Monday, December 23, 2013

Any Beaver Cleaver Roots?

Since my mother’s accident over Thanksgiving weekend, I have reflected a lot on the love, security, and comfort that defined home to me.  I was in my 30’s before I realized that ours was not a “Beaver Cleaver” home…but what we had was probably a lot more normal.  Yesterday was my parent’s 66th Wedding Anniversary and today is Roots Day.  I did not remind Mother of their anniversary, as it would have made her increasingly sad, as it seems these last 16 years she has missed Daddy more than the year before and she so yearns to be with him once again.  With Mother now in rehab, our Christmas will be different this year.  My sister and youngest nephew came in to see Mother and bring their gifts for our exchange.  My sister gifted Mother and I with prints of old family photographs.  When I opened them, I cried, but we have been crying a lot since Mother’s accident.  Dwight and I were talking about being thankful that Cindy and Matt got to see Mother on Friday, for it was a good day for her and unfortunately her difficult days are becoming more frequent.

Family gatherings, old photographs, sharing childhood stories and those of our ancestors all help us discover our roots and learn of the things that have made us who we are today.  I believe that finding our roots gives us a sense of belonging that we may not even realize we were missing.  In 1982, my parents vacationed in Colorado for the first time.  As a young boy, my dad had lived in Colorado and during that vacation, he had gone in search of his childhood home.  Upon returning home to Texas, they showed us incredible photos of Colorado tourist spots where they had captured the Lord’s glory in its finest.  There were also pictures of Daddy’s childhood home against the backdrop of a distant range of mountains and they were captivating as well.  These pictures that seized my attention revealed a small and very plain little house that no longer had a roof, was void of its windows and one wall laid in ruins.  This was the home that MY grandfather had built for his family—my grandmother and his three little boys. 

Soon after seeing these pictures of their 1982 trip, I came up with a plan to move Daddy’s home from Colorado to our family farm in Texas and presented my plan to him.  Being realistic, Daddy told me of all the cons to offset all the pros of my plan.  Of course, it was his money that I was using in “the plan” estimates and it just did not seem as enticing and practical to him as it did to me.  I certainly did not have the $100,000 plus dollars it would have cost to buy the home from the current owners, and for the cost of dismantling, moving and rebuilding the house, so the idea was quashed.

My husband grew up vacationing in Colorado during the summers, as his mother too had lived in Colorado as a young girl.  In 2001, she wanted to take another trip and asked us to go along. As the trip began, I was very excited with the prospect of finding my dad’s home which was what I wanted more than anything on the trip.  The first night we stopped in Raton, New Mexico where Dwight’s parents stayed in an RV park and we stayed at the Best Western.  Early the next morning we checked out and went to the RV Park to start the journey to Colorado Springs.  They had decided they wanted to stay and rest a while longer and urged us to go and to find my dad’s home.  Our trip was to be a three week vacation, and I had thought we would search for Daddy’s home at the end of the trip instead of the beginning, but instead we headed out that morning looking for the little house.  I began praying as soon as we left, knowing that I was going to be terribly disappointed IF we did not find the little house, as that had become the main focus of planning for me…to find Daddy’s home.  The longer we drove, the more I prayed as it was not long into that journey that I realized, it was going to be like “looking for a needle in a haystack”.  And the more I talked to the Lord, the more I talked of concession, realizing that I just did not have enough information (just a few pictures from the 1982 trip) for anyone to direct us to Daddy’s home in the vast wilderness of His Colorado Plains.  My dad had died in 1997 and Mom could only tell me what she remembered of their search 19 years before “if you can find the school house, you can find your Daddy’s house which is a mile or more from the schoolhouse”.   As I viewed the Plains I kept thinking that I certainly never recalled seeing pictures or of studying THIS Colorado in school.  What I saw of the Colorado Plains made west Texas look heavily populated. It was definitely going to take the Lord’s intervention and guidance to find Daddy’s little home in the vast and barren lands we were traveling.  .   

