Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mysterious Reunion

A coffin, sheat and grave’s my earthly store,
Tis all I want and kings can have no more.

Had an extraordinary experience down home last week.  I felt a literally painful connection to the places we visited, old graveyards where seven generations of ancestors are buried, standing on the site of our house that burned down when I was five, driving past the courthouse in Marshall, the little town where I, my brother, and my sister started life.  I kept coming close to tears for almost no reason.  Happy tears, sometimes, others tears of sorrow or regret.  When we all gathered in a church hall for the last dinner Saturday evening, about thirty of us from eleven states, all descended from three sons and a daughter of the man who fought in the Civil War, and who himself was the grandson of a man who fought in the Revolutionary War, and who himself was the grandson of the original Pulver who came to America in 1709, there was a remarkable feeling of wholeness.  These people, most of them strangers to me and one another, were also family.  When I started for home on Sunday morning I felt a chain of something holding onto my shoulders, trailing back and back, to the graveyards, to the land, to the cousins who still live there, a feeling at once good and making me want to cry - confusing and awful and warm and like leaving a sanctuary.  I left there when I was five, for goodness sake, and knew nothing about the ancestors, so how could I feel so viscerally now as if I have roots driven deep back there?

You want to hear something almost as remarkable?  My sister and I stopped by a shabby little shop on the edge of town where a man with a ragged beard sells tombstones.  Outside on the grass was a large assortment of stones, and we both went directly to a big block of granite.  My sister confessed that she had already bought a block of four graves in a little graveyard.  We’re thinking of putting Dad and Mom on one side, me on another, my sister on the third, and my other sister and her husband on the fourth.  It seemed such a brilliant and obvious idea at that moment.  Dad and Mom are both gone – his ashes are already down there, Mom’s in an urn in my sister’s living room.  But none of the rest of us are ill and ready to die, and yet we talked about epitaphs and everything..  Like I said, it was an extraordinary experience.  It’s a nice, big, unusual stone, it’s been there awhile, and the man is anxious to get it sold, so the price isn’t as scary as other stones.  Want a shock?  Price tombstones.

In one cemetery we visited I heard a whole flock of blue jays screaming “thief-thief-thief” (my father told me that’s how their alarm call is translated, though he added that it’s often the jay who is stealing and is trying to blame someone else).  I’ve heard and seen crows “mobbing” an owl, but didn’t know jays do it, too.  I walked over toward the wooded area where they were yelling to see what it was about, and just as I reached the wire fence they shut up.  And I didn’t see a single bird.  Another cemetery was at the far end of a cow pasture and behind some trees, with no road leading to it, just a wide swathe of mowed grass.  Abraham Lincoln’s wife’s sister is buried there.  So are some great-great aunts and uncles of ours.  I don't know how my sister found out about it – have I mentioned she’s a passionate genealogist?  She’s in the DAR and is working on linking us to the Mayflower people.  Here she is with cousin Jeanette, cemetery in the background.

And yes, I’m thinking there’s a mystery to be written in all this, because when you go turning over rocks sooner or later you’ll find something ugly – though so far, we’re pretty clean.  We did come across a distant cousin who was arrested in 1853 and charged with “rescue.”  We’ve only got a fragment of a court report, but we think perhaps he helped a slave brought into the state escape, because in that year there was considerable action in that arena.  (Of course, it might be that he broke a pal out of jail.)  Bail was set at $500, which back then was a considerable sum.  I have no doubt my sister will get all the details.


Betty Hechtman said...

Your reunion sounds fascinating.

Linda O. Johnston said...

What an emotional-sounding time. And I especially liked the part about the birds!

Monica Ferris said...

Even stranger, my sister insisted she didn't hear the birds at all. I don't see how she didn't hear them, they were making an awful racket that went on and on.

Anonymous said...

That bird incident -- as well as the bearded character -- might work well in a future book. How far have you gotten on the new story idea?

Monica Ferris said...

I haven't worked further on the Knot story, because I'm waiting to hear from my agent and editor with approval for it. I had started in on the theater mystery when it got knocked down and I don't want to start in on another if it's going to get knocked over, too.