Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - The loves of my life

        My two daughters and my mother on Valentines Day - 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - (New) Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery

This past weekend, I bravely visited the New Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery in Louisburg, NC.  This off-road, remotely-located cemetery is the sacred ground in which numerous 19th Century-born blacks and their descendants are buried.  Among the departed rest some of my Dunstan ancestors - free blacks who are lived in Franklin County, NC.  Although I was not able to locate any of their graves, I know that they are there, thanks to the death certificates that I have for a few of them.

This is the second time I've visited this cemetery, but both times my stay has been short due to the eerie, unsafe feeling I've had while there.  This fear is not at all of the ancestors, who rest peacefully in this hidden abode.  Instead, it is of the WORLD that we live in now.  Perhaps one day I'll be able to return to this cemetery accompanied by at least one other person who can "watch my back" while I look around for my folks, but until then, it's just enough for me to quickly (and courageously) spend a few minutes in the presence of their spirits, and let them know that I know where they lay.

The cemetery has a mixture of modern-day headstones (burials still take place there), and graves which are marked only by a large stone, or in many cases, a stick or a rock.  I took several individual shots of headstones that were near me, and will upload them to Find-A-Grave.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - Meet the Parents!

I've gone back and forth with myself about whether or not I should write this post, but since today is Sentimental Sunday and since I am rather emotionally full right now, I'm going to go on and take the leap.  It's not often that I write about my living relatives, and even less so that I do so about either of my daughters, but today, on Valentines Day, I just have to.

It's been many years since I've had a true Valentine, so the day itself has very little meaing to me.  Typically, I play "Cupid" to my two daughters, and to my mother, and I usually get blessed, in return, with love tokens from my daughters, but this is often done via U.S. mail, since one is away in college, and the other lives seven hours away in NY.  But this year, Valentines Day has been different.  Very different.  This weekend, my oldest daughter, who will be 28 years old in June, did something she's never done before.  She brought her boyfriend (who she's been seeing for a little over a year) to Virginia to meet her parents!

Now, I've known this visit was coming for about two months, and I've wondered to myself it if was significant in any way.  After all, my daughter's beau, an artist and lecturer, had a scheduled engagement at a college not far from here, so the two of them just coordinated this trip to coincide with that.  And, although my daughter has indicated that they "get along well", and have been "spending huge amounts of time together", I hadn't heard the "L" word, nor had I been given a lot of reason to think that this one was "the one".  But still, just the fact that she was bringing him here, and not just here, but also taking him (first) to Charlottesville to meet her father and his parents, led me to believe that there might be a hidden agenda...

So, anyway, the happy couple flew into Richmond yesterday morning, and, after a full day in C'ville with her paternal side, they made the 2:15 drive from there to here so that the young gentleman (whom I'll call, "H") could meet Mommy (me).  We had a great night of conversation last night, during which H made himself completely at home and seemed to fit comfortably into vibe of my household.  (I'd already gotten the report from my daughter's dad that the same was true at his house.)  At 12:14, when I realized it was after midnight, I wished everyone a happy Valentines Day.  I said I love you to my daughter, and she told me the same, and then turned and said, "I love you" to H. He responded with the same. (Alrighty then!) We then went on and proceded to visit until after 2 a.m., after which all three of us, retreated to separate rooms to sleep.

This morning my youngest daughter (my Valentine) came in, just in time to join us for a huge breakfast/brunch, which I prepared for everyone.  After that, a short siesta was necessary for all, and then the young folk all took off for the mall.  Next came a visit to the nursing home, so that H could meet grandma.  This, too, went very well.  He was perfect with her, and won her over easily.  We took several pictures, including a few with H and grandma.  After this came the reason for this post:  I'd told the gang that I wanted to treat everyone to dinner out, so we headed to the restaurant, as planned.  I was feeling very generous, so I told all to order whatever they wished, and they did.  During dinner, H and my daughter were noticeably affectionate (something I've never witnessed with my daughter and any other person), holding hands and snuggling up.  They each made several comments about a future together, such as "when we have kids" and things like that.  I mentioned that this was the first gentleman that this daughter had ever brought home like this, and H responded that he hoped to be the last. (Hmmm...glances all around the table:) 

After our leisurely and enjoyable dinner, the waitress brought the check.  She laid it in front of H (assuming, I thought that he'd be paying since he was the only male at the table), but I quickly reached across the table to grab it.  As I did, I noticed that there was already a credit card sticking out of the holder, and I was very confused. "How did...", I began.  Somehow, H had managed to communicate to the waitress that he would be paying, and she'd already charged his credit card!  I had no idea how he'd done this, until I remembered that he went "to the restroom" shortly after we'd been seated at the table.  This rascal had just bought paid for dinner for four - appetizers, entrees, wine, and dessert - without me having a clue!  (You have to really know me to know how hard that would be to do.)  Well, after several minutes of trying to convince him that he didn't have to do that, I gave in, and the next thing I knew, I'd burst into tears!  I hid behind my napkin and boo-hooed like a baby  for almost ten minutes.  Even I can't fully explain all of the reasons why, but something in my heart told me that my daughter had struck gold, and also, more personally, I think deep down inside I realized that this was the first time in over a decade that anyone had bought me dinner on Valentines Day.
I don't know what the future holds for H and my daughter, but I do know that today was the best Valentines Day I can remember.  Not only did I get to witness my oldest daughter being treated right, but so did my youngest daughter, and that is worth the world to me.  Tomorrow, when they all leave, I know that I'll still be able to feel the warmth that was shared between us all today on this FAMILY VALENTINES DAY.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Who Do I Think I Am?

