Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘family’

Every human being has a story that should be told. Speaking a deceased person’s name acknowledges that a life mattered. Gone from this earthly plane, but not forgotten.

On Veterans’ Memorial Drive in O’Fallon, Missouri – next to the VFW Hall and across from Ethyl’s Smokehouse — sits a small, unpretentious graveyard. You won’t find massive ornate monuments in Sage Chapel Cemetery. In fact, a large majority of the graves are unmarked. Therein lay the remains of slaves and their families.

Sage Chapel Cemetery

To appreciate the tales of the spirits of Sage Chapel Cemetery, it’s important to understand some of the area’s history. Two powerful and wealthy white families played central roles in this story: the kin of Samuel Keithley, Sr. and two Krekel brothers.

If not for Samuel Keithley migrating here from Kentucky in the early 1800s, Sage Chapel Cemetery would likely not exist. When he settled his large family here, he brought with him with him not only his slaves, but also those who were the property of other family members. By all accounts, he did not arrive here a wealthy man. He didn’t prosper right away, but within 40 years, the family owned hundreds of acres of land.

Samuel Keithley Sr

Known in the area as Uncle Sam, Keithley earned the respect of many of his neighbors through his generosity to the poor as well as his acts of kindness toward friends and strangers alike. But his charity extended only so far. During the Civil War a group of Union soldiers confiscated horses from some of his neighbors, telling them that “Uncle Sam” would pay for them. Imagine their disappointment and embarrassment when they went to Samuel Keithley requesting compensation and learned they had the wrong “Uncle Sam.”

When Congress granted Missouri statehood in 1820, slavery was already a topic of heated debate. The influx of German immigrants some ten to fifteen years later only served to intensify the tension. Along with them came the Krekel family. Arnold Krekel and his brother, Nicholas, became key players in founding O’Fallon. Like Keithley, it’s said that the Krekel family arrived in the area with few possessions and little wealth.

Arnold Krekel

Arnold Krekel

But Arnold Krekel studied and worked hard to establish himself in St. Charles as an attorney, surveyor, and politician – among other pursuits. In 1855, he invested in 320 acres adjacent to the Keithley plantation. He platted out a town, naming it after John O’Fallon, the president of the Northern Missouri Railroad. Then he granted right-of-way through his property to that concern. As part of the deal, he arranged for his brother, Nicholas to be named station master and postmaster. So the younger brother left the farm where he’d been working and built a log cabin facing the tracks – later expanding and improving it. The Krekel House still stands today, the large two-story structure on the corner of Main Street and Civic Park Drive.

Nicholas Krekel

Nicholas Krekel

 

Shortly after the formation of the Confederate States of America, Nicholas Krekel joined the Union cause as a private in Company H of Missouri’s Home Guard. His brother, Arnold, served as the Company’s lieutenant colonel. As one might imagine, this did not set well with the slaveholding Keithley clan – especially since the Union soldiers known as Krekel’s Deutsch patrolled what is now Main Street, regularly marching up and down right in front of the Keithleys’ home.

One morning a member of the Keithley household noticed from an upstairs window as Krekel’s Deutsch paraded past once again. In an impulsive moment of wickedness, she threw open the window and yelled, “Hooray for Jeff Davis!” As the soldiers scrambled to see who had the nerve to say such a thing, the matron of the family came running to hush the thoughtless girl for fear that the furious Yankees might invade their home.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen. But does Krekel’s Deutsch continue patrolling? Some claim to hear the sound of boots echoing through the dark as the spectral squad marches along Main Street in the wee hours of the morning.

Krekel House

The Krekel House

 

As a border state, Missouri was exempt from President Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which only decreed the freedom of slaves in the territory claimed by the Confederacy. Not until two years later did a state constitutional convention vote to abolish slavery here. Arnold Krekel served as president of that body and signed Missouri’s Emancipation decree. On the same day, Governor Thomas Fletcher issued a Proclamation of Freedom, effectively ending legal slavery in the state. The key word here being “legal.” True liberty would evade the former slaves for more than a century.

