It need hardly be said how important a little more time is to a researcher. If you're a traveller you have the same concern: there is never enough time to follow up on that one more thing -- that wall of paintings in the museum, or a new quaint neighborhood for walking where the buildings are so antique. Guess what? We have time! If there is basic work to do to find out about a branch as yet unexplored, perhaps the year 2012 is the right time to begin that work. I have a method for starting. I lay down on the bed and stare at the ceiling and let my mind wander some. When I do this I do not allow cares to crop up in my thinking. This is creative time. You need ideas. Think about the problem. Pick a branch you've always really wanted to explore. Your interest will help to keep you going through both the intial phase of coming up with a research plan and as you follow up on your plan through the new year. I have a surname picked out for my new year's research. I had it picked out last year, but I'm afraid difficulties have kept me from the free-thinking moments that would have helped me come up with an initial plan. That's o.k. I've got time, again. Here I am. I want to know who my great-grandfather Lewis' own great-grandparents were. This research will take me back to before the first U.S. Census. Things get tricky when you go back that far. This is why I have been so particularly bent on western-region research; I have true access here, in California, to the original documents. The east-coast family research is a stretch for me. Truly good genealogical work means poking around in original documents and records; physical access is the real key. Still, while I am not there, where those early records are now kept back east, yet I still need to (at long last) explore the family name that I was born with. It's not too late. As I write this, I think of my old fellow researcher Mrs. Anderson, from Oakland, California. I corresponded with her by letter well before computers and email.. We wrote off and on for many years. The relationship was carried out entirely in this old-fashioned way. I was much younger than she was, though when we were writing we did not talk of age. I only suspected the difference. One summer about a decade ago she wrote a brief note stating that the summer was very hot. It was peculiar for her to not add anything genealogical but to instead focus on how she was feeling. Not long after that came a letter from one of her grown daughters. The daughter explained that she had now gone. She was 96. I had no idea. In the old days she would talk about her exploits in genealogy with Glad (short for Gladys), her best genealogical friend. They were probably related and close in age. She lost Glad. And somewhat later, I lost Mrs. Anderson. By now all my old writing buddies have gone, Mr. Oren Detweiler and Mr. Donald E. Poste among them. I don't even remember the names of the Kansas correspondents, but I am grateful for the time they took to write good and thoughtful letters containing their memories. They were the old ones who took the time to shepherd that core of curiosity in me that has made genealogy seem worthwhile to me all these years. I was a kid then. I ran marathons, rode in heart-association bike rides, read encyclopedia volumes for fun, and did my genealogy. I invented a life as a young person partly out of the paper and the finds of genealogy research. What a lucky person I have been. My own young person now enjoys knowing her family tree, one which I have been watering and tending all these years . . . . . . Best Research Wishes for the New Year!!! Signed me, G. Claire. ><><><
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I had expected this weekend to be wet and cold. The prediction was for much colder days and sub-forties nights. It certainly is cold, though we had some sun yesterday. As I look outside now towards the clocktower of the university, there is no sun. The tall palm that supercedes the height of the tower receives the wind among its broad and old fronds. The very tall trunk barely moves it is so accustomed to changes in the weather. It will remain cold today, I am sure. At least I am indoors, which is what counts; one must stay dry. One must have the dry clothes. One must possess dry shoes, good dry shoes that protect one's comfort for the length of the day. I have just arrived here. But I will tell you what I saw.
There was a mother. Rather young, her hair pulled back, long. She had a baby with her. He was a well-tended baby. He wore gray- and blue-striped togs -- a little blue and gray fleece jacket just his size. And, most sweetly, a pair of solid black pure leather shoes for him to walk in. In the future he will walk gleefully, I am sure. He will possess the equanimity of self-regard. For he has the love of his mother. She is a mother who cares. She has the capacity. I saw her look once or twice down at her own pair of shoes: they were new, shiny black patents with small heels. She was proud of them. To have a proud boy you must have a proud mother. This mother cares for herself. She will therefore have a good child who will contribute to the world. Always look at the shoes. They are pure expressions of what we think of ourselves and our children.
