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The Other Day in Kentucky

The Canopy Walk of Bernheim Forest

I’ve told you about a couple of the days of events during my recent trip to Kentucky, but there was one more day…the “other” day.

I didn’t go to Kentucky with many expectations. I knew I was visiting the area where my ancestors lived just before they moved to Indiana. I didn’t expect to find a long-lost cousin or an old homeplace or log cabin. I just wanted to see the land, walk the paths, get a feel for the places in my history.

I got that and more. As I stood in the Collings Cemetery near the home of Brian B., I looked out over pastures and fields and woods. I could feel feeling the peace my ancestors must have felt when they chose this place to lay their loved ones to rest.

Walking along the banks of the Salt River, I imagined it as a roadway to a place that held a promise of home. Long, long ago it must have seemed to be all my ancestors needed to end their journey in this place…the rich mineral content of the earth, the bountiful hunting, the unoccupied land claimed only as hunting grounds for the natives.

But it was the “other” day in Kentucky that really painted the picture of this place for me.

On that day, we drove to Bernheim Forest, a vast privately-owned natural property that was purchased, developed, and donated into a trust for the people of Kentucky by Isaac Wolfe Bernheim.

This is not virgin forest. It is not the forest my ancestors knew, but it is a forest that can bring back to us images of how this part of the state must have looked at some time in the past.

Officially branded as Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, it is still fondly called the Bernheim Forest by locals. Bernheim Forest is dedicated to research and has close ties to the University of Louisville, as well as other institutions of higher learning. The Forest hosts public events featuring photography, fishing, plant identification, bird watching.

There are hiking trails for casual strollers and a 13+ mile trail for more serious hikers.

The visitor center opened in 2005 featuring construction from recycled materials and a “green” roof. I read that the parking lot was carefully located so that native mushrooms would absorb the exhaust contaminants of visiting automobiles.

We walked a more accessible trail that was clearly laid out for hikers but still gave the impression of being part of the forest.

The most memorable part of the visit for me was the overlook or canopy walk. This was a long wooden walkway that felt like a pier reaching out into the sky with a nearly 360° vista of tree-covered hills.

I was instantly reminded of the story of Henry Crist. With his severely injured foot, he struggled to crawl to the top of a hill, hoping to catch sight of the settlement of Brashear’s Station. When he reached the top, he saw only more trees and more hills as far as his eye could see.

It was that “other” day in Kentucky that helped me see the area as my ancestors saw it and to wonder as I always do: “why?” Why did they move on?

More Kentucky Trip

On the first day of our trip to Kentucky, we visited the Bullitt Co. History Museum housed in the county courthouse, an impressive, very traditional looking brick courthouse.

The museum hosts history exhibits in a couple of rooms and the broad hallways, but the real goal for us was the Research Room. We met David S., the volunteer of the day and he was most helpful, pulling out folders of paperwork with variations of the Collings name. The room was small and intimate but full of books, papers, work surfaces, and a couple of computers.

The Collings group probably came to the area around 1783. Several entrepreneurs were claiming land at that time and building salt licks for the commercial production of salt, which was the primary ingredient needed to preserve meat.

In addition to the commercial possibilities, men who had fought in the recent war for independence from Britain came hoping to claim the allotments of land promised as payment for service to their country.

The Collings men and many like them had already spent time in the wilderness of Kentucky and Illinois in campaigns with General George Rogers Clark. They returned to their families in the east full of stories about what they had seen in the territory. The land was rich and fertile, the game plentiful and varied, the possibilities for a good life many.

Of course, there were Indians, but the men, while aware of the dangers, were confident that the future in the area was worth the risk. All they had to do was build a few “stations” for protection. The rest of the land would be theirs for settling.

The Collings and a group of nearly 300, traveled down the Ohio River to Louisville and from there, fanned out into the vast forests.

The Collings and the Crists headed for the area known as Brashear’s Station near Floyd’s Fork, a branch of the Salt River. The settlement was located about 20 miles southwest of present-day Louisville and by two cousins, Joseph and Marsham Brashear.

The cousins came to the area, probably in the early 1770s, built a rough shelter, cleared a little land, did some hunting, then returned east. Joseph died in Pennsylvania in 1778 leaving his share of the claim to his brother William.

The cousins were unable to claim their land legally, but in 1779 Virginia passed a law that provided anyone who could prove settlement in Kentucky before 1778 could legitimately claim 400 acres. The cleared land and the rough shelter were enough to prove the Brashears’ claim.

William Brashear gathered others willing to help, traveled to his “bounty land,” and proceeded to build the “station” or fort.

The winter of 1779-80 was so harsh and the settlement still so bare that the men abandoned it until spring brought better weather. When they returned, William Brashear brought his wife and their seven children.