Two hours into our drive, we came to a fork in the road and the first little town called Walt’s Crossing.  As I remember, we had not seen any cars, houses, or cattle since leaving Trinidad, Colorado.  I had believed we had to be going the wrong way, not believing that anyone could have lived and survived in the wilderness of this land.  Walt’s Crossing had a home which was also an art gallery.  When we went inside, the folks were as excited to see us as we were to see them.  We asked if we were on the right road that would take us to Pritchett, Colorado.  They were puzzled why we were looking for Pritchett.  I showed them my pictures and they knew nothing of the home or schoolhouse, but said to stay on the same road for the next 70 miles and once we got into town to stop at the Post Office or General Store for assistance. 

As we entered town, we found the Post Office with ease.  Pritchett was as much a ghost town as those seen in the old Westerns shown on television.  I certainly was not surprised after our three hour drive through the Plains.  The woman working at the Post Office had only been in the area for a couple of years and knew nothing about the home or the schoolhouse.  She sent us to the General Store—the only other business open in town.  The General Store served as a bar and diner as well.  The lone woman working took our hamburger orders as I viewed the meager grocery supplies.  It was obvious that Pritchett was not home to many folks or they were definitely due a big delivery to stock the bare shelves.  When she brought our burgers, she asked what we were doing in town.  I pulled out my pictures feeling a little foolish in asking as I believed it was pointless to ask anyone else if the Postmaster did not know where the old schoolhouse could be found.  Once our multi talented friend at the General Store looked at the pictures, she told us something like “I not only sell, sack and shelve groceries, tend bar, cook, serve and bottle wash, I ALSO mow for the county and know exactly where this home is!”  She then went on to tell us that there were only two such structures remaining in the Colorado Plains and this was one of them.  Once we finished lunch, she directed us to the Co-Op to get gas and gave directions to Daddy’s home.  I was too excited to take time to get gas first, so we proceeded in search of Daddy’s home.  No luck.  We headed back to the Co-Op and as we were gassing up, we talked to the man running the Co-op.  He was a local and actually remembered the family name and thought he remembered my dad and his older brother.  He went inside and called the owners of the ranch and told Joyce that I was searching for my dad’s home.  She invited us out, gave us directions and we were soon on the road in my quest to find our family roots and incredible blessings from the Lord. 

Joyce met us as we pulled into their drive.  She took us out to the barn to meet Eddie, her husband.  I showed them the pictures and they explained when they bought the property, they built their own house literally around the old schoolhouse.  Through the back barn doors, Eddie pointed to Daddy’s house---way in the distance.  He gave us a crow bar to use in turning over rocks as the Plains are a prolific rattlesnake habitat.  They told us that we could take our time and have anything from the house that we wanted.  I was glad we were in Dwight’s pickup as I definitely wanted rock from the house. 

For three hours, we walked around the house and the land.  I can not explain the incredible and overpowering feelings I experienced at the home site.  The home stood near a cliff above the deep canyons and I SAW the beauty amid the barrenness.  My grandfather had quarried the rock from the stone canyons below and had hauled the rocks up out of those deep canyons.  Many of the rocks actually had the signs of the pick he had used in cutting the stone.  I could count the numerous strikes just by the pick marks on the many rocks as I intently gazed at the stone walls of the home…the fruit of his hard labor.  The house was a small one room home with a dirt floor, yet he had to have labored very hard to build the home for his young family.  To load and haul the large rocks from the canyons would have been a difficult feat as well.  As we went through every inch of the house, Dwight pointed out that what made the difference in Granddaddy’s house was that he had made mortar and used it instead of mud that would wash away.  And he had taken barbed wire and used it like modern day rebar is used in strengthening structures to withstand the elements and storms.  He had to have been as wise as my dad as the small home had at that time withstood almost 80 years of the harsh elements of the Colorado Plains.  We later realized that the same was true of the schoolhouse which was probably the second “remaining structure” we had been told about.  Inside the house, Granddaddy had taken strips of wood and embedded them into the rocks creating pegboards.  I imagined the boys using them to hang their little clothes and other items such as Grandmother’s pots and pans.  As I peered out each of the openings where the windows and doors had been, I wanted to capture what they saw as they looked at the vistas outside their little home.  When we walked outside, I picked handfuls of the native flowers that looked like yellow baby’s breath growing wild across the land.  I was seeing this all at summer’s end, but I also tried to imagine what it was like for them in the fall, winter and spring and a wellspring of love flowed within me as I imagined the hard daily life of my dear family in the barrenness of the Colorado Plains.  It was a life that eventually brought them to Texas in 1934 when my dad was ten years old.   