Sixteen years after Missouri slaves were emancipated and 11 years after Samuel Keithley Sr.   had passed away, his daughter, Mahala, and her husband, Jasper Costlio, transferred one acre of land, now Sage Chapel Cemetery, to the trustees of an African Methodist Episcopalian Church.  This ensured that former slaves of the Keithley family could continue being buried there. The deed also conveyed a building and one-half acre of land along a dirt road that is now known as Sonderen Street.  After selling ¼ acre of that land to a former slave, Liberty Abington, in order to settle their $150 Deed of Trust debt with the Costlios, the trustees established a church there – Sage Chapel. That church and two other black churches that eventually laid folks to rest in Sage Chapel Cemetery are long gone, as are their records.

It has been said that as long as a person’s name is spoken, their memory will live on. Sage Chapel Cemetery is the final resting place of slaves and their descendants, but it’s impossible to know all of their names because burials were taking place in that section of the Keithley Plantation long before the Civil War. There exists documentation of 117 interred there, but only 37 of the graves bear markers. At least 17 people buried there were both born into slavery and still living on Missouri’s Emancipation Day. Perhaps some haunt the area hoping their names will be spoken and their lives remembered.

Pricilla

Pricella Admire Ball’s headstone is so weathered that it is difficult to read. Born into slavery in Kentucky in 1811, her 89 years on this earth must have been difficult. Like many among the newly-emancipated, she and David Ball, who was born into slavery in Virginia, married in1866. Little more is known about her experiences, but the inscription on the monument makes clear that she bore at least one child. “Rest mother in quiet sleep…While friends sorrow….” The rest is illegible. Her only documented living relative at the time of her death was a grandson, David Clement, born in Kentucky many years after Samuel Keithley brought his slaves to Missouri. Whether Pricella was David’s maternal or paternal grandmother is unknown, but one thing is certain: Pricella’s child was sold at auction and left behind in Kentucky. It’s unknown if the two were ever reunited. Perhaps that sound we hear when we visit Pricella’s grave isn’t the wind in the trees after all. Could it be a mother whispering prayers for her long lost child?

Mishey Edwards.JPG

The grave of Mishey Edwards, stepdaughter of Daneil H. Frost

Sage Chapel Cemetery is the final resting place of Daniel H. Frost, born into slavery in 1839. No monument adorns the grave of this man who served during the Civil War with the 2nd Missouri Colored Infantry, later designated U.S. Colored Troop 65, Company B. Research has not yet revealed how Daniel came to escape slavery to fight for freedom. After the death of his first wife, Daniel married Frances Rafferty Dryden, a former Keithley slave, in 1901. Both are buried in Sage Chapel Cemetery, both in unmarked graves. As is often the case with those born into slavery, this family’s genealogy is difficult to trace. Husbands often left widows who subsequently remarried. Daniel passed away in 1913, Frances survived until 1938. Cemetery records show that she left behind a daughter named Mishey Lechter Edwards who was born prior to her marriage to Daniel. Some say that a tall man in Union blue can sometimes be seen standing at attention in the graveyard. Is Daniel Frost paying tribute to Frances? Maybe. Perhaps he simply chooses to bloom where he was planted.

Lucy Hughes White

Lucy Hughes White was born enslaved on the Keithley Plantation in 1864. Lucy outlived three husbands – all of whom were also born into slavery. She bore seven children and raised several stepchildren who had survived their father. Lucy worked as a laundress and took in boarders to support herself, her children, and her grandchildren. The large, loving family lived in a log house on Lincoln Street. Her eldest son served as pastor to several African Methodist Episcopal Churches in St. Charles County and in California. Like his mother, the Reverend Fred Hughes lies at rest in the graveyard. Among the spirits of Sage Chapel Cemetery are others who bear the surnames of her brood: Claiborne, White, Lewis, and St. Claire. Despite the hardships she must have endured, much joy and happiness filled Lucy’s life as she helped her children and grandchildren grow and prosper under nominally better circumstances than she had experienced. During her final years, she lived with a daughter in Kinloch, Missouri until she came home to rest in Sage Chapel Cemetery. The maternal instincts of a hard-working, devoted woman like Lucy might extend beyond death. One might imagine her fussing over the graves of her descendants, making sure that they are comfortable and at peace.

Sage Chapel Overview

Who else might be roaming that sacred ground?  Perhaps the nameless souls whose existence has not been documented along with the enslaved people whose names we now speak.

