During my visit home last week, Beth gave me two photos that I don’t recall seeing before.
I was the eldest grandchild on my father’s side, and the second eldest on my mother’s side. Both of my grandmothers doted on me, and as I grew they both loved that I was musical, since they were too. Grandma Carter played violin, and sang often at funerals in De Soto, where she lived. Grandma Blocher played piano (her gift of a down-payment on a Baldwin spinet piano allowed us to have a piano at home for me to practice on) and sang for decades in the Baptist church choir.
This one was cropped so that it might be placed in the corner of a picture frame, or a mirror. I’m with Grandma Blocher, who we all called G-ma:
From about the same age, I’m with Grandma Carter, joyful at what was clearly a Christmas present:
My heritage . . . how I got be here . . . my ancestors . . . the tree that rooted from immigrants and produced this one bow . . . this has all been on my mind the last few weeks.
I really don’t know why.
After my sister Beth decided that our family meal this last week (I spent 24 hours in Lee’s Summit) would be a re-creation of a Blocher family Sunday meal, I knew that we’d spend some time reminiscing too.
That led to an all-out few hours of genealogy conversations.
The meal? I made brisket. Karen brought green rice (broccoli/rice casserole) and a peach pie. Beth made funeral potatoes and opened a can of Le Sueur peas, just like Mom and G-ma used to do. I contributed the lime pickles.
And the genealogy. Beth had asked me some questions the other day about who people were in various photos, as she continues to sort through my father’s belongings. (We are now down to century-old photos, but of both sides of the family.) Karen has the Ancestry.com family tree, and I had much of it in mind myself.
I’m the only one of us three old enough to remember the great-grandparents. My mother’s paternal grandfather was alive when I was born, and I met him, but he died less then nine months after my birth. I do remember Gram Blocher (Edna Stolp Blocher), my maternal grandfather’s mother; and Alvin Carter and James Slade, my paternal great-grandfathers, both of whom died when I was five or six.
James and Belle Slade at their 50th anniversary celebration. I have the vaguest recollection of Belle, and only slightly more of James.
The Carter side great-grandparents were named Carter and Slade and Fields and Ratliff. That’s a pretty British bunch. And the Blocher side greats were Blocher and Stolp and Gutshall (anglicized from Gotschalk) and Ficklin. Only that later name is British. The rest are German. From what I can tell from the lineage, these folks tended to marry within similar countries of family origin, and within similar faith groups. One of my great-great-great-great-grandfathers was an elder in the Dutch Reformed Church in New York. Many of the ancestors were Methodist or Baptist. And of course I am the child of two Baptist missionaries whose parents were instrumental in their own faith journey.
Alvin Carter with two of his grandsons. My father, Richard, is at right. This would be 1953 or so.
From my journal this last week:
Visiting the cemetery yesterday, I prayed for the repose of my parents’ souls, and gave thanks for their example. Some day they will be but a memory only to us three children. Mom is warmly but hazily remembered by Blayne and Kristen [Karen’s two children, now adults and parents themselves]. All will be gone, and I for one want them to live a while longer in my own memory. Mom is not quite sainted for us, but she’s on the short list in spite of her foibles and all-too-apparent humanity. Their memories are sacred to us, though — as parents, as exemplars, as guides to how we might live and die, even as we learn from their clay feet too.
As we examined photos and unraveled genealogy, my mind filled over and over with memories. I remember visiting Gram Blocher at her small house south of G-Ma’s, and her funeral — how fascinated I was by the accordion device that held the casket. Of course, that device was at my eye level!
I remember visiting James Slade in his upstairs apartment on Jefferson, and in the nursing home. And I remember that we were farmed out to Harold/Shirley Ward on the day of his funeral.
My paternal great-grandfather visited the Clayton house in Columbia. That’s my only recollection of Alvin Carter.
Beth told me a story last evening that I never heard, of my first Christmas and a blizzard and Mom peeing into one of my cloth diapers and me drinking cold milk since we were stuck in the blizzard. She heard this from Mom or G-Ma.
Last evening, lineage tracing back to Staffordshire, England on the Ficklin side, and to Germany for Gutshall and Stolp. I’m a seventh-generation American on the Stolp side; sixth-gen on the Blocher side; and seventh-gen on the Ficklin side. I have maternal ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary (Johannes Peiters Stolp) and Civil Wars, and one who was listed on the first USA census in 1790. Jacob Blocher’s house was used at Gettysburg as a hospital.
Youngest nephew Joseph is quite the teenage zoologist. My sister suggested I take him to the Kansas City Zoo at Swope Park on Wednesday last, so Joe and I waited out the rain and then spent two hours with sea lions and tigers and lorikeets and kangaroos and red pandas and Merino sheep and such. And a good time was had by all.
Joe pets a stingray.
This one is just waiting for a lift from the train.
My youngest sister once gave my father a book entitled “Dad’s Memory Book.” Each page give a prompt. Beth hoped that my father would complete the book, as she wrote, “for your grandchildren.”
Pop completed two months, and at some point in March quit writing. We all regret that he did, because there is so much family history and information that he could have provided. My sisters and I did not know our father well in many ways; this book could have helped.