It seems logical to believe that a Crist or a Collings was part of that first crew to settle at Brashear’s Station and that they then returned east to gather up their families in 1783. The names of those early pioneers are recorded on the state historical marker that stands on the site. Those names are Froman, Ray, Briscoe, Crist, Collings, Overall, Pope, McGee, Hawkins, and Phelps.

If you have been following this blog, you will remember the adventure of Henry Crist as he sought to establish his salt lick station. His supply boat, traveling down the Salt River was attacked and overcome by Indians on the way. Crist was forced to travel for several days, injured and on foot to the safety of Brashear’s Station.

We were eager to see the Salt River, so following an afternoon in the history museum, we asked David for directions which triggered a bit of discussion about the Henry Crist story.

He directed us to a parking lot and river access a couple of blocks away, then hesitated slightly and said, “You know that’s a pretty good story about Henry Crist, but I have my doubts about some of the facts.”

He assured us this was only his opinion but pointed out that Henry, who went on to become a politician and a man of some renown, had a lot of years to polish that story to his benefit.

As the only survivor of the attack on a boat that was more or less a sitting duck on the river, he figured Henry had to be a very lucky man if he was not one of the first men to escape. Then, David smiled. “I’m just saying, it’s a good story.”

One goal for this visit was to walk the banks of the Salt River, and it was everything I expected. It’s a small river and when we were there (July) very quiet and lazy. Not very broad, with high banks on both sides, it was a perfect setting for an Indian attack from either shoreline.

We spent a pleasant hour walking the banks, talking and thinking about the history we were discovering and about the ancestors who had walked here before us.

Past to Present

A small cemetery near Shepherdsville, Ky. brought my past forward just a bit. This must have seemed a restful spot to my ancestors. Photo by Dixie Carter.

At times, when reading about my ancestors and their world, I almost feel as if I have gone back in time. It’s easy to get lost in the history, the mystery, the discovery.

Of course, I know that we can’t go back, that the past is the past, but I found out this week that the past can sometimes come forward to you in unexpected ways.

This week we took a little road trip to the part of the country where our ancestors lived before they came to Indiana. We visited history museums and libraries, walked the banks of the Salt River, admiring the hills and the countryside.

More importantly, though, we randomly met some people, who in some way came to us because of our past and thus in some way made it come alive for us.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know the family line I am currently working on is the Collings family. Before they came to Indiana, they lived in Nelson County, Kentucky. At the time they lived there, in the 1790s, Nelson County consisted of approximately the eastern half of what we now know as the state of Kentucky. Over the years it has been divided into several smaller counties, Bullitt, Spencer, Jefferson, Nelson, to name a few.

My research has revealed that a thriving industry and community called Brashear’s Station (sometimes called Froman’s Station or the Salt River Garrison) grew up near present-day Shepherdsville, Kentucky, now Bullitt County.

Stations were small fortified areas that sprung up all around the area where early families settled, providing protection from Indians.

Our Colling’s ancestors have been listed among the early settlers near Brashear’s Station, and their name is listed on the historical marker that marks the spot of the settlement.

In the directions we found directing us to the spot to see the marker, our map also revealed a small cemetery named Collings Cemetery. Of course, we had to drive there, too.

GPS directed us down highway 44E, then off onto a paved county road, then off onto a gravel road, then onto what appeared to be a country lane with 5 or 6 mailboxes on a post.

Winding our way down the lane, we joked about finding the cemetery in someone’s back yard or off in a field, under a tree guarded by a mad bull, but finally we rounded a curve in the lane to see an attractive farmhouse to the right, far off the road, and next to the road, in the shade of a big tree, a peaceful little plot with about 6 or 7 stones.

Fenced off from a pasture and easily accessible to us, the plot was well tended and neat, with a pleasant view of the countryside. You could tell this was probably a spot much favored by the family who had chosen it as a resting place for their loved ones.

As we tried to decipher the names on the stones, most if not all of them very discolored but clearly bearing the name Collings, we saw a man leave the house and walk down the driveway toward us.

In the shade of an old tree, we explained to him our connection to the cemetery and why we were here. He told us when he bought the property, the graves and plot were in sad shape, the weedy and overgrown with broken and discolored stones. Over the years of his ownership, he had put fencing up, cemented what stones he could fix, taken down the weeds and encouraged the grassy, pasture surface.

We told him of our family, how they had come to Kentucky attracted by the opening up of the territory and the adventure, then moved on to Indiana, only to suffer from a devastating loss by Indian attack. From the dates on the stones, the people buried here were the ancestors that stayed.

The dates displayed seemed to be in the 1860s, which was about 50 years after the departure of our line of Collings.  Still, the names were familiar to us, having shown up in our research, probably as sons, daughters, nephews of the ancestors we met during our research.