Eldora Logan Abington, Liberty Abington, Frank Brady, Maria Brady, Martha Williams Burrell, Lucy Whitehead Claiborne, Mary Claiborne, Winston Davis, Frances Rafferty Dierker, Mary Stone Edwards, Alena Burrell Rafferty, John Rafferty, George Sanders, Okay Thomas, Mary Tucker, and Rufus White

Born into slavery; truly emancipated in death. May their souls rest in peace.

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Let me begin by wishing all the dads, step-dads, and dad-substitutes out there a relaxing, love-filled Fathers’ Day. You deserve it. After all, it isn’t easy being the anchor of a family. Your responsibilities are almost endless.

Family.jpg

We depend on you to teach us positive core values like honesty, integrity, and courage. You’re often called upon to be the disciplinarian. How many of us have heard our mothers warn us to “Just wait until your father gets home.”?  That sentence alone served as punishment – and not just because we dreaded whatever actions you might take to correct our behavior. Worse was the knowledge that we had disappointed you.

Although my Daddy wasn’t one to spare the rod, so to speak, if that’s what it took to avoid spoiling the child, he rarely needed to resort to physical punishment. When he pulled his glasses away from the bridge of his nose to glare over them, that withering look felt more crushing than any blow he might deliver.

Being the youngest of three girls, I often wondered if my parents had been disappointed that I didn’t turn out to be the son that would carry the family name into the following generations.  Sometimes my dad jokingly lamented his fate of being outnumbered in a house full of women; that even our dog was female. More often I heard him declare that he didn’t care how many children he and Mother had as long as they were all girls. He said he didn’t want any child of his to go through what he’d experienced during World War II – the details of which he chose never to elaborate upon.

I don’t know whether I served as his son-substitute or if he thought it the easiest way to keep me out of my mother’s hair, but Daddy often included me as his little helper when he worked around the house. There’s no telling how many nails I handed him when he undertook paneling our basement ratskeller. While he worked, Daddy patiently answered the hundreds of questions I threw at him, many of which began with “why” or “how.”

After his successful hunting trips, I often helped Daddy clean game. To this day I think of skinning a squirrel or a rabbit as “taking his pajamas off.” Thanks, Dad. And thanks for always bringing home the birds so I could have my favorite birthday dinner: fried quail.

That said, I haven’t forgotten the time you put a raccoon on the rotisserie and when I asked what you were barbecuing, you replied, “Have you seen your dog lately?”  Funny, not funny. Okay, maybe a little bit funny.

Most of the time Daddy called me Peewee Johnson, but sometimes my name was Half-Pint. Maybe that’s why I so identified with the Ingalls family when I got old enough to read the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura’s daddy called her Half-Pint, too! In a way I guess I have my father to thank for my love of reading.

Oh, but when I became Janet Yvonne…look out!  I knew I’d done something awful to displease him. But I also knew it wouldn’t take long to get back into his good graces. He forgave easily.

I could list dozens of things my father taught me, but perhaps the most important is that girls can do anything boys can do. And, in his opinion anyway, they usually do it better.

In my teen years, while Mother discouraged me from creative pursuits, Daddy secretly informed me that I could choose any line of work that suited me. In a time when women’s career options were more limited than they are today, that seems revolutionary advice.

“Follow your heart, baby,” he would say. “Work isn’t work if it gives you joy.”

This is the man who left school after completing the eighth grade so he could help provide for his family. He thought it much more important for his sisters to have everything they needed so they could continue their schooling. Yet, with his limited formal education, my father mastered advanced mathematics by studying on his own. I recall a time when I shied away from enrolling in an algebra class. He shamed me into taking it saying, “If I can do trigonometry with my feeble brain, you can figure out algebra. Piece of cake!”

Sadly, my father passed away when he was only 56 years old. Neither of my children enjoyed growing up with the fantastic grandfather he was.  I still – and always will – miss him.

There are other dads I want to pay special tribute to today: my husband, my son, and my son-in-law. They each, in their own way, embody many of my father’s best attributes.

Dear hubby has helped me raise two remarkable adults. Even under the most trying circumstances we have supported each other through the challenges most parents face…and some that were extraordinarily difficult.