Wanting to thank Eddie and Joyce when we left Daddy’s home, we headed back to their house.  As we pulled up in front of their home, we saw their dog, a Rin Tin Tin look alike and she was nursing a litter of kittens.  What a surprising yet delightful and sweet sight to see!  They wanted us to come in to meet Eddie’s mother as he had called her and  she had come to share her own memories of those times during the 1920’s and 1930’s.  They gave us a tour of the home and we actually sat in the old schoolhouse which was the large den area of their home.  I was shown the area of the room where there was an elevated floor which served as a “stage” for the school.  They used it for plays, choir practice and other school programs.  After acquainting me with the school, Joyce presented me with a packet and explained with the purchase of the ranch, the school was included as well as all the records going back to the beginning of the school.  She had been appointed the County Historian and therefore had all the records dating back to when my family lived there.  She had spent her time searching the records while we were out at the home site.  She made copies of pictures of the students, of which my father and his older brother had not been identified and she was now able to “name” them.  She gave me copies of the teacher's contracts, my dad’s report cards and other miscellaneous data that she thought would be of interest to me.  I was so incredibly overwhelmed and thankful to have received all that she found and was so kind to share with me.  I could not have been happier if I had found a treasure chest of gold. 

That magical day has been one of the most memorable days I have spent with my family, even though I was the only one there, I felt they were ALL with me in spirit and the love I have for them was felt as strongly that day as if they were all right there with me.  As we drove away from the ranch, I gazed back upon Daddy’s little home in the distance until it was merely a dot on the Colorado horizon.  I felt a mixture of emotions, a sadness as I knew that I had seen Daddy’s childhood home for the first and last time, yet at the same time I felt so incredibly happy because I had found such treasures and would carry those memories in my heart for the rest of my life.   

The rest of our vacation was incredible too and so full of the Lord’s surprises and blessings.  That very night we checked in to the Garden of the Gods Motel in Colorado Springs.  We had gotten ready for bed and were both deep in some good reads.  As I was ready to go to sleep, I got up to look out the window to see if we could see Dwight's truck from the room and was absolutely shocked to see it was SNOWING!  It had been warm that day in Raton and Pritchett too.  The next morning we awoke to view the most incredible winter wonderland!  We got dressed and immediately started driving through the mountain passes taking tons of pictures and enjoyed sights I had never seen!  After days of glorious snow, it warmed up and the snow melted, leaving a variety of hues that only the Lord can paint.  I told Dwight over and over that I knew “the Lord did this just for me since I have so wanted to see the beauty of Colorado”.  In less than three weeks, it looked like we were there for three seasons---summer, fall, and winter.  God is good and all the time!