As we talked, we discovered that Bryan B. is a middle school counselor who has taught history. He was very interested to hear what we knew about our ancestors, where they came from, where they went. He said he had often wondered about them as he worked on cleaning up their final resting place.

It also turned out, that he knew and was a former co-worker of a friend of ours from Scottsburg, Indiana, Reba J.

It never ceases to amaze me what a small, small world this is.

I was so happy to talk with Bryan and to thank him on behalf of my family and my ancestors for taking care of this place.

Over 150 years ago, my family walked these hills and fields. They lived, loved, and died here, or they went out from here to new lives in other places, but this spot is where they suffered loss and where they chose to bury their dead.

Bryan’s respect for this place and these remains, without even knowing who was buried here, struck me as such a kind and generous gesture.

Whenever the world seems like a hard and unfriendly place, I hope I remember the kindness of Bryan B. and how he brought my family’s past forward for me.

This Journey

What do you think of when you hear the word “journey?” Merriam-Webster defines it this way:

journey   a noun    jour·​ney | \ ˈjər-nē  \     plural journeys

1 : something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another

2 : an act or instance of traveling from one place to another : TRIP

Journey is not a word we use often, and I think that’s because a journey is more serious, more monumental than a trip or even travel. A trip is routine…a trip to the store, a trip to the doctor, etc. A journey is something we plan for and anticipate, something more calculated and purposeful.

A journey involves more serious consideration. How long will it take, what do I need to bring along, how difficult will this journey be, do I dare subject my family either by preparing them for my absence or by taking them along?

I don’t think the vast majority of people undertake a journey lightly. Journeys are usually something we consider necessary.

I’ve been thinking a lot about journeys while I do my family research. Everyone I know in my life is here because of a journey someone took years ago to reach this country, a country of freedom and opportunity. For the most part, those journeys were dangerous and difficult and involved leaving an entire existence behind to create a new future.

I seriously doubt any of those long-ago travelers just jumped on a tiny ship thinking, “What a lark this will be. When I arrive, all my troubles will be solved.”

I’m pretty sure they knew, or at least suspected, some of the dangers they were facing. I’m also pretty sure they looked at the lives they were living and the futures they were facing and made a hard decision that that sort of life was not what they wanted for themselves or their families.

Of course, there were always those few, a small percentage, who came because they heard the streets were paved with gold, or because they thought their past misdeeds would not follow them or because they thought this was a fertile new ground for lawless activities.

But that was not the majority. The majority was us, or rather those ancestors that paved the way for us. Those who survived the journey. We live in cities built by those survivors; we hold jobs at occupations that became possible because they came and created businesses or grew food and other crops or provided services necessary in the new country.

We are because they were, because they wanted a better life for their children, and because they took the risks, they journeyed, and they survived.

Why do we now assume that anyone who undertakes a similar journey today has not considered the risks? How can we forget that we are the children of immigrants who fled poverty and starvation and tyranny and injustice? All of us; each and every one.

Happy Fourth of July.

What I Love

I know that I’ve become annoying about my new favorite pastime, genealogy. It’s fascinating to me, and I wish I’d gotten hooked 20 years ago because in the years I have left I can never investigate, solve or even know, all the mysteries of my family.

Recently, frustrated with one family line that keeps running me headfirst into walls, I just started flipping through what is called my ThruLines on the website of Ancestry.com. As I understand it, people at Ancestry.com or the software they have devised, or some magic I can’t understand is triangulating information from other family trees to introduce me to potential ancestors I may not yet know about.

I very quickly met a maternal ancestor who had lived in the same community several of my paternal ancestors inhabited. Both sets of ancestors lived near each other in the 1750s, long before my mom and dad met and married in Indiana in the 1940s. It seems this was a very small world in the 1700s.

I met a potential ancestor (James Barrett) who was a farmer in Ontario, Canada. He was born there, lived there, and died there. I did not know I had family in Canada, and I do not know how they came to be the family I know in Indiana.

I met another potential ancestor (Arabrella Bailey) who was born in Maryland in 1707 but died in France at the age of 35. How and why did she go the opposite direction from all my other ancestors to end up in Europe? And even more puzzling, she is reported to have died on the very same day that her husband died…back in Maryland! There must be an amazing story there or some serious dating errors that need to be corrected.

There’s also a man named Nathaniel Burdine with the word “slaveowner” attached to his name. He was born in 1738 in Virginia and died in Tennessee in 1823. In that time and those locations, I have no reason to doubt he was a slaveowner, but why was his ownership so significant that he is listed in his family tree as Nathaniel Burdine Slaveowner? The same designation was given his son, Ezekiel Burdine, a title that was apparently as important as his other title, Reverend. I need to look into that, too.