Our son’s fondest wish came true when he became father to a son of his own. The love between the two is palpably enormous. The patience this Dada exhibits with his child equals – and probably surpasses – that with which my father blessed me. It is a joy watching the two of them together.  Our grandson is fortunate to have a father so determined to be an integral part of the boy’s life.

3 Bettags

We could not have asked for a better father for our two beautiful, brilliant, and talented granddaughters than our wonderful son-in-law. Like my father, this man has taught his girls that there are no limits to what they can accomplish. He has partnered with our daughter to instill in their children positive core values and in conveying that anything less than one’s best effort is unacceptable.

According to data from the 2010 Census, 24.7 million children in the United States don’t live with their biological fathers. I pray that most of those kids have some kind of father figure in residence.

Yet a 2001 report from the National Center for Education Statistics indicates that 39% of students in grades 1 through 12 are “fatherless.”

That is sad. So, so sad.

What’s that saying?

Any Man

Read Full Post »

Mother_v2

My late mother’s birthday fell on July 7. Daddy’s sister, Aunt Celia Ann, also had a birthday around that time, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t recall the exact date. In any case, these July birthdays prompted the creation of the original Army Green Birthday Cake.

I can’t remember who first had the idea, but my two older sisters and I decided to surprise Mother and Aunt Celia Ann with a memorable treat. Although I can’t recall my exact age at the time, I know I was young and eager to participate in any activity from which I wasn’t banned by my siblings. Happily, the army green birthday cake proved to be such an event.

Together, the three of us set about testing our baking, frosting, and cake decorating skills. The batter may have been chocolate…or maybe yellow…perhaps lemon? I’m not sure. The flavor seemed somewhat immaterial. The icing made this cake special.

I remember there being much discussion regarding how to tint the frosting. All we knew was that none of the options available in that little box of food coloring seemed special enough for our creation. I believe we thought lavender would be nice. Sadly, our version of that purplish hue too closely resembled grey and required adjustment. I don’t suppose any of us were well versed on how blue and red combine to make purple or, conversely, how green results when you mix yellow and blue.

Thus the experimentation began.

pexels-photo-951233.jpeg

I’m not sure how many combinations we tried before realizing that we’d better settle for that putrid olive drab before our frosting went from hideous to coyote ugly. (So nasty you would chew off your own paw to escape it.)

Certainly I was not the only sister who wanted to cry at that point, but we soldiered onward. We assembled the layers into a towering thing of beauty covered in army green icing. We hid the finished product in Mother’s aluminum cake cover, latched tight so there would be no peeking to ruin the surprise.

The next day, we loaded up the family station wagon and drove from Missouri to Colorado over the long Independence Day weekend to visit Aunt Celia Ann, Uncle Bill, Aunt Helen and all of my first cousins. Together we would celebrate those July birthdays in style. Mother packed a picnic basket and a cooler so we could drive straight through, saving time and money – both of which were no doubt in short supply.

With the whole family gathered, what a shock the unveiling of our masterpiece proved to be. I vaguely remember one of the cousins exclaiming, “It’s green!”

pexels-photo-48600.jpeg

 

And I’m pretty sure there was laughter…a lot of it.

But the only memory of the event really worth keeping is Mother’s reaction. Her voice conveyed sheer delight when she exclaimed, “Did you girls bake this cake for us all by yourselves? It looks wonderful!”

Thank you, Mother! In that moment you taught me an invaluable lesson. Even an army green birthday cake is beautiful when viewed through loving eyes.

Today is the 37th Mothers’ Day I’ve spent celebrating only the memory of my mom.  She passed away too young. Way too young.

Happy Mothers Day

Happy Heavenly Mothers’ Day 2018 to the amazing lady who, by her actions, taught me to be strong and independent; to love unconditionally; to be brave and unafraid to try new things…

And to appreciate all the army green birthday cakes life has to offer.

 

Read Full Post »

Younger folks might not appreciate the affection some antique people (like me!) hold for good, old-fashioned aprons like our grandmothers wore. These days, aprons tend to be single purpose.