This mother loves her son. I was not looking for that particularly. I was sitting on a bench seat facing them, with my own family next to me. We were hiding from the rain. Our borrowed green umbrella was too wet, dripping into a plastic bag. We were on our way to Target (so we told ourselves); but we were just biding time, waiting for the library to open so we could pursue our work of the day. We looked across first at the baby's face. Babys are so unassuming. They wear their clothes very well. They know what they want, they want a world that does what they want, they cry if they don't get it, and they are purely good in their most serene moments, when all the world is at their feet. This mother passed the full palm of her hand across the soft short hair of her baby's head. This mother touched the top round curve of his ear. This mother spoke to her infant with the language everybody knows all their lives. She handled her son like you handle time when there is little of it and you want all of it. This is Love, that seems to fill every space of the world. We are the world. Mother knows this. She will tend her children.
Therefore this is my Thanksgiving prayer. That all the mothers of the world be blessed. That their children will be so. That every mother tends her baby's soft and fragrant head the way she knows how to do. That she will appreciate the shape. That she will show it. That she will follow the shape of the small ear with her hand. That she will do it deeply entranced with the love she has for the child. That it will not occur to her not to tend her baby. That she will be captured in her role. I pray that she will be there, strong, for the babies all their lives, confronting the world on their behalf, that she will stand up to evil when it comes close to her child. She has this in her. This is an expression of her inborn love. Also, let the mothers be loved. Let them be respected for their inherent worth. Let them be respected for the children not only that they have and are raising fully but for the children that they once were, little girls with dreams of their own, closer to their own strength and dignity once, before society told them how to bargain these away. The world will, I pray, bow to the mothers, for it is their gift which makes life possible. And it is their love alone which gives us what we truly own.
As I am descended from Mayflower Women, women whose names occur very infrequently in the records, I feel an obligation to talk about them this Thanksgiving. The Mayflower did not dock on the northern shore of the New World immediately after its arrival. Some of the men went ashore. The women stayed on board and washed the dirty clothes in the New England winter, on the decks of the ship. They worked hard. Yet they are little appreciated even now. My pilgrim ancestor Mary Allerton may have helped her mother Mary Norris Allerton wash clothes on board during their earliest days and weeks in America. Cloth has always been the responsibility of women. Here, in the New World, it remained so. I am a "daughter" of Mary Norris Allerton and of her own daughter, young Mary. They gave us a beginning. Young Mary fortunately lived past the first hard winter, when so many died. She married the Elder of the Plymouth Church, my ancestor Thomas Cushman, son of Robert Cushman and Sara Reder. (I am descended from the son of Mary and Thomas, Eleazar Cushman.) The two Marys in my Pilgrim line helped to found the famous Pilgrim Colony. The world was theirs to found for awhile. It was their faith, love and dedication which helped the colony survive. Thomas Cushman's father Robert Cushman wrote letters which are still extant. In one of these he wrote, "Friend, if ever we make a plantation, God works a miracle." I would like to argue that the women were this miracle.
God Bless the good mothers and their children.
Happy Thanksgiving to Us All. Signed G. E. Claire. Copyright 2011 by G. Claire. All rights reserved. <>
Art Print: November Evening by Charles Burchfield. A Review by G. E. Claire.
Copyright 2011 by G. E. Claire.
It needs to be said what you can do with a sky. This is a big dark brooding American sky over a middle-ground of gold wheat grass, storm-golden, and red false-front buildings. The low layer of sky doesn’t touch the grass except in the implied background; we are left to wander under the vast shapes of darkened blue-green clouds. Quick --- we must get our horses in and our long horse cart on four wagon-wheels.
We have just passed the old branches of a stump-tree.
We are on the long brown road soon to muddy in its own vast outdoor world.
The farmer’s coat is well-done, for he has a collar and he needs one. It is brown also, in such a way as to distinguish him from cart and wood and wheel and wheat and fence and road; but yet again he is American; he is brown; he is tied to the land, the astonishing land. You want to live there, though it is evening. For you have felt that sky before. You have seen brown and blue as rich and as true.
You know the light (is there a name for it?) -- But it is in your memory just as it is, reflected in the old glass of a wooden row of human habitation. --- G.E.C.
They are starting to say goodbye. Uncle Jack said goodbye a couple of years ago. Then Uncle Dick, within the past year. Mae Quessenberry she said goodbye about a year ago. She was my cousin's mother. Ex-Navy. Strong smile. She's gone. My cousin kept her mother's baby picture above the fireplace. I saw it there when I visited so many years ago. She regarded her mother. She would be the one sorting through her mother's things. They were laying about the house. The brothers and an elder sister left the job to the one who likes genealogy. Now they have neither father nor mother. Those days are gone.
