A Tale of Turning Hearts

A tale of turning hearts

Yesterday, November 18th, I attended my Aunt Lugene’s funeral.  She was 11 days shy of her 93rd birthday and had been in ill health for a while.  The service was a celebration of her life.  She had been a patient Army Wife, mother, grand-, great grand-, and great-great grandmother.  “The best grandma ever”, was a phrase used by more than one grandchild.  Warm, loving, accepting were among the many descriptions.  Tears were shed, and she will be missed, but no one was inconsolable or hopeless.  This was partly due to the feeling that a wonderful woman was finally out of discomfort and in the arms of her sweetheart again and part of a unique biblical prophecy.

Malachi chapter 4 verse 6 speaks of a last-days turning of “the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.”  I have been to other family funerals, with the same batch of cousins and sisters, but at no time has anyone suggested a family reunion.  Oh, yeah, the basic “we only get together for weddings and funerals” comment was made at least once, but this time, the suggestion of a full family get together was made and agreed upon.

Perhaps this was because Aunt Lugene was the last of the “parents”.  The last of my paternal grandparents’ children/children-in-law.  The generations officially moved up in ranks.  Death is closer to the now “old folks” (my level) especially since a cousin on that level has cancer.   I think more so it agrees perfectly with the trend to know one’s roots.  Several companies exist in many countries, to help one with genealogy.  I can think of at least two popular television shows in which people are helped to research ancestry.  Even my co-worker was bitten by the bug and has been researching her and her husband’s lines to find out just how German they are.  Turns out they better like Sauerbraten and Pumpernickel.

There can be something elevating in finding out about one’s ancestors.  My co-worker discovered she has two relations who were published poets.  They have works in the Smithsonian Institution and hob-knobbed with noted poet John Greenleaf Whittier and showman P.T. Barnum.  Pretty Cool.  Beats being related to the cheap schnook who snuck into the circus!

One can find mysteries in genealogy.  My father-in-law used to claim that the Stams were descended from royalty.  One day, we took a good look at my sister-in-law’s pedigree chart.  The father/son chain was interrupted with a mother/son link.  Her father was a Stam.  King’s mistress???

And one of these days I may find out if my dad was right when he told me one of my great-greats was an employee of Napoleon Bonaparte, who changed his name when he hightailed it to England after his boss got “fired”.   I know which great-great grandfather was a Scottish Seaman, but not which was a Knight in England’s Wars of The Roses.  And, there’s probably a horse thief in there somewhere.  Hey, they had children too.

I suppose this summer the first Hebert James Morris Family Reunion will be held.  That will be good.  Thanks for reading.

The Hill

I lived from age 6 months to 6 years in Blackfoot, a small Southeastern Idaho town, named in honor of one of the local Native American tribes.  The area is still mostly agricultural, Spud country, home of the best potato in the world, the Idaho Russet.  Those lovely oblong tubers grow fabulously in the volcanic loam.  From 15,000 to 2,000 years ago, Southeastern Idaho was home to volcanic activity.  Craters of the Moon National Park and two buttes are visible reminders.  The rest of the story is in the wonderfully loose soil that grows practically anything that’s planted in it.

After we moved to Shelley, I remember many times driving through higher than our car walls of lava as we went to dentist appointments in Blackfoot.  The area was the southeast tip of a flow called “Hell’s Half Acre” and it wasn’t hard to imagine the devil sitting on top, laughing at the motorists below.  Well, somebody got the bright (actually good) idea to put a set of very nice rest stops with nature trails right there.  They needed rock for concrete and hey, there was all this lava.  So now that “Hell” has been reformed, the devil has moved elsewhere.

The Hill

September, 1960

“Whee,” I run up the hill as fast as my three-year-old legs will carry me.  At the top, I splat myself down for the twenty-seventeenth time.  Instead of rolling down, this time I flatten on my belly and kick my feet.  Slowly I feel one smooth, emerald blade of the lush yard carpet my dad so carefully waters, mows, fertilizes and treats with that long, brown, stinky weed-killer-on-a-wire block.

My golden capped baby sister laughs.  I look across the narrow side yard to where she sits with our mother.  Mom picks a small yellow flower from the color-splotched strip of garden next to the Hortin’s tall, white cinderblock fence.  She holds it up to Dorothy’s button nose to sniff.  It’s my turn to laugh as Dorothy’s chubby hand reaches for the bloom and her mouth opens wide.

“No, you don’t smell with your mouth, silly,” I say and roll down the cool slope.

Once at the bottom I sit and pick green bits out of my strawberry blond strands.  I look around and decide to watch a Daddy-long-legs climb up the pink wood siding of our two bedroom, neat-as-a-pin, one story house.  If he makes it to the white edge of the black roof, he might get eaten by the bird sitting there.

“Hey, race you,” my soon to be five big sister calls.  Her brunette bob pokes around the back corner of the house.

I bounce up, “okay.”

We run past the Snow White apple tree, red apples on one side, green on the other, over to our barbecue that looks like a monument.  I catch my breath in front of the stout, iron grill and run my hand over the rough brown brick trying unsuccessfully to reach the top.  I scan the yard for a good course to run.  We could go back to the apple, left to the purple plum and straight to the sandbox.  Then we could go left again along the Jensen’s wooden fence, past the lilac bush with its tangle of trunks to the peonies by the back fence.  I’m thinking that as long as we go that far, we might as well keep going past the gate and weave through the yellowing corn stocks in the vegetable patch.  Why, I can run so fast, I could even jump over all the bumpy dark green Hubbard squashes I can hardly pick up, fly over to the one branch of the Hortin’s apple tree that slumps over the fence, pick one of those golden beauties and still beat Diana back.

But, she wants to run to the hill.  Oh well.  She lines up with the barbecue’s stick out side with more shelves than cubby holes.  I stand in front of the other.

“On your mark, get set, go!”

I speed up the slope again with all my tired might.  I just barely come in second.

July 2009

On my way home from visiting my two youngest sisters, I find a tiny house in a small Idaho town.  It’s all peeling paint white now.  I stop in front.  It looks like no one is home.  That’s good because, “hi, I used to live here and want to roll down your hill,” seems more than lame.  There are bicycles not bushes on the front porch.  Bottles line the living room windowsill.  The curtains behind them are crooked and gaping.  The sandbox is filled with unruly grass.  I inch the car forward until I see a crumbling, nondescript, brick structure stuffed with—stuff.  I shake my head and then see a small slope in the yellow-green, dirt patched, narrow side lawn.  It is a 10 inch drop, maybe, if that much, maybe less.  I tell myself, “that hill shrunk.”

I put the car in gear again and drive home to Utah.