What a difference a year makes…

June 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

The last year has brought a whirlwind of blessings for my family and me. I have been so busy that I haven’t been able to devote any time to my hobbies and extracurricular activities- including my family history/research endeavors. Last July, I basically received my dream job as far as “corporate/institutional” jobs go. I have been working harder than I ever have, and enjoying (mostly) every minute.

In October my father, who had long been ill with fatty liver disease, finally received a liver transplant! It was a complete miracle that we had been praying for a long time. Unfortunately, he got extremely ill to where he had to be mediflighted from Little Rock to his liver transplant program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. We thought he was going to have a procedure done that would buy him some additional time until he moved up the transplant waiting list/found a match. However, he was already so ill that they immediately moved him up to the top of the list. He was admitted on a Thursday night and had a liver transplant starting at 9:00 p.m. on Monday night. We stayed in the waiting room until 5:00 a.m. when two of the surgeons that performed the operation came in to give us the wonderful news! He had done just fine! He was in the hospital for another month before he could go home. He is now more than six months out and is a new man. We are so thankful to the organ donor and their family who lost a beloved member. The gift of life is not to be taken for granted. We have since become advocates of organ and tissue donation. Learn more about organ and tissue donation at: http://www.unos.org/ Also, I cannot say enough words on how wonderful the medical team and staff at Barnes-Jewish Hospital were. http://www.barnesjewish.org/transplant-center

This Spring has been equally as demanding as the Fall. Between coordinating, two publications and two major events for my department, my husband also had knee surgery. But most exciting, we found out that we are expecting a baby in December of 2012! We have just recently shared the news with our extended family and friends and are so excited and blessed to finally be starting our family.

This baby has brought me full circle. I am now thinking more about family history again, looking at baby names and traditions and what we want to continue. I am drawn to more classic names, especially ones that have been in our families. What will we call Little Wylie’s grandparents? Hubby’s parents are already Nana and Papa to our nephew, so that tradition will stay. I always called my grandparents Mema (pronouced MeeMaw) and Grandaddy. I don’t know how you can get more Southern than that! The jury is still out though- I don’t think my mother is keen on being called Mema.

The next several months will certainly be interesting. In July we will find out the gender and will start working on the nursery, and finish several of our home improvement projects that we have neglected far too long. Can’t wait to see what’s in store!

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Life IS like a box of chocolates…

March 14, 2011 § 3 Comments

You know how the rest of the saying goes.  You never know what you are going to get.  The same applies to family history. 

My father and I spent Saturday going through boxes and envelopes containing our family history.  My Mema Eula was a history buff and amateur genealogist and kept a lot of  family things to pass down to my father.  After Mema died, we put the cedar chest with all of this history in a storage warehouse, not really understanding or appreciating the contents inside.

The first item that drew my eye when we opened the cedar chest  was an old Whitman’s Chocolate box.  As I blew off the layers of dust from the top of the box, I couldn’t help but think of the “life is like a box of chocolates,” saying and laughed a little at the irony. I lifted the lid and wondered what family treasure it might hold, if any?   I prayed  it wouldn’t contain 50 year old chocolate covered fruit as the lid described!

My fingers rested on the piece of paper that laid on top.  Gingerly unfolding the stained and tattered paper, I wondered how it had survived for years in this chocolate box under such poor conditions?  I worried if it would fall apart in my hands. Thankfully it didn’t, and to our excitement we discovered the paper was a marriage license for my great- great grandparents dated September 1880!  They both were 22 years of age and from Garner Township in Union County, Arkansas.

Anticipation building at what we might find next, we opened a smaller box with the name of a Little Rock jewelry store, long since gone, written across the lid.  Inside we found a lovely cameo pendant, a locket with the photo of a mystery woman and baby from around the turn of the century, a gold wedding band, a broken beaded necklace and several other jewelry remnants. Prized possessions at one time, no doubt.

The rest of the cedar chest contained letters, other boxes of keepsakes, yearbooks and photos.  Lots of photos.  People we knew and people we didn’t.  The mystery lady from the locket turned up several more times in larger, more stunning photos.  Her side profile revealed a long straight nose and perfectly arched brow. Her beautiful dark hair was swept back in a loose, wavy bun. Fashionable ladies at the turn of the century wore such styles.  Praise the Lord, I come from “fashionable” stock! 

One other mystery woman appeared in a Civil War era (or before) photo.  Yorkville, South Carolina, was printed on the photo jacket.  Having traced my family history quite extensively, I know that my father’s side came to Arkansas from Yorkville after the Civil War.  Wearing a dark silk dress with a voluminous skirt, the woman in the photograph holds a Holy Bible in one hand.  Her face is pleasant, if expressionless, which is so often the case with old photographs like these.  I thought about who she could possibly be, which great-grandmother is she?  Where does she fit in my family tree?

As we went through the photos and other items in the chest, I learned things that I didn’t know about my grandparents.   Almost every item brought up a memory for Dad and a story I hadn’t heard before.  Things that amused me, things that surprised me. Things that made me proud.  Things that made my grandparents and great grandparents more than just a name on a family tree. 

Most importantly, I spent a fun and meaningful afternoon with my father, learning more about his life.  That’s better than any box of chocolates.