There are only two (in that branch, of that generation) left. Who will be first? One of these is my Dad. He is over eighty years old. I wonder if he still runs on the property where he lives. He used to run six miles a day. He'd take Vitamin E and Vitamin C. He'd eat a can of tuna a day. Sometimes he'd brag about his fitness. He'd try to get me to run again. I havn't run since the birth of my child. Dad was convinced he could run faster than me. I don't believe this for a minute.
Madelyn is the only girl in the group. She is the elder of the two surviving children of the miner's daughter. She used to wear pink frost lipstick in the sixties, when frosts were the rage. She wore her hair in short brunette curls. She was comely. All Ellen's children were comely. Those defined dark eyebrows, especially, distinguished the children of that generation. I think the brows were inherited from the father's side. The father had deep blue eyes to go along with his dark hair and brows. In his youth he was striking. Madelyn, the daughter, was striking. She used to paint Christmas scenes on store windows to make extra money. Art talent seemed to run in the family. Madelyn possessed it. She was easy to know. She smiled a lot. Her eyes smiled too.
I say these things today because it has occurred to me that they are saying goodbye. When I realized that, I could not get it out of my head. The process of saying goodbye may take years. They are on their way. They go a little at a time. They wait their turn. They walk. They go round the corner. And you never see them again. Saying goodbye is like saying something to the wind. It doesn't make any difference. They will go when they will go. They determine the time. They say goodbye of their own volition. Only they know what's right. It is your duty to accept that goodbye. You will be told goodbye nevertheless. They are saying it. They are walking slowly but they are on their way. They have had their turn upon the earth.
I have had occasion to think about what will happen to them when they are gone. Where will I put Dad? He has always had nightmares. You do not put a father who has nightmares in the cold dark earth. This seems wrong to do. He will say goodbye. But I will never know how scared he is. I believe he will trust my sister to place him. She will not do so properly. She will be cheap. She will treat her father poorly and give him very little. I think it likely he will be at the old family grounds, where his parents are. They left so long ago. It was another world then. Dad is of the new generation. No one knows where they should go. That generation has moved beyond. They have been modern. They drove. They worked in cities. Dad was an electrician in Communications. He will say goodbye through one of those telephones which it was so easy for him to hook up to the wall. The cord may be only cloth (the antique ones were), but it carries the sound. Dion't go don't go. I hear the cry. I know the truth. He cannot go. He is afraid. I wish he knew that I knew this. He is saying goodbye. He is in his eighties. It has been their turn, building, building families, talking, burning rubber, doing the right things the wrong things. Everyone says goodbye we're made to before we are really ready.
They are waiting in the sky in line weighing nothing they are in line we all go in line we don't do our duty but we get in that line and say the goodbye that has taken forever. Signed G. E. Claire. Copyright 2011 by G. E. Claire. All rights reserved by the author. ><
Missing Grandmother. Missing Grandmother. Missing Grandmother. Missing Grandmother. Written by G. E. Claire. Copyright 2011 by G. E. Claire.
While we may want to explore the vague beginnings of our family history, through documents and the heresay of other family members, still the truth is already in us. We know this best when we lose that beloved family member. In the loss we feel the pain of generations, the generations that have given us many good unassailable traits which we rely on everyday. But in loss we know best how far back we go. My paternal grandmother died in the nineteen-thirties, twenty years before I was born, leaving her young son, my father, bereft for a lifetime. My maternal grandmother was my only chance to know the love of a grandmother. And though she died when I was only three, we had nevertheless been so close that I miss her to this day.
She seems like a mystery to me still; memory is a poor substitute for reality. Where grandmothers are concerned, you want the real thing. Mine was a religious woman. She kept a color portrait of Jesus on the wall in her bedroom between her two meticulously made single beds. I remember her bending. She would bend to make the bed. She was the woman who bends to do a day's work. She was my grandmother. She is the woman who bends. (I do not usually feel so strongly about the loss. But it is all there. I lost her early. I have only hidden the loss. But the loss remains like a long decorous vine, growing and somehow flourishing throughout the years. connecting me to my youth, and to her.)
My grandmother was a hard worker, this was very plain. She had little money. But she taught my mom what it was to be the eldest. I, too, am the eldest. My grandmother provided values that will persist be passed down. And she reassures my measure: she bought me five new baby dresses with her wages as a nurse. She loves me.
