find myself breathing an inward sigh of neurotic relief as it appears that tomorrow I will have lived one year longer than my mother had as she had lost a battle with cancer 27 years ago at the age of 53. I think any child who ever loses a parent relatively early in life has a secret fear that theirs is to be the same fate—a paranoid fear of destiny and family health–adopted or not.

As we now find ourselves approaching the often dark dreary months of old man Winter, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling as if this time of year can be a bit disconcerting. Of course there are the holidays to look forward to—and I do count Thanksgiving as one of those special holidays. However our huge retail shopping giants, sadly do not. Those massive sultans of sale merely gloss over Thanksgiving using it as a simple measuring stick as when to open up the madness known as Black Friday, which this year is turning into Black Thursday.

How terribly sad it is that we barely take time, if at all, any longer to honor the founding of our nation. Reflecting on how far we have come since the disembarking at Plymouth Rock. No matter one’s nationality nor of the colorful melting soup pot we have become, America still harkens back to a group of wayward people who risked their very lives in order to settle and claim a new land as their own. Slowly our Nation’s official day of recognition and Thanksgiving has become but a mere blip on the radar as thoughts of sugar plums and shopping dance in our heads.

The holidays will usher in a whirlwind of activity of the be here and be there variety. The angst of family gatherings are already looming large in many people’s minds covering them with a thick blanket of dread. The juggling of spending time here and there, the family members who for good or bad, come calling, or worse, chose not to call; the sheer magnitude of the number of those who will flood the highways and the Nation’s airports, is almost enough to make many people scream a collective “no thank you”!!

We have a wedding, in this small family of ours in order to look forward to, as our son and his fiancé will say “I do” in June. There is a great deal to be done between now and then which will certainly keep all parties involved hopping. Perhaps it is always good to have something waiting in the wings in order to help one stay focused with the whole looking forward rather than backwards business, as is often the case during the bleaker months of the year.

As the “black dog” of a cold melancholy begins nipping at my heels. . . for all sorts of reasons, I will pull my jacket a bit tighter to ward off the chill, I will force myself out and about seeking the sun on the days it decides to visit and I will think of what will be rather than sadly what was, or was not, or has passed by.

Reflection is good and often offers comfort, but too much can be a bit heavy and oppressive, as in the dusty mothballesque scent of those blankets and winter coats that are just now emerging from the trunks and closets where they have lain dormant for these many months.

So here is to birthdays, remembrances, holidays, family, winter, and snow. For good or bad, it all comes, and for good and bad it all goes. . .