 

garden apron

One can purchase gardening aprons designed to hold essential tools. They are universally capable of withstanding the grime that comes with digging in the dirt. Some are waterproof…just in case the wearer has a close encounter of the sprinkler kind, I suppose. They seem to come in two main types: with bib, and without. The latter version straps around the waist – usually with a webbed belt- and has a short panel with a few pockets to hold just the essentials. As an avid veggie, herb, and flower grower, I don’t see the usefulness of an apron so small one that there’s no place to wipe the mud off of one’s hands. The bib type usually sports an extra pocket or two, but aside from covering one’s sternum (which is often where one of those extra pockets is positioned), it doesn’t seem to me to be of any more value than its bib-less friend. Neither variety has a sufficiently ample skirt for carrying a freshly harvested mess of green beans or peas. Heck, they’d barely hold a couple of tomatoes!

Now there is even such a thing as an egg-gathering apron. Outfitted with a dozen or more little ovum-sized pockets, this garment apparently serves the purpose of eliminating the need for carrying a basket to the hen house. These aprons are all bib-free, which is just as well since egg-gathering activities generally take place below the waistline. Usually sewn up from nostalgic adorable gingham or adorable chicken print fabrics, they certainly make an impressive barnyard fashion statement. But here’s the thing: to me they look like a cracking incident waiting to happen. If the wearer should happen to bump into something or forget herself and crouch down, she could end up with egg all over her cute little apron and whatever she’s wearing under it…to say nothing of the egg on her face when she returns from the chicken coop with no usable fresh eggs.

egg apron

And then there are the kitchen aprons. One website I visited proudly proclaimed that it featured more than 320 varieties from which customers could choose. Seriously? I had to check that out. Aside from color choices, I found that their stock consisted primarily of two types: bib aprons for men and bib aprons for women…although for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what made one gender’s apron distinct from the other’s. They all had a neck loop that held the bib against the chest, a sash that tied at the waist, and two good-sized front pockets. Probably okay for guys and slim, petite girls, but for tall, curvy women like me that little bib wouldn’t cover enough chest area to keep the pasta sauce from splattering all over my blouse.

kitchen apron

Server aprons generally fall into two categories: with and without bib. Both types featured multiple pockets for holding a ticket book, cash, change…and whatever other necessities a waiter or waitress might need to work efficiently. Some seemed fancier than others to match the tone of upscale eateries as opposed to the more utilitarian-looking aprons seen in chain restaurants and coffee houses.

pexels-photo-763934.jpeg

 

There’s even been a resurgence of that 1950s favorite, the hostess apron. You know – the kind June Cleaver wore with her heels and pearls when she worked in the kitchen. (Okay, the younger crowd might not even know who June Cleaver was. Google it.)

June Cleaver

It seems to me that the industry now produces just about every single-purpose apron one might imagine. What seems lacking is a good, old-fashioned grandmother’s apron.

I started my online apron research because I spend a lot of time in the kitchen…and I mean a LOT of time. I already own at least half a dozen aprons and while some are more useful than others, none do an adequate job of keeping my clothes clean and stain-free. I thought about ordering a chef’s coat. That should keep the marinara off of my favorite concert t-shirt! But what about the other activities that keep me busy throughout the day? The gardening, the laundry, the housecleaning…? Heck, I would gather eggs if the city where I live didn’t frown on residents keeping live chickens.

chef coat

No, what I really need is wardrobe of aprons wardrobe like my Grandma Creech wore. The primary purpose, of course, was to protect her clothing. And it did so regardless of the task at hand. With a waist-to-neckline bib large enough to cover her ample bosom, nothing would slop on the bodice of her house dress or her Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. The skirt of the apron was gathered and full, wrapping around and almost meeting in the back. It featured two large pockets in the skirt and a smaller pocket in the bib, which held her ever-present handkerchief.

Grandma’s apron was omni-purpose, a feature lacking in modern aprons.

I fondly recall sitting with her while we snapped green beans. The apron stretched across her lap held the newly-harvested produce. As we worked, the snapped off ends went back into her apron and the beans went into the cook pot. When we were finished, she gathered the waste in her apron skirt and transported it to the compost heap where, with one good shake, it was deposited.

On laundry day, she filled those immense pockets with clothespins before she carried a basket of newly washed bed linens to the back yard and hung them to dry in the sunshine. Nothing compared to the fresh scent of those summer-air-dried sheets and pillowcases.

More than once I saw Grandma run a stray dog out of the yard by flapping her apron and yelling “Shoo!” That same fluttering garment served as a signal that the food was on the table and the young’uns had best come and get it while it was hot.