She loves me.
I could never understand why or how a grandmother leaves. As I grew up I could only picture her at my doorstep. (She lived with us for awhile during her last days with cancer. I did not know then why she died. I was only a few years old.) As a child I pictured her lifted straight up from the front porch to heaven. She was gone. And she never came back again. I looked for her. But she never came back.
(I cannot stress enough how literal a child's mind is. I used to ride my swing in the backyard so high. I used to park a chair in the hallway at night, only haif-dressed, and I would stare up at the white ceiling. Still, no one would call. Even in my dreams she would rise to heaven. This was the mystery, how she was here today but instantly gone, never to return. The hard nature of life got me early. I don't know if I ever cried. I know my mom cried. We lost grandmother near Mother's Day. I know this because when I became a genealogist I searched for her obituary in the local paper. I found it surrounded by ads placed by the local downtown restaurants -- Posey's, and several other places for Mother's Day dinner. Mom lost her mother. I lost my grandmother, the grandmother of the five dresses.)
I knew her. I used to go up into the attic for quiet. I used to explore there for the true depth of the family archive. Oh it was in this box and stacked there, but that made it all the better, for I could piece it together myself. I could ask myself the questions you ask when you find a piece randomly. I had often looked at my grandmother's nursing manual. It was a strange book. It was the only one I had ever seen whose pages were tied together with string. The manual was entitled, "Chicago School of Nursing." The pages must have been acquired in pamphlet-sized groupings which the owner -- my own grandmother -- would then tie into the hard black binding throughout the progress of the course. There was also a book called "Being Born," one of hers I would imagine, a book which I was sure my parents would not want me to read. Still, I looked at its images of the embryo growing in the mother's womb. The baby made progress. This was how it all worked.
ULtimately, my mother established a sort of occupational link to my grandmother. Mom took a physiology course at Sacramento High, where she graduated a year before I was born. She wrote pages and pages of notes using a blue fountain pen. In those days you used fountain pens. She drew pages and pages of freehand anatomical drawings. She hand-tinted the organs. She once told me she enjoyed the course. She also told me (when I was an adult) that when she was that age she wanted to be a doctor. So this had been her goal, I thought to myself. When I was growing up I did not know this. She divulged her occupational intent only after I had moved out and along in life and was myself a mother. She made renderings. She drew, in fact, very well. She enjoyed art as well as physiology. For her, these two things went hand in hand. I think my mother was embarrassed, however, about the quality of the poodle skirt that she wore. You know what I mean. In those days, the example of style and class displayed by debutante society was a more important consideration than it is today. My mom's youthful penury was the way she really chose to define herself. She wore her dffidence for her whole adult life. She let it get in the way of her attending my college graduation. But she had come from a woman who bent to help others. Who worked harder than anybody just to make it a little bit good. Who engaged in the practice of nursing. She had genealogy, this mother of mine. So many days I looked upon their books, grandmother's old nursing manual, and my mother's old blue binder with the free-hand anatomical drawings. I saw both there. These were the women whom I thought I knew, but only to some extent, it turns out. I grew up alongside mom. But like my long-ago grandmother she was still a mystery. Mom held back her heart and her talent. She could have been who she really was. She thought that mothering meant you had to be someone else.
This is how it all works. Someone who remembers a grandmother -- like me -- misses her and writes about her. The truth comes out. It makes its way to the page because I am the recorder and I will write about such things. I believe my family to be important. It will make it to print. Grandmother is missed.
It is a matter of record, how far back I go. Someone bought me dresses. And then she left. I didn't get to say goodbye. I still can't. I won't do it here. She's still with me. (Signed G. E. Claire. Copyright 2011 by G. E. Claire. All Rights Reserved by the Author.)
"Dear Ann & Jerry
How are you guys? I thought maybe you'd be up before now.
How did your sunburns come out? Forrest is fine now back to normal anyway and I feel much better.
I have got to get busy on sewing on the 2 older girls clothes. It costs so much for their clothes. I'm also going to can some tomatoes. We have lots of them and we all like them canned.
I guess we will get to the fair on a week-end probably as the 2 kids start school early on Thur 28th. Well kids hope to see you one of these days.
Being the Eldest. Written by G. Claire. Copyright 2011 by G. Claire. All rights reserved by the author.