Several weeks later on our return from Colorado, we were several hours away from home when I had a memory of the year my grandmother gave all the grandkids quilts for  Christmas.  She made Sunbonnet Sue quilts for the girls and a Fisher Boy quilt for my brother.  She had finished all the quilts except for mine.  Instead she gave me a quilt from her collection.  I was disappointed, yet would have never let it show, not wanting to hurt or upset my Grandmother.  Since it was an old quilt, I carefully wrapped and stored it away.  It had been stored for years, as I had never used it as it was fragile and I was afraid I would ruin it.  As we were driving, I suddenly thought of the long forgotten quilt and believed it to be a friendship quilt.  I got so excited as I told Dwight that was the only place the family had ever moved away from and I believed it was a Friendship Quilt and IF I  remembered correctly, it had to be from Pritchett when they moved to Texas.  When we got home, the first thing I did was search and find that quilt and YES!  It was from 1934 and women from Pritchett embroidered their names on the various flower blocks.  Once I got the school records out, I had the student’s names and their mother’s names.  I realized then that my Grandmother knew me better than I knew myself.  She could not have given me a gift that I would treasure more—a piece of our family heritage that the Lord Himself has written.  Thank you to my Dad and his family and thank you always to the Lord in all things and in all ways, for He is in it all!

I would like to urge you to discover your own vistas and the undiscovered roots of your heritage as it will be an incredible life changing experience and probably full of many blessings such as these have been for me.  Moments such as these are so good and to be cherished for the love of our awesome families.                               



Monday, December 9, 2013

Sir Henry Cole and Little Pepita

My posts of late have been of lighter content than the continuing City of Wylie drama.  The reason for this hiatus has been my need to focus on uplifting happenings.  Right after Thanksgiving, we had a family emergency with my mother and have since been spending my time with her in the hospital and rehab.  Because of this, I am going to continue more posts relating to the season before continuing the City of Wylie posts, as I have barely scratched the surface of that saga and for the sake of others and our little town, it has to be told, but not today.

Now this week, there are two days that have been officially named and associated with Christmas.  December 9th is Christmas Card Day and December 12th is National Poinsettia Day.  I am definitely behind on the first, but still can get our poinsettias before the 12th. 

I did not even know there was an official Christmas Card Day.  What I read indicates that this day is in honor of Sir Henry Cole of England.  In 1843, Sir Henry engaged J. C. Horsley a painter/illustrator to create what is recognized as the first official Christmas greeting card for his family and friends.  I am definitely late in getting my cards ready this year for my family and friends and must get them ready to mail this week for sure!  I love this tradition that Sir Henry started for us back in 1843.

The poinsettia not only has a national day of recognition, it too has become the official flower of Christmas, known also as the Star of Bethlehem flower and Holy Night flower.  Its use to celebrate Christmas in Mexico dates back to the 17th century.  There are several legends about the glorious red poinsettias.  One of the folk stories tells of Pepita, a poor young Mexican girl that did not have the money to buy Baby Jesus a gift.  She was heartbroken and crying when an angel appeared telling her to gather weeds growing along the roadside.  As she cried with her tears falling upon the weeds, they turned into brilliant red blooms.  The red blooms of the poinsettias represent the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.  The poinsettia is just one of the many traditional symbols of Christmas that I love to see surrounding us during this time as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. 

I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and may you behold all the glory and blessings that come from Him—the reason for this beautiful season!  Let these days bring you angels, the tinkling of melodic bells, birthday cake, bows and ribbons, the reverence of candlelight services, candy cane staffs, joyful caroling, Christmas cards and greetings from afar, Christmas candy and cookies, Christmas pageants and parades, Fostering Hope, giving gifts, gingerbread men and houses, holly and berries, hot cider and cocoa to warm you, beautiful icicles and snowflakes, twinkling lights and candles, the Manger scene, mistletoe and kisses, ornaments, garlands, tinsel and other adornments, parties galore, the happy revealing of Secret Santas, the excitement of searching for the first star on Christmas Eve, that perfect orange in the toe of your stocking, special time with family and friends, Toys for Tots, glorious trees adorned with beautiful tributes to Christmas, the warmth of the fireplace and loved ones, welcoming wreaths, the needs and yearnings of your heart and most of all and especially JESUS.