#atozchallenge: Orange

Another departure from nutrition on this day dedicated to the letter O.  April is National Poetry Month. 

Great Grandfather’s Name

The warmth of orange, the rich shades of color

Taken from the sun, from reds and browns and yellows

And transferred to a child to be his name

What could his parents have wished that name would inspire


Could it have been a name from the land

That of an earl or duke from France

And why would that land be named orange

And why would the child inherit the name


Did the land in France, or some other faraway land

Grow the fruit, the tree named orange that takes

Color from the sun and the earth and makes that

Perfect, round fruit which shares name with the child


The child became a husband, a father, a grandfather

Who had children sit on his lap and wonder at

His beard, and the lingering smell not of orange

But of onion, the poultice for his maladies


Orange and onion, memories meld together

The family stories and the continuing wonder

Of why, and would he want to be remembered

For more, and doubtless he was but always

Also for the name, Orange Scott Warner.




A to Z Challenge: L, Letters


Dear _____,

Please write me a letter. I know email is faster and easier and cheaper but sometimes I like the way “snail mail” slows things down.  I like seeing that fat envelope in the mailbox, taking it out and reading it while I walk back to the house.  Then I read it again with a cup of tea and think about what it said.  And I can wait for a day or two before I answer because there is no pressure or expectation – we know mail takes days.  I can take my time thinking and writing back.

I love to see your handwriting and don’t want to forget what it looks like, and if you draw a funny picture I like that too.  Sometimes you spill something on your paper or maybe it smells like your hand lotion and it makes me feel more like I’m right there with you.  And I know how much time you invested in the writing and that speaks of love and care.

I know when I sit to write a handwritten note these days it almost feels like I’m rebelling against technology – makes me feel retro on purpose.  And seeing the rounded letters flowing from my pen is artistically pleasing to me.  As I think and write the long way, my thoughts come a little clearer and suddenly I am more sure of what I’m thinking.  It is a special joy to me when you save my letters and return them to me, giving me a record of my times as good as any journal.  I know I’ve forgotten details of events that come right back to me when I pick up an old letter and re-read it.  That old box I keep letters in doesn’t really take up that much room and it’s kind of nice not to have to hunt in cyberspace for hours on end.  You have a box like that too, don’t you? No? How sad.  You should start one.

Someday I want to read to you the letters my great-great-grandmother wrote.  Wow, what a window on her world!  Things were so different and yet so the same.  It does me good to see that thread of sameness in our lives and I think you would like seeing it too.  How much I would have missed if I had not been able to know her through her letters.  Want to know where I got my stubborn streak or quirky sense of humor? I think I know…

Well, all for now.  I know you’re busy but don’t be afraid to sit a spell and write me a page or two.  The world won’t come to an end (probably not) if you do.  I’ll be watching for the mail.

Yours truly,

A Lover of Letters

<a href=”http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/”><img alt=”” src=” http://i1139.photobucket.com/albums/n547/Jeremy-iZombie/A%20TO%20Z%202014/A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775c.jpg&#8221; title=”AtoZ April Challenge” /></a>

Related People

My Grandfather (well, one of them)
My Grandfather (well, one of them)

I’ve spent quite a bit of time today with my mom looking at family letters, journals, pictures and memorabilia. I am very confused and totally impressed with anyone who spends more than half an hour studying genealogy. Think of it this way – most of us know who our parents are. That’s two people. A lot of us know or have known one or both of our sets of grandparents. It’s not too hard yet – that’s just six people all together. A few of us knew great-grandparents, or heard about them from people who knew them. We’ve just added eight more people to the mix, fourteen to keep track of. Still with me? Now maybe you get married and have children. Those poor kids have double that number to figure out because you’ve just joined them to another line of your spouse’s ancestry. And that number doubles every time you go back another generation. We haven’t said anything about aunts, uncles or cousins yet either.

And ancestors can really confuse you if they happened to have more than one marriage. Also in the past, people didn’t have a lot of imagination in naming their kids, or they were too busy, or something. They just kept picking the same names that their father or uncle or sister or brother had. So every generation had repeats with a number behind the name. (If you care about genealogy, pick a unique name for your child, please.)

I’ve about decided that I’m not going to get it all straight. I’m just going to remember some of the neat stories. For instance, one of my ancestors (George Boone III, poor guy) came over from England and enjoyed dabbling in real estate. He was the original owner of the tract of land in Maryland that became Washington, D.C. and in fact, Georgetown is named after him. There is even a plaque in the city that says so. Pretty cool, huh? Yes, there was also a George IV,

Another of my ancestors named Squire Boone (and I have to hand it to his parents for thinking of a name I certainly wouldn’t have thought of) had two sons, Edward and Daniel. He lived in Kentucky and yes they did have coonskin caps. Edward was my ancestor, but he was killed by Indians and his brother Daniel helped raise his children. I haven’t figured out how many “greats” I have to attach to it, but Daniel Boone was some kind of an uncle of mine.

