Thursday, October 28, 2010

Legacy and Love

This past week, my Aunt Catherine died. The Hubster has already written a beautiful post about my family. I don't know if I can express it any better than he already has.

However, it meant a trip to the farm. As I have grown older I have come to love that land more dearly than ever. KY is a beautiful state. There are lots of lovely woods, creeks, farms and fields. But something about the family farm is magic. It just feels different. When I turn off the highway onto the little road, images began rushing through my mind like an episodic movie.

I see black and white photos, color pictures, memories of times and people long gone. All rushing through but each one tangible and indelible. Each so real I ache with love.

I see in my mind the photographs of my siblings and me when we were all much younger: BB2 clutching a bunch of kittens to his chest; the sister and I standing in a field of tobacco that is 2 feet taller than us; the old house that Daddy built with a lavender bedroom. There is no longer a house or tobacco on the farm. There are however kittens.

BB1 has kittens who live outside working for their supper but also sleeping in the porch swing, running helter skelter down the road, hunting the fields for mice or lazing in the sun.

I imagine they are the descendants of the long ago cats clutched tightly by a small freckled faced boy who now lives a thousand miles away...

I didn't get a chance to walk in the woods this time. It would have been a good time as there was a full moon and it lit up the night so I could see individual trees and a path clearly. But this time wasn't about me. It was about family. The ties that link us, one severed for now upon this earth. My aunt Catherine was the last real link between what I think of as the past and the present. The past was when I was little, and on Sundays all the cousins came to visit. We would play all afternoon and into the late evening: school, church and funeral were my favorite games. Sometimes we would dress the smallest male cousins up as girls and force them to play house and be the "babies". We would play hide and seek, tell ghost stories until we scared ourselves silly and ran to the safety of our parents arms.
We would settle in sometimes and listen to the grownups talk. I remember the rich cadence of voices and laughter rising and falling, the curls of cigarette and cigar smoke wafting away on  a breeze. The clink of ice cubes in glasses of tea so sweet your teeth ached. We would be given pieces of cornbread or cold biscuits to snack on. Later maybe some cold chicken or frozen mushmelons as makedo popsicles.

Some of this happened on another farm we lived on, some at THE farm: that's the one that calls to me, lures me back with the beauty of trees and fields. The farm that backs up to the cemetery where all my relatives sleep in quite peace. We could walk from my nephews house to the graveyard where we all gathered last weekend to pay our respects to aunt Catherine. You can see the treeline that marks the boundary from my parents grave.

At the cemetery we visit all the relatives, dusting off a headstone, straightening flowers, sticking wooden crosses back in the ground where the wind or maybe wild rabbits have knocked them over.
I pause at my parents' grave looking at the faded silk roses, knowing in my heart they were placed there on Memorial Day by Catherine's hands. She went out every year with armfuls of silk flowers, sticking single stems on the graves of her two babies that were born dead. She went from relative to relative, bending down at each grave, paying her respect, showing her love, caring for those gone ahead.

I wonder now, who of us will pick up this tradition? Who of us cousins, nephews, nieces, grandchildren or great grandchildren will be the bearers of the flowers? Who among us will go from grave to grave remembering the past?  Some of whom we never met but who lived on in stories handed down at weddings, funerals, family gatherings.
I wonder about all of us who were children together, now growing older, some of us grandparents already, some of us even gone early. I wonder if we can carry on the legacy of love that was handed down to us. Can we make new ties linking the youngsters of today that will reach from them to us to our elders.

I wonder if that love will survive and thrive.

Later in the day I play with my great niece, the 5th generation to live on this land. I wonder if someday it will call to her as it does to me. If she will find fossils in the red clay as I once did. I wonder if she will love to walk the woods, hear the sighing wind and feel her heart swell with a love long imbued in the hills and hollows where so many of us began and later returned. I wonder if she will love the legacy as much as I do...

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