On occasion she even wiped away my childhood tears with that apron when a skinned knee, a broken doll, or some perceived mistreatment by an older sibling threatened to ruin my life forever.

Ah…those were the days.

More to the point, those were the best aprons.

I haven’t abandoned my quest, although it appears I may have to search out a pattern and put my limited sewing skills to work if I want some really useful aprons.

Gosh, I wish I had my Grandma’s apron!

Read Full Post »

Every home cook has had some recipe not turn out as expected. At least I hope I’m not alone.

Some dishes that flop can’t be redeemed and it’s best to cut your losses, pitch the burnt chicken that wasn’t supposed to be Cajun-blackened, and order a pizza.

Interlaken, Berner Oberland, Switzerland

But if we get creative…and more than a little lucky…that “oops” can be salvaged or put to some other use. Got a little carried away salting the stew? No problem. Add more potatoes. Potatoes suck up salt. Did the rice stick to the bottom of the saucepan? Just leave about ½ inch layer everywhere it’s stuck. The fluffy white grains tend not to pick up a burned taste if they’re not in direct contact with their less fortunate friends.

There are things that can be done to at least make the product edible. If you can move past the initial upset and frustration, you might even find your kitchen malfunction amusing.

Case in Point:

One sunny Thanksgiving morning I felt excited that my daughter had volunteered to host the family feast. Instead of taking the time and effort to prepare the entire meal, my assignment seemed pretty simple. She only asked that I bake a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie to bring to the dessert table.

My recipe for pumpkin custard fills two 9-inch shells, so the previous day I baked up a couple of them along with my son-in-law’s favorite pecan pie. Although dear daughter hadn’t requested it, I decided it would be a nice touch if I took along some fresh whipped cream to dollop on top. (Because, of course, there weren’t enough calories in those pies already to put us all into a near-terminal food coma, right?)

Joyfully singing my favorite Thanksgiving hymn, We Gather Together, I pulled out my stand mixer, poured in a pint of heavy whipping cream, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a couple of tablespoons of sugar in the bowl and pushed “start.” I watched for a bit until the sugar and vanilla disappeared into the creamy whiteness before deciding I might as well unload the dishwasher while the mighty mixer did its thing.

By the time I finished that little chore and went to check on my mixer, the cream had gone from liquid through whipped and straight into butter.

whipped cream butter.png

Oops.

Well, it was still edible, so this was not an epic fail. I just found myself short on whipped cream and long on butter. I poured a tablespoon of honey and about a teaspoon of cinnamon in to the bowl and started the mixer on low speed. I watched it constantly and hit “STOP!” the instant everything had blended. Removing the soft honey butter from the mixing bowl, I shaped it into a flat oval and pressed a design on top with a cookie stamp. Then off it went to the fridge to chill.

Voilà! A disaster turned into a bonus.

On the way to the feast, hubby and I stopped at a convenience store and picked up a can of store-bought whipped cream. Not as fresh and not as impressive, but still capable of adding unnecessary calories to the pies.

When we arrived at dear daughter and son-in-law’s home bearing pies, whipped cream, and the mystery gift, I announced, “I hope you don’t mind. I knew you planned on baking those yummy yeast rolls, so I took the liberty of making some cinnamon-honey butter to go with them.”

“Oh, Mom!” she exclaimed. “You shouldn’t have gone to all that trouble, but I’m sure the kids will be thrilled.”

“It was literally no trouble at all,” I replied with a Cheshire cat grin.

Cheshire Cat Grin

My kitchen failure might have remained a secret had not sweet hubby found it necessary to announce to all present, “Yep. Your mother tried to make homemade whipped cream, but instead she made butter.”

Oh, well. It got him a good laugh, even if it was at my expense.

All’s well that ends well. The kids (and adults) really did love the “accidental butter” on their dinner rolls. Canned whipped cream served the purpose just fine. And everyone raved about how delicious the pies were.

If it is edible it’s not a failure, right?

Comment below to share your experiences turning kitchen disasters into edible non-failures.

Read Full Post »

Jane Austen

By nature, writers are a curious sort. By that I mean we are easily led down The Rabbit Hole by the plot bunnies we insist on chasing. Research being an important activity for any serious writer, the lure of interesting information is a siren’s song that sometimes delays our current works-in-progress. Occasionally when we are sidetracked, however, The Muses favor us with an idea worth pursuing.