There’s lots more and the really great thing is that so many of my ancestors were the bloggers of their day. They wrote journals, they were newspaper reporters and writers of one sort or another. Many were school teachers or ministers which gave them a familiarity with writing and an appreciation of family histories. One of “my people” sat in a tent one night during the Civil War and put down his thoughts in a poem and we have it today.

My great aunt Esther was one of the historians for our family on my mother’s side. In spite of the fact that she wrote a lot of her notes on napkins, and lost pages of letters all the time, she did have a large collection of family history that she passed on to my mom. That’s the material we are sorting through. My mom has compiled a two volume history from most of the writings but what do we do with those precious originals? I want to thank my ancestors for writing about their ordinary lives, which, turns out for some of them, were pretty extraordinary. If this makes you want to start a journal, I’m sayin’ just do it!

Do you have an interesting story in your family history? Tell it to me, please.

Grandma in her Garden

My Mom loves to garden.  I call her Grandma sometimes because I have talked to my children about her for years and years. She is their grandma, my mom, Gwendolyn Boone Smith.  Gwendolyn who never had a middle name and didn’t need one because her first name was long enough for two. Grandma keeps saying […]

A Bit Worried

my not smiling great grandparents
my not smiling great grandparents

I’ve been looking at multi-generational family photos recently and there’s something about them that has me a bit worried.  It stands out so clearly that I couldn’t help but notice – the older generation is not smiling.  I am already aware that getting older has its down side but could it be that old age is even worse than I had imagined?

There could be other explanations, and I’m considering them all.  Perhaps, even though they appear to be looking at the camera and are surrounded by family members who are posing, they don’t know their picture is being taken? No one said “Say cheese”?  Or perhaps they think they look scary when they smile, or maybe those muscles are tired and just don’t function anymore? They are all smiled out?  Could it be that just being there for the photo requires so much of them that they don’t have energy left to pretend that it’s fun?

When I go back to the very, very old pictures I can totally understand the grim expressions.  After all, they had to stand outside, in a lot of dark, heavy clothing, probably for a very long time to get that picture.  Notice that no one has thousands of those pictures in their family albums. But we are in the digital age and have thousands of pics on our phones! We can delete them with a touch of the finger.  If there’s a somber, semi-glaring face in there it must mean something.

And that is what worries me.  Someday there might be a lot of pictures of old aunt/grandma/relative/friend Shirley out there and I would like to either be smiling or making a funny face in all of them.  I want to know that it’s possible, no matter how tired I am, how much I hurt or how old I feel, to hide it from the  “youngers”.  They’ll find out soon enough how much fun it is.  I’m actually practicing my smile variations, hoping that one of them will become so habitual that it will be there on my face anytime there is a camera around.  It’s taking conscious effort but I’m just sayin’, I think it’s worth doing.

Old Jed

On this pleasant day off from work I went to see my aunt and uncle who live a short walk away during the winter. Auntie Irene is my father’s sister and has always been one of my favorites along with her whole family – Uncle Bob, cousins Mark, Robin and Todd. They would visit regularly when I was growing up. Their summer vacation was usually spent in Hayward at Grandma’s house and the Round Lake beach. I did a lot of water skiing behind Uncle Bob’s boat, although he loved to scare me by pulling me faster than I wanted to go and heading for the choppiest part of the water to see if I’d fall.

So we were talking and looking at some pictures, one of which was of a big rock in California with a plaque on it memorializing Jedediah Smith.  My cousin Todd is posing by the rock. Turns out Jed is one of our Smith ancestors and his claim to fame is the discovery of a route west to California prior to Lewis and Clarke.  Somehow L and C got credit but evidently books have been written since acknowledging Jedediah Smith with an earlier route. I have been aware of well known ancestors on my mother’s side of the family, the Boones, but this is the first I’ve known that anyone has traced the Smiths back to someone like this. So now I need to find the books and find out what is known about Jedediah. Auntie Irene says he died young, killed by hostile Indians.

Geneology also shows that we Smiths are related to a family named Bunker. They owned the land on which the battle of Bunker Hill was fought.  When you think how hard it is today to make some kind of mark on the world that is remembered at all, it is kind of special to have a family history of memorable characters. We should know about these people. I think it would give us a sense of who we are, who we could be to know who we came from. 

Last year for his birthday I had framed for Dennis the roster showing his ancestor Abraham Starr as a soldier in the Civil War.  It gives information about the whole company, the battles that they participated in, shows that he was twice wounded and honorably discharged. It has colorful pictures on it and, unfortunately, numerous holes that the mice and moths have made in the paper over the years. Nevertheless an interesting piece of history – and now preserved behind special glass on acid free paper for future generations should they be interested.

I’m in the stage of life where I have occasions to listen to the stories of the generation ahead of me and wish that they were recorded.  I can only remember bits and pieces of what I hear. And I wonder what I will have to tell when I’m the oldest generation alive. I spend so much time thinking about mundane things concerning the here and now – it actually feels eerie to think about people much like me who lived and have been gone for hundreds of years who are responsible for my being alive. There are so many stories out there that have never been told…

All for today… back to the here and now.