This morning, after reading the exquisitely-written Open Letter to Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., posted by my friend, Luckie Daniels of Our Georgia Roots, I found myself responding with a comment on her blog that ended up sounding more like a post in itself, so I've decided to copy my response to my own blog.
The topic here was the new show, Who Do You Think You Are?, which will be airing on NBC, beginning on March 5th.  The show will feature "the quest to discover the roots" of seven celebrities.  I strongly believe that, although the intentions of the network (an extension of the original program aired in Canada via the BBC) are good; they, and other shows, like the African-American Lives series, by the well-respected and honorable Dr. Henry Louis Gates, miss a veritable opportunity by not opening their programs up to feature "regular" American researchers, who are working so hard to discover our often elusive roots.  So, in response to Luckie's letter to Dr. Gates, I offer these additional comments:


I just HAVE to take a few moments away from my vacation in paradise to comment on this letter! We are certainly two of a kind, for I must admit that just a few hours ago, I started to type out a “tweet” in response to the “WDYTYA Veiwing Party” concept, asking, “Am I the only one who is NOT excited about this show?”
It’s not that I don’t like the concept of the program, but ever since it was announced, I’ve felt a twinge of angst because I watch these shows when they air, and see the work that so many of us put decades of our lives into being done in a matter of a few hours or days by professional genealogists for “famous” people who have to do nothing but sit back and receive the gift of their ancestry. I’m always left feeling a bit insulted because this is how many outsiders to family history research are being introduced to it. It’s made to look too easy, too quick, and much too profitable (in terms of the payout of finding documentation) than what the reality is, especially for most African-American descendants of slaves. I had already planned to write to someone (I just wasn’t sure who) to propose that, rather than just featuring celebrities, that perhaps one of the networks might decide to “gift” some of the hard-working, dedicated, “regular” folk who are out here researching our roots. We are doing so while holding down full-time jobs, raising families, caring for elderly parents, and scrimping together funds to support the passion that takes over us to learn what we can of our history. Many times, we are using our personal leave from work to take expensive research trips, spending days and days in libraries, courthouse basements, deeds offices, and cemeteries; and having to stay in hotels, eat out (if we stop to eat) and pay for travel to and from our ancestral locations. I believe that just as much (or perhaps even more) interest could be gleaned in a program that reaches out to help the average researcher (think Extreme Makeover – Family History Edition!), as there is for the programs featuring celebrities. Certainly, those of us who’ve put in the research-equity would have an even greater appreciation and emotional response (great for TV) to being gifted with the work a professional researcher and perhaps an all-expense paid trip through time to the ancestral homes of our ancestors.
I guess since this has turned out to be more than just a quick comment, perhap we might call it, “Another open letter to whomever might be listening”

Just something to think about….

Who do I think I am? First and formost, I am a child of God! I am a descendant of slaves and slave-owners, of free blacks, and Native Americans. I hail from hard-working, self-preserving people who deserve to be discovered and have their stories told! I am a mother, an aunt, a cousin, a friend. I've been designated by my ancestors to disover and tell their stories. In essence, I am my family GRIOT, and I will continue to seek my family's history until every brick wall is smashed down and the stories within them are told.


(PS... I'm writing this on the first morning of my vacation in Hawaii, thus the reference to my "vacation in paradise".)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - An Unusual Find

Last week I visited Calvary Cemetery, in Norfolk, VA, the resting place of several of my maternal ancestors. Although my personal goals for the visit were met with disappointment, due to the fact that I learned that my ancestors were buried in a completely unmarked plot, I was pleasantly satisfied with my visit to the original section of this cemetery.  Calvary is the oldest African-American cemetery in Norfolk, and has several former slaves resting in its grounds.  I took several pictures and made a couple of recordings in that part of cemetery, and then just decided to ride around a bit more. It is a very large cemetery!

Just as I was about to leave, I encountered this massive brick structure with it's inscribed obelisk, so out of curiousity, I checked it out.   I thought this too interesting not to share, so here is my submission for Tombstone Tuesday.

The inscription on the monument reads:
Reverend William Lewis family vault:
Rev Lewis died Nov 12, 1882 aged ?8 years
Mary E Lewis died c 1886 aged 66 years
                                                              Husband and Wife