Recently, while researching dinner party fare that might be served by characters in the novels of Jane Austen, I stumbled across references to Martha Lloyd’s Housekeeping Book. I’ve read Austen’s works, but I’m no “Janeite.” Several of my closest friends are so devoted to that author that anything Jane-Austen-related is certain to please. I understand the attraction; I just don’t share their enthusiasm to the same level.

Until I tumbled down this particular bunny burrow, I was unaware that Martha Lloyd and Jane Austen enjoyed such a close friendship that Miss Lloyd lived in the Austen household for a number of years, eventually marrying one of Jane’s brothers. After the death of his first wife, Mary, Francis Austen married Martha Lloyd – his dead wife’s sister. (But that’s a story for another day. Here I go chasing plot bunnies again!)

Martha Lloyd kept a “household book,” in which she recorded favorite recipes, homemaking hints, medicinal remedies, household occurrences, and so forth. The original Martha Lloyd’s Household Book has been preserved and is safeguarded by the Jane Austen Memorial Trust at Chawton House Museum, in the home where Jane Austen lived the last years of her life.

open book

Sliding further down The Rabbit Hole, I became curious whether it was a common thing for women to maintain such household books. I learned that many homemakers of the time did as Martha did, but in researching how far back the practice originated, I came up empty handed…well, sort of. That research led me to a later book, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published in 1861 by Samuel Beeton, the husband of Isabella Beeton, the book’s author.

Then I found reference to Miss Beecher’s Housekeeper and Healthkeeper, the work of Catherine Beecher. In an era where the cult of domesticity doctrine ruled the lives of women, Catherine became a dedicated proponent for the education of women. She founded The Hartford Female Seminary in 1824 to offer ladies access to higher education. Teacher, lecturer, and author, Miss Beecher’s contributions no doubt had a tremendous impact.

Now that I’ve led you through the labyrinth of my thought process, I’ll advance to the point of this blog : The legacy people can leave to their families – as well as the future – by creating their own household books.

pexels-photo-948891.jpeg

How to accomplish this is up to the individual. In this age of technology there’s literally nothing that can’t be recorded electronically or converted to electronic storage…locally or somewhere on that mystical Cloud. This is likely the best route for computer-savvy, tech-minded individuals. I haven’t checked, but I would be surprised if there aren’t at least half a dozen apps for that. Some bloggers have found fame and fortune producing their online versions of household books.

 

For more old-school folks, nothing beats a beautiful leather journal and an ink pen that fits well in your hand. A benefit of this method, especially if your intended audience consists of family, is that future generations will be able to read your words, written in your own hand. Pretty nostalgic, don’t you think?

Author_photo_comprssed_for_email

That brings me to the “Me” in the title. As you may be aware, I am a ruptured cerebral aneurysm survivor. Having avoided the very real specter of death, I recognize the importance of leaving behind something of yourself for your children, grandchildren, and all the generations to follow. I can’t think of any more personal legacy than passing down favorite family recipes, a family tree, photos, and stories of ancestors long passed.

Hindsight being, as they say, 20/20, I wish I’d had the presence of mind to start a household book when I was still a newlywed bride…or in any of the subsequent years, preferably before that nasty brain bleed robbed me of some of my memories. But it’s never too late, is it?

Young or old, female or male…if you haven’t already done so, start your own household book today. Someday one of your descendants may want their high-tech replicator to exactly reproduce your signature dish. What a shame it would be if that information had been lost to the universe because you never passed it down.

Read Full Post »

easter-bunny-easter-rabbit-bunny-couple-69816.jpeg

I inherited a pink and orange polka-dotted apron from my dear, departed mother-in-law with those words emblazoned in bold letters. Who Invited All These Tacky People? Wearing it when I host meals is usually good for a laugh from family members.

There’s nothing I love more than gatherings, but sometimes finding a date for a holiday celebration that fits the schedules of most of my children, grandchildren, and all their in-laws, outlaws, and significant others proves challenging.

Easter is a prime example.

