May 092021
 

I’ve misbehaved at times. One of my lowest moments involves Valentine’s Day 1983.  Valentine’s Day is among the Hallmarkiest of Hallmark holidays, setting expectations for some and creating downright heartbreak for others.

I was in a new relationship, only about six weeks in.  I had high hopes for our first Valentine’s Day together.  Being immature,   I had dreams that he would shower me with love and gifts.  He gave me flowers and an ankle bracelet.  I was not too fond of the ankle bracelet and let him know about it.  I know, right.  My husband–then-boyfriend–is one of the sweetest, most caring men on earth. I gave him a bad time for reasons I can’t remember. A completely unnecessary bad time.  Amazing that the relationship survived.  Then-boyfriend was also acting a little weird that day, and I couldn’t figure it out.

Much to my long-term shame, I found out later that Valentine’s Day is his father’s birthday.  His father was killed in a car accident on November 6, 1982, at the age of 61 just months before this Hallmark holiday.  I had no idea.  I had heaped expectations of this wonderful man when he was in pain.

Great-grandmother Anna, mother Marilyn, grandmother LeNore, 1936, Homeland Farm, South Whitley, Indiana

And he gave me lovely gifts, which I didn’t appreciate because I couldn’t get out of my own way.

That moment was a reckoning for me and made us talk about how we felt about holidays.  We decided early on that cards will suffice for most of these holidays. That was nearly forty years ago.  Since then, I’ve lived with a man who is 99.8% of the time (doesn’t get 99.9% because of how fast he surfs through TV channels). He is kind and good, who takes care of me every day.

Today is Mother’s Day, a rough day for many people.  Those who have recently lost their mothers are battered with pictures of happy mothers and children.  Some lost their mothers as children and have a huge hole where memories should be.  Some are childless, not by choice.  Some have lost mothers and children to COVID in the last year and other diseases, accidents, etc., in prior years.  The time before the holiday is a stampede of advertising, and it’s everywhere.  You can’t hide from the perfect families of TV and the Internet.

Both our mothers are gone, 2010 and 2012, respectively.  Our only child lives 1,100 miles away and will celebrate Mother’s Day with his girlfriend, her parents, and likely her grandparents.  I’m glad they can be together.  (And after not seeing him for 18 months, we will see him in 22 days!) 

While Mother’s Day is tough for some individuals, it’s heaven on earth for business.  An article on the “Grammarly” blog noted,  In 2017, the expected total spending for Mother’s Day in the United States is $23.6 billion. That’s an average of $186.39 per shopper. In the fourteen years, the National Retail Federation has conducted the Mother’s Day spending survey, that’s the highest amount yet.

On my heart, today are so many, one whose mother died far away during COVID. She has yet to visit the cemetery, one whose mother stopped talking to her when she got cancer. There are several women I know who lost babies to SIDS and childhood cancer.  Several others lost their mothers early in life. I know a wonderful woman of God fighting cancer, and her granddaughter, who lives five states away, suffers from a disease that requires major reconstructive spinal surgery.  I think of many friends whose mothers live far away in facilities that limit visitation. Many of their mothers have some dementia that limits their communication skills. And I think of several whose children don’t speak to them because a spouse doesn’t like the mother, and on and on.

If you are lucky enough to spend time today with family, don’t take it for granted.  Today I’m thankful that I  experienced much joy with my mom in the later parts of her life, even as she suffered from dementia. I am thankful to have known and loved my mother-in-law, who adored her son and grandson.  I am thankful for my son, a beautiful person who makes every day Mother’s Day for me. Having lived away from family most of my life, I learned that one must make your holidays when one can.  Don’t let the world tell you when to celebrate.  Don’t celebrate if you don’t feel like it.  And if you do, take joy and pleasure in those moments when you are together or memories you made together.

 

 

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May 022021
 

Courtesy South Whitley Community Public Library

As a child, I spent much time with my maternal grandmother, LeNore Hoard Enz. One of her main interests was family history. “Grammy” kept pictures, documents, and objects from her pioneer past. She recorded interviews with pioneer farmers for the local library,  using something new called a cassette tape recorder. Several of the interviews have been transcribed, and one I was able to use for my current project.

Our hometown library was — and is — a treasure trove. When I was a child, the building’s basement held the greatest gems in giant black books. Within their pages were bound copies of the local weekly newspaper, going back decades. My visits came after the town built the new library in my early teen years.  My grandmother had filled me with curiosity about my past, which has led to my own interest in family history.

I remember quite specifically looking for and finding an article about the death of my great-aunt Sarah Mae Hoard, who was my grandmother’s older sister.  Sarah Mae was known as “Mae.”  Mae was killed in a car accident when my grandmother was 14.  Mae had

Mae Hoard, age 14.

been my grandmother’s favorite sister.  Her oldest sister, Zoe, and my grandmother, LeNore, clashed as children and for the rest of their lives.  Great-Aunt Mae died 35 years before I was born, but she was very much alive to me through my grandmother’s stories.

I’ve written a new book that tells her story along with tales of our mutual ancestors.  The book Centennial Farm Family–Cultivating Land and Community 1837-1937 will be available at the end of June.  I long finished the story of Mae with multiple obituaries from newspapers around the area.  A couple of weeks ago, I remembered that as a child I had found Mae’s obituary in my hometown newspaper.  The library which housed the giant black books is 300 miles away.  The black books are long gone, replaced with microfilm.  Could a librarian find that same article I read as a curious adolescent?  Giving Taira Simmons at the library the date and names, she found the citation within a day.  She even sent the newspaper’s masthead from that week which shows the top of Mae’s story at flush left, “Mae Hoard Victim of Auto Wreck.” (The staff at the South Whitley Community Public Library has been extremely helpful to me in my research over the years.)