This post is about being the eldest. It is dedicated to all of you who are the eldest. We have always had so much work to do. We were never appreciated for our contribution to the family in general or to our siblings in particular. And our parents took from us far more than I think they had a right to, because they thought we were older than we really were. But it eased their own burden to create more burden on us.
We have always worked hard as our parents' eldest children. We were asked to do the things the younger ones could not do. We worked in the yard on Saturdays. We did all the work that our parents did not do. We swept with a broom too big for us. We did the job well just the same. We had heart and confidence because the eldest owns that, that confidence to achieve. I don't know where it comes from. It's just there. Perhaps it is those high expectations that parents have of us from the start that gives us belief in ourselves. Still, that doesn't mean we're respected for accepting their challenges. We do it because we have to, don't we; we always did. We're the eldest. We push those big brooms, we clean the oil off the driveway when we're slightly older children, using that tall wood-handled broom, a bucket of sudsy water, and lots of scrubbing. We rake the leaves with our little sisters and brothers. But we do most of the work, that part of their work they did not know how to do or which they had not the patience to do. And they get the credit, for trying. We must do it well (whatever the job is), just because. There is no room for error. I must edge the lawn, tug out weeds out from the sidewalk cracks with that special pronged device which has no name. When the job is done I get no accolade. Rather I was summoned to the bathroom to wash my dirty little hands.
We, the eldest, in order to make a more perfect family, took on the frequent responsibility of watching our younger siblings. We loved them. But in order to feel older we felt we needed to be closer to our same-age friends across the street or down the block than to the smaller family members. Little kids can get in the way of the eldest's social progress. This does not need cogitation. It has always been the case. Still, parents are likely to rely too heavily on us, especially during the summer months. We'll watch the younger ones at the pool or at the playground. (These were the old ways. Maybe parents are more cautious now.) I developed my sense of my role in the family partly by babysitting my two little sisters. In the only formal photograph taken of the three of us during our very young years, I was, naturally, stood in the middle, taller than either of the other two, and I looked to my left and down into my sister's face and she looked up at me. We smiled. We had the same blue satin hair ribbons. We had the same tans on our forearms and faces from the summer spent outside. We wore the same light blue Easter dresses with the broad white sailor collars edged in thick lace. We were sisters. I knew that. I loved them and all. . . . (No one ever said thank you, big sister) . . . Those little ones, they ask for things. They need what they need. And we're really lucky to be the ones to give it to them. Lucky us. We're the eldest. But it's hard. Too bad parents don't look down into our little faces the way they look into the faces of the littler kids. We all need to be treated with appreciation.
Once, when I was six, I played a spontaneous game of four-square in the living room with my two littler sisters. We were having adroit fun. Here, adoit means we're just good at it. Being spontaneous is its own talent. And we were talented, just like all kids. Too bad I was the eldest. My parents stuck me with the cost of replacing the living room lamp that broke when the ball knocked it over. I was a good little saver. I had pride, as the eldest, in my savings plan. I got five percent interest on my Bank of America passbook in 1963. They were very generous back then. The bank's representative had come to the school and spoken in front of the classroom. He sat in one of our little chairs. He explained matters. He gave us little passbooks. They came with little manilla keeping-envelopes with twine closures. I could record my progress. I liked writing things down. I was already reading my mother's big blue dictionary which she got as a premium from Better Homes and Gardens for ordering a series of cookbooks. (We were always getting books delivered to our door.) I liked the thumb indexing. I still read the dictionary. I try to keep a single sheet of the words I am working on in my pocket at all times. But to get back to the point: I had money saved. In the early Sixties, a third of a hundred dollars wasn't bad. My dad was only earning fifty dollars a week at Western Electric as a CWA union member. So I guess I had more or less about a week's union wages saved up. Pretty good for a baby of six. I could have spent it all on five-cent candy bars. Do you know how many candy bars the eldest could buy with thirty dollars? You figure it out. I liked Hershey bars. But I saved my money. And my parents took it, every last penny. My money confidence hasn't been the same since. I offer a piece of wisdom, hard earned, to parents: It is very important to keep the good intentions of the eldest in place, even if it means having to compensate for their children's occasional lack of judgment. The stronger the eldest feels, the more likely she is to be able to serve the parents well when they get older. That's a real important cultural point if you think about it. We all love our parents. All we ever wanted to do was to make them love us a little more every day.