The first conflict came decades ago when I worked for a large local CPA firm and Easter Sunday fell smack in the middle of the final days of the April tax filing crunch. I had to work the entire weekend. Due to other people’s scheduling conflicts, we had to postpone our family gathering until three weeks after Easter.

At that time, our holiday events included extended family…sisters, nieces, nephews, the spouses and significant others thereof, as well as the occasional renegades, rebels and rogues. When, by some miracle, everybody attended, we numbered 25 or more. Eventually we agreed that we either needed to pare down the gatherings or rent a hall. The majority voted to have each branch on the family tree do their own thing instead of having one huge party.

That was a wise decision. If we were to all come together now – with all the steps, grands, and great-grands – we would number well over 100. As much fun as that would be, (a) scheduling would be a nightmare, and (b) the cost of renting a facility and providing food for that army would probably break several banks.

After that official pruning of the family tree, time marched on and before we knew it, hubby and I had granddaughters. Soon we started running into dance competitions held in other states which, of course, involved travel time…and other complications like family members with conflicting work schedules, and taking into consideration the holiday plans of in-laws . We had to start choosing between before or after Easter and rarely celebrated on the actual holiday.

After a few years, we gave up calling it Easter Dinner and the celebration became known as The Spring Family Gathering.

The years flew by and before we could say “Peter Rabbit,” we had reached a point where those pesky college spring breaks never seemed to align with their high school  counterparts. And by then the situation had become even more complicated since we wanted to include boyfriends of the grand-princesses in our celebrations.  We also added a step-grandson, another significant other, and a baby grandson to the mix.

Sadly, our step-grand-prince sometimes has to miss these events so he can spend quality time with his father. And the restaurant where one of our grand-princesses works seems always to schedule her for a shift  at the exact time the rest of us would be sitting down to eat.

The Spring Family Gathering has unfortunately morphed into Spring-Brunch-And-Whoever-Can-Attend-Does-And-We’ll-Miss-The-Rest-Of-You.  But that’s just how it goes, isn’t it?

In a way, that’s a blessing. We enjoy each other’s company one day and hubby and I relish sharing a quiet Easter Sunday to worship and celebrate on our own – like the happy bunny couple pictured above.

Taking into consideration work schedules, spring breaks, and competing celebrations (among other conflicts), Easter is coming early to our house this year. Spring Brunch will be held on March 18. For the next six days this house will be a hotbed of activity. Between the baking and cooking, the candy-making, the egg decorating, the housecleaning, and the other assorted tasks associated with making sure every family member’s favorites are included, I will be one busy woman.

So far, here’s how the menu is shaping up:

  • Egg, Sausage, and Cheese Casserole (Everybody’s favorite.)
  • Yogurt (One of a few foods our picky toddler might eat.)
  • Devilled Eggs (I can’t disappoint my son or the grand-princesses.)
  • Fresh Fruit Tray (Keeps hubby smiling and offers a healthy choice for all.)
  • Biscuits with Milk Gravy (Dear S-I-L, this one’s for you. Enjoy!)
  • Blueberry Muffins (Because it’s just not brunch without muffins.)
  • Gingerbread Waffles  (I’ll make the batter; you’ll bake your own.)
  • Asparagus Roll-Ups (Dear daughter, I know how you love these!)
  • Cinnamon Roll Swirl Cake (A hit with the significant others.)
  • Solid Chocolate Rabbits (Only for the older grands.)
  • Chocolate Pudding Parfaits (Chocolate rabbit substitute for the toddler.)
  • Virgin Mimosas (No champagne until you’re over 21. I mean it!)
  • Coffee, milk, hot tea, iced tea, and lemonade (Everybody happy?)

Important note to those who can’t attend: Yes, I will fill a plate with all of your favorites to send home to you.

After the feast comes the egg hunt.

The older grands are now in charge of hiding the eggs and the only hunter is the toddler. We learned an important lesson last year. This young man knows the difference between an egg and a plastic do-hickey shaped like a bunny or a chicken. He won’t touch those plastic “egg substitutes,”  but he will collect every egg that actually looks like an egg…even especially the one that fell out of a robin’s nest.

Next Sunday will be a joyful, but exhausting day for me. It is such a wonderful treat having the people I cherish most dearly come together to share love and laughter.

Even though I know the answer (me), I sometimes wonder “Who Invited All These Tacky People?”.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: