Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pioneer Day: the unfamous edition.

My post from last Pioneer Day has led to some...um...interesting developments in my life and family history. What can I say? It's sorta fun to be descended from Important People. But to be honest, I've only become attached to my paternal heritage in recent years -- the stories I grew up on were from my mom's side. The side made up of lowly folk no one's ever heard of.

My maternal-paternal great-grandfather didn't walk across the plains; he converted to the LDS church well after the railroads had been built and he came to Utah in relative ease. And yet I consider him one of the great pioneers of my family, leaving his beloved but unbelieving family behind in England and raising in the Utah desert a his-hers-and-theirs blended family of 15 children so lovingly that they took offense if I ever referred to them as "step-siblings." He was jolly, known for the lovely singing voice that won him the lead role in The Mikado (see photo) at the local college though he had just a second-grade education. He was a self-taught mechanic, adapting to the industrialization that ultimately landed his stocking-weaver parents in the almshouse until their deaths.

Years ago I decided to transcribe the letters his mother sent him from England (the picture below shows her standing outside the almshouse where she lived). We only get her half of the conversation, but in it is a clear reflection of his pain at the death of his first wife and the sorrow of separation from his home. I don't think Pioneer Day should be about flogging ourselves for the pains of those who came before. It's not a celebration of asceticism, but of love -- for faith, for ideas, for children, for the future. Yet how can his choice have always seemed good as he looked back at his poor, sad family? They are together now, and I hope they see me here tonight.*


Jan 28 1915

Dear Son and daughter

i now sit down to rite a few lines to you once more hoping they may find you all in good health....Well dears i must tell you their is alot of trouble and triles to get along with all throu this dretfull war it is cruell to think about every things is getting so dear we pay 1s [shilling] 2p [pence] abag of coles 1s p bacon 9p lard 1s cheese per pound bread is getting verry dear buter we don't get any meat is 10p per pound and now we must thank you for the nice letter and the contents i am shure we boath are alot better in health for it....we ofton set and talk about you all and say as how we should like to see you all in your homes but that will never be on this earth do yor think so Well dears you must excuse me for not riting sooner we got yours the 4th of the new year so you see i haven't been so long after all father think they may be a chance to come and see you now their is flying meshenes [flying machines] o if we could i do wish we could see you and all of them dear children of yours as well o what a meeting a meeting it would be but we hope to meet in the bye and by....now i think i have tould you all i can this time and I contlude with our verry best love from your dear old mother and father good by

rite again soon

* Of course, if he's really like he sounds in the family stories, he'll find this posting unforgivably maudlin. Sorry, Grandpa. I get this way on Pioneer Day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I am no wisteria sadist.

The performance of the wisteria vine I was scoping out for Wisteria Watch was, um, less than spectacular this year (see sidebar). That's why I was dragging the ol' feet. I watch for it to bloom every year, but this was a lousy year. Maybe it's depressed -- I dunno. Maybe its girl took its dog and ran off to Nashville in its pickup.

But to compensate you patient wisteria waiters, here are some slightly better ones I found 'round town. (No extra charge, because I love you.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Dad, poolside.

"That cloud up there -- it looks like.............nothing."

[20 seconds of silence]

"The one behind it looks like.............well, it also looks like nothing. Just a different version."