When you look into the face of the eldest, you have to love what you see. We try harder.
Signed, G. Claire, the eldest of three. (Have a great (eldest) day!)
I have been white a long time. As far as I know that is my total history. My family is white. Though I've never really considered the issue as part of my genealogy, I'm afraid that the consideration is relevant now.
I live in a world that is mostly not white. I have never noticed it as such. It has however occurred to me lately how rude the Mexicans are to me sometimes. They are a dominant feature of this town. It cannot be helped I guess that the people who come here, to the land of my hard-working forefathers and foremothers, often act rudely to the next white person that they see. I am not a white person who has sought hegemony in Mexico; I have not sought my dominance in a place that I know so little of, as if I had that right, to disrespect it and its landscape.
I was travelling home on the bus this morning with my young person. She was sleeping at the time, so she has no memory of this incident. I was looking off into the distance as the sun came out and I could once again see fully out the windows. The unseasonable damp had started to dry, the pavement would soon lighten into its accustomed pale cement shade which we associate with summer. An old man walked up the narrow brief stair of the bus entry. He wore a warm corduroy jacket with the lapel pulled up to his narrow jaw. The corduroy was good, but its color was no longer true. He stood for a good while until he could obtain a seat. I sat mid-bus. My feet were swollen. I myself was in no position to stand during the abrupt affair of constant stops and starts offerred up by the impatient driver who seemed to like to gun the motor and wheel into the curb abruptly. A Mexican Man in his Thirties sat on the bench seat on left side, in front, along with a Polynesian university girl who was looking rather alertly for her stop near the college. Between the two of them they occupied three seats. The (black) driver did not seem to notice. The old (white) man was the only old one on the bus, I observed. And he went without a seat.
The young college girl -- prettied up for the day in earrings and pulled back, well-combed hair, sat.
The Thirty-something Mexican man, sat.
The people on the opposite bench seat, sat.
And the (white) man stood. I just thought I would add that he was white because no one else was. I just thought I would add that I am white, and that I felt white on the bus at that moment. It is not hard to feel threatened when you understand, deep inside yourself, what is really going on.
The girl got off at her much-looked-for stop. The old man took her place. She did not look back. She did not notice anything wrong.
Was it his age? Certainly not. Anyone could see that the man could barely stand. He tried to hold on. He did not stand upright. Anyone who saw him there and then saw first his frailty except those who were cruel enough to see that he was white.
There is a group of students on the local San Jose State University campus who rationalize the need for overt favors to immigrants (you can find their signs posted around town), but based on what I have seen here I think that they are really just self-promoters looking for an easy way to the riches all of us seem to desire. I would guess that many of them -- as was the case with their peer today -- simply do not see the value of a human being without first identifying the race of that person. But for them, racism only works one way.
Just yesterday a thirty-something man on the lightrail train sitting two seats behind me was talking with the man sitting next to him. The speaker was Vietnamese, as he firmly and repeatedly identified himself. I could not help but hear his over-spoken diatribe: that China is the best country, that they have the best economy; that China is smart, should take over Vietnam. And that he would go home someday. He was eating our food, breathing our American air. And he was bold enough to assert the preeminence of China in the hearing of my child. China is number one, he was careful to note in the hearing of the Americans on the tax-payer funded train he was riding on. He was critical. It was only natural, he implied. It would happen. I was stunned. I had never heard anything like this. When I encountered him again later (quite an unfortunate surprise) at the nearby market where I was shopping for breakfast bagels and juice, I called him a Communist under my breath. I haven't repeated here everything I heard. But now you know what I know, what I felt, at the time. I was being wiped clean of the relevance of my ancestors and of my American culture. I was being told that my country was weak, and owned. I was the dirty cloth by which that man would achieve his goals then move back to Vietnam with the good graces of the United States behind him.
I was using the computer today. We had gotten to know the staff. They were collegiates, stiff in spine, good folks who volunteered their time to help folks in need, regardless. I note that Cynthia is white because, now, most of her kind have disappeared from the staff in that office. While she was supremely capable, she did not speak Spanish. They already have many Spanish-speakers on staff. But she was no longer required -- on that basis alone -- just the same. Since when is it more important in this country to speak Spanish than English? I grew up listening to Jane Pauley and Tom Brockaw on The Today Show, two articulate journalists whom I respected for that quality. I was still in high school when I tuned in every morning to hear the various topics of the day duly treated and discussed. They used to say in general during that time that it counted to speak English well. That English was the pathway to success. I read my English Dictionary everyday. I grew my English vocabulary like a garden. I loved my language. I self-consciously practice it to this day.
When did it become more important to be Mexican than American in America? As far as I understand my history, America acquired California in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. California is ours. It is mine. It is American.
My ancestors came here from Wales. They were pioneers. They came the hard way, before the railroad. They had faith. Their family was good. They mined here. They raised their family here. They lived here. They claimed the land in a way that the Mexicans were unwilling to do when it was theirs. These Welsh ancestors furthermore spoke the English language. Daniel Bradford Richards, one of the members of the Richards family whom I wrote about in an earlier post, is the child of good gold-rush pioneers, grandson of the Welshman and Welshwoman who came to America in the 1830s, my great-great grandparents. They came across the Atlantic, on faith alone. Daniel became a San Francisco lawyer and a pre-eminent occupant of the famous Monadnock building. He could not speak Spanish. But it was America, then as now. English is what mattered. He studied, He gained the respect of the people around him. He grew his English the way his forebears perhaps had not done in Wales. What mattered was studying his lessons (they worked hard at their lessons, the children of that generation). What mattered was being good at what he did, helping people, and knowing the good English language. This family succeeded because they cared, worked hard, and spoke the language of their new country. They would be truly American. I cannot say this about many of the Japanese, Chinese and Mexican people I see and hear everyday around me in this city, people who insist on the culture and the language of their forebears, who daily speak something other than English in our American ears and dare to take from the resources of America at the same time. At this rate, no one will know who the Pilgrims were in a generation's time. Mao, kimonos and quincineras will be all that matters here, in the land of the free, where we do not dare to stand for ourselves as real Americans anymore. I am only a mother. One who has spent her lifetime securing her family history to pass on. I see what I see. And I record it as I see it.
Signed, Your friendly neighborhood genealogist and proud Californian.
It's September 26th. Happy Birthday, Dad. This is genealogy in motion. He is 82 today, born the year of the stock market crash. Not only did he weather it, he owns his own piece of land and owes nothing on his house. Accidental blessing? Not a bit. This is a man who writhed at the thought of credit. The only new car he ever bought was a Volkswagon beetle. Vintage 1971. End of season offering. Sticker price $1999.99. One of those bright orange jobs. I was always surprised Dad had bright orange in him. Since that time he has confessed to wanting a new RED car. He's been driving an old faded, red Honda sedan for years. Yes, I think he has red in his old soul. He'd buy red if he ever bought again. But I don't think he will. The Orange Bug is planted like a fruit tree out on the twenty-seven acres. Mom had possession of it once. Painted a big non-conformist butterly on its woeful hood. And that is how it spends its days (poor old Bug): out on The Property, on the front ten acres closest to Dad's vintage trailer house, parked solidly next to the Honda classic with the worn red paint. Those two cars are like brothers. Can't part 'em. And they look pretty good out there among the stick and straw.
There are all those now-mature olive trees mom and dad planted in the late Sixties. They planted them from the roadway back to the silver gate. Must be pretty things by now. They planted them in a rhythm of Olive-Oleander-Olive-Oleander, and so on, for privacy, I guess. When they bought the property, the chicken sheds were next door. Back then you needed more than just a privacy screen, in other words. There was no hope when the wind blew in the wrong direction. But the sheds are no more. And, I guess, the Oleanders wave in the breeze, they are so big and full.
I have many memories of visiting the property with my parents. But there was one in particular that was rather funny. Dad and I drove out in the Bug. This was before he retired and actually moved out there. I went along so I could log in some running time. I was a runner in those days (those were the days of Frank Shorter the marathoner, and Bill Rogers with the white gloves, the happy running days of the nineteen-seventies!). Dad had driven the drag around the front ten acres to make a walking and running track. And I'd go out sometimes and run on this rough dirt road. Dad would also unlock the silver gate between the two halves of the property and set the gate open for the period of the visit. And I would start my running clock 'n go clear back to the railroad tracks which form the natural back boundary to the place. All along this back portion I ran on turned-over dirt -- hardened clods -- and so had to be rather careful. Well, to get back to my original point. We had gone out there. But nearly as soon as I stepped out of the car my eyes swelled up. Boy did they swell up. I looked at myself in the rear view mirror. The Bug gave me a no-holds-barred picture of what I really looked like. I was only nineteen at the time. But I looked like a frog, the way the pollen from the olive trees -- all those happy little olive trees -- made my eyes swell. There was nothing to do but go back home. And that's what happened. Silly memory.
Dad made sure I could run out there. And I had my first driving lessons out there, too. I learned to drive right there on the property, in the bright orange Bug. There, and along Pleasant Grove Road which fronts the place, I was allowed to work on my skills. The clutch was really an awful concept to grasp. I liked running better. Guess that sounds immature. But I'm in my fifties now and I haven't had a heart attack yet, thanks to my passion for moving.
I wish my dad would have let me help out more. He treated me rather carefully. When he dug his well, I was not allowed to help. I was along plenty of times, though. Could have been a big help. I tried to be. But I did help out, in fact, pretty mightily, in the only real way I was allowed to: I spent my money earned as a State employee on a used yellow truck with a camper shell. This way my parents were able to truck barrels of water to the property to water the new plants and trees. Dad had no notion of buying the vehicle if I was offering. It's that Depression-era conservatism, you understand. They hadn't yet dug a well; there was no usable source of water on the place. Don't ask me why they put the trees in before the well. But, I'd like to say in retrospect I helped their plan for their piece of land. They were stalwart land-owners. They dug all their own post-holes with an old-time post-hole digger that they bought at a garage sale. I still remember mom out there on a blistering hot day trying to work that post-hold digger into the rock-hard, dry ground. They trucked in the big round posts in the old yellow truck which they allowed me to purchase for them. They put in the fence completely on their own, these two parents of mine. They planted peach and apricot trees. The eucalyptus must be purely gorgeous by now. The last time I saw the place, at least one of these grand trees had fallen. And Dad, in the way he tends to be, let the tree alone. And it rooted along its trunk so naturally. They bought some of the silver dollar variety. I still remember mom and dad going through their personal copy of the Western Garden Book to determine the right plantings. I think they did a good job. Anyone would want olive trees and eucalyptus on their property.
Dad comes from farmers. His father George's father Lewis raised his family in Michigan. Lewis was a builder. Built a log house in Michigan. Got rather grumpy in his old age, attests Dad. Dad said that none of the kids wanted to be around Lewis at the get-together's at his grandma's house in Chico. So before Lewis and wife Myrta came out here, to California, they were land-owners in Michigan. The census reports show that Lewis was a farmer by occupation and that he owned two, ninety-acre parcels. Dad is a natural builder not unlike his grandfather Lewis. Very meticulous. Full of patience, even if a lot of cussing comes with it. Dad held firm to a standard. But he never farmed. The only time he farmed the twenty-seven acres, he picked all his crops and gave them to the nearby supermarket to sell as "local" goods. The supermarket gladly accepted. He didn't ask for any of the proceeds.
Bravo to the solvent man. Bravo to the man who let pheasant and foxes and other animals roam freely, away from the eyes of the local hunting crowd. Dad was not a hunter. I'll never forget the way he let the crickets go free. He'd pick them up and place them outside on the porch and close the door. None of us kids liked bugs. We'd report on 'em. But he never squished anything. His old neighbors on Pleasant Grove Road always knew they could depend on him to let their horses graze on his land during floods, since Dad's property is on the high side of the road. He once let us stay out there awhile. He gets along quite well with very little. We had very short showers in those days. We were warned that the hot water supply amounted to a quick rinse of the head. The amount of refuse is small, not much waste. He used to take his Vitamin E and Vitamin C every day. I remember the two bottles, along with a few cans of white tuna, sitting on his front table just inside the door. This was his life. He could and did keep a rather spartan existence. Once I was grown, dad himself started running on the old dirt track. He told me once he ran six miles a day. No Nikes here. He wore good gosh-darned farmer's boots. They were better for the ankles, and weighed something. They worked just fine. Sometimes we think we have to BUY a life. It's not true at all.
Happy birthday to old dad. >< >< >< >< GEC.
G. Claire is a descendant of Welsh Immigrants who came to California during the time of "the Great Excitement," also known as the Gold Rush. She is, in addition, a descendant of young Mayflower passenger Mary Allerton and of Thomas Cushman, an Elder of the Plymouth Church. The author is proud to be descended from Silvanus Brown, a member of that most notorious group of Vermont mobsters known as The Green Mountain boys.