I had used other obituaries for the book, but it was still thrilling to see that the same story I read at 13 was still available fifty years later.  (Yes, I know, I should get out more.)  Seriously, anyone who researches family history will understand my happiness in seeing this article again. And this is why I devote my time to family history — fifty years from now; I hope someone will run across this column or my Ancestry page or my books and find them useful in their own search.

One cannot easily pass a passion along to another person. It is, however, my hope that readers will find something in my writing that encourages them to search out their own past.  A caveat, however. One can find surprises and shocks; I found several stories I would have rather not known.  I did not shy away because the truth makes up the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle that is my grandmother’s family.

Each person’s life affects another, as the angel Clarence Oddbody tells, “It’s a Wonderful Life” hero George Bailey.  Looking at the overall picture of my grandmother’s family, I cannot help but wonder how things would have been different had the 1922 accident never happened. “What if” is never a productive game. But I can’t help but wonder, having heard about the aftermath of Mae’s death.  Would the two remaining sisters have reconciled? What would have happened to their parent’s farm? Would Mae have married a local boy who wanted to farm the farm? Would that have stopped my grandparents from moving back to Indiana from their cushy life in Springfield, Illinois?  My grandparents and their daughters moved from a plush city home to a farmhouse with no electricity 23 miles from a city.

Like others in my book, Mae’s life and death affected many people. What happened to the farm ownership with each passing generation changed with unexpected deaths like Mae’s. Ultimately, the farm stayed in the family for 173 years, receiving the Indiana Historical Association award for a century of continuous ownership.  Writing the book took me on a journey of discovery without a clear map, heading off in directions that surprised me, shocked me, and sometimes delighted me.

I hope you will start your story today.  Your descendants are counting on you.

Coming June 28, 2021

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Apr 192021
 

The stories of my ancestors from my maternal grandmother piqued my interest. When she died in 1994, I became the keeper of the flame. Family members gave me materials, adding to my collection my grandmother (Grammy) had given me. The family stories are compelling and have been waiting for me to propel them into the world.  Many of my lines have dead ends; the Long line had too much information.

I couldn’t wrap my arms around the project. I couldn’t find a way to make sense of it. I had too much information and not enough connection.  My grandmother, born in 1908, had access to most of the family documents and information through her DAR membership. But in the quarter-of-a-century since her death, the Internet has made family research easier. The Internet also offers many options and ways to connect with others who share interests or common ancestors.

Researching on the Internet is more my style than joining the DAR.  I’m still not over the whole Marian Anderson thing from 1939.  Thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt, for stepping up and arranging for Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial.

The Long lineage, my grandmother’s mother’s family, offered the most information. I can go back to Hanns Lung, born in 1520 in Baden-Baden, Germany.  Hanns Lung is my 10th great-grandfather, and every single relative through the generations was a farmer until my generation. There are craftsmen, millers, coopers, blacksmiths, cabinet makers, and yes, farmers on my paternal grandfather’s side and my father’s parents’ lineage.

The Long family believed in tilling the soil and encouraged their children to do the same.  The land seems the natural connection around which to shape a narrative. My book traces the story of four generations from 1837-1937.  Reuben and Elizabeth Long, Washington and Jane Long, Henry Kellis Hoard and Anna Long Hoard, and Carl August Enz and LeNore Hoard Enz farmed the same farm these four generations.

I wanted to know why.  Why did my ancestors love the land so much?  I found out why, but I also discovered a treasure trove of stories that I had never heard before.  You know the kind I’m speaking of–the kind that is “never to be discussed again.”

I found untimely deaths, suicide, diseases,  isolation, despair,  bigotry, hatred, unfathomable loss,  destructive weather events, and addiction. I learned that the farm hung on by a  thread several times.  I learned that a relative of mine was killed in the Civil War, and I had never even heard his name.  I learned that my great-grandmother Anna suffered more losses than anyone should in any lifetime.  And she managed to survive, despite the early death of her mother, accidental loss of a brother, loss of a daughter, and an early and horrific accidental death of her husband.

I also found beauty, joy, happiness, contentment, jubilation, creativity, community, and faith. As you will learn when you read “Centennial Farm Family: Cultivating Land and Community 1837-1037,” The Long family was guided by their love and protection of the land.

Until my book is published this summer, I’ll be sharing little tidbits here on my Raven Lunatic blog. At left is one of my favorite pictures from the farm.  I can’t use all of them, and frankly, I’m not sure who this is.  It’s not my great-grandfather, but it might be his brother-in-law Calvin or the hired man.  I suspect it was taken before the turn of the 20th century.  I love the picture because the naive observer sees in this old picture what I saw as a child, a gravel lane leading to the woods in the northwest corner of the picture, a magical place with wildflowers and walnut trees.  In theory, it was full of mushrooms in April and May, but I could never see them.  My mother, as a child, loved going mushroom hunting with her father and was, apparently, a good little mushroom hunter.  (For non-Hoosiers, this is an Indiana thing.  We like to find a fungus among us in the woods, flour it, and then fry it in fat.  Well, some of us do.  I never could hunt them or acquired the taste.  Which is fine because relatives who love them are only too happy to take your share.)

 

@centennialfarmfamily

 

COMING JUNE 28, 2021

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