And there is Elsbeth von Ochsner born in 1707 in Switzerland. She seems to be the Immigrant in that particular line of my mother’s ancestry, yet the dates are very confusing. She is shown as arriving in North Carolina in 1738…yet giving birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, in 1739 and a son, Jacob, in 1740, both in Switzerland. Finally, daughter Anna was listed as being born in 1742 in Bucks Co., Pennsylvania. Either Elsbeth was a brave, two-way traveler (remember this was the 1700’s) or someone somewhere has made a grave error.

These are just a few of the mysteries I dug up in a couple of hours of flipping through possible ancestors that somehow link to my own. You see why I can’t stop looking?

I am planning a trip this summer to one of the areas where I know my ancestors lived before coming to Indiana. I don’t know what I’ll find there or even who I might find, and I’m not even sure what I hope to find. It might be enough to just walk along the river bank where I think they walked, to see the area where they worked the salt lick I know they worked.

I certainly don’t miss the irony of being able to reach the area in less than two hours by driving an interstate highway on a route that took them days to walk as they sought a new future in a new land that would ultimately cost them almost more than they could bear.

Public Announcement

Just a “public service announcement” this week, a note for anyone wanting to register or comment on my site.

I appreciate my readers, people who have come here from Facebook or who actually know my website and visit regularly, but lately I’ve experienced a rash of unknowns attempting to register as “users.” All these so far have proven to be (at best) unsavory characters.

Just know this, if you make a comment on my site, you are required to supply your email address. Never fear. Your email address will NOT appear on my site and it will never be used for bulk mailing or anything other than for me to personally communicate with you if a reply to your comment is required.  Usually I will reply to your comment on the site, not via email.

All comments are reviewed by me and approved before they appear on the site (without your contact information). This is not done to weed out criticism (if you don’t like what I write, bring it on!), but to avoid spam and junk.

Should you wish to Register on the site (which allows you to be notified by email when new posts are published), you must also provide a legitimate email and your request is reviewed before being accepted.

It would be best to first comment or email me to let me know you will be registering. If I don’t recognize the registering email, I usually delete it, but I will check you out if I believe you are legal and righteous. If you are who you say you are, I welcome you with open arms!

I appreciate the comments that I have received on my blog and by personal email, and I hope you continue to visit, read and enjoy my site.

Thanks.

The Immigrant

Thousands of immigrants braved the dangerous ocean journey to America. Many of us are descended from people who thought the possibility of a better life was worth the risk of the journey. We’re here because they took the first step.

In genealogy, the first family descendant who left the home country to seek fortune in America is called “the immigrant.”

I’ve finally located the “immigrant” of my Collings branch of the family, the guy who left England and endured the 6 to 14-week ocean journey to make a place for him (and eventually, well…me) in the New World sometime around 1700. His name was Anthony Andrew Collings, and he brought with him his wife, Jane or Jaine.

Anthony was born in Cornwall, England in 1678. Jane has been a little more challenging to track down, and I’m still unsure of her maiden name. It might have been Lancelott, or it might have been Spence. Other reports claim that he was married twice, first to Jane Spence, then to Jane Lancelott. Either scenario leads me down different paths. Because of this uncertainty, I’m not sure what year or where he and Jane were married, but I believe Anthony’s son Zebulon (my ancestor) was born in 1706 in Frederick, Pennsylvania.

In 1712, there are some reports of a daughter Winifred being born in Westmoreland, Virginia. There is also some information about a daughter Elizabeth born in 1712 in Westmoreland, Virginia. That would seem to indicate that Anthony, a twin himself, had twin daughters.

Anthony and Jane at some point moved to Charles County, Maryland where they owned property and lived until their deaths, Anthony in 1754, at age 76.

I don’t know why Anthony came to America, but I have some thoughts and theories (of course I do). There were many reasons people took such a challenging journey, but I think there were probably three main reasons:

  1. The primary goal, of course, the one we all heard in history class in school, was freedom of religion. Major religious conflicts raged throughout the countries of Europe and the British Isles during the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries. People were desperate to escape persecution and to be able to worship as they wished.
  2.  Another reason was a desire to become landowners and create wealth and security for their family. There were complicated rules for the disbursement of English property upon the death of the owners and titles passed to first sons. Second, third, fourth sons and so on, made do with what they could when fathers died. In America, they could, by hard work and clever trading, become prosperous and successful.
  3. For many, though, the allure of the New World was the adventure. These are the immigrants who just could not be satisfied with the limitations they suffered in their homelands. These were the immigrants who traveled to the new world at any cost, then pushed the boundaries of the country westward.

No one can know for sure why any one particular immigrant came, but I’d like to think that I have figured out Anthony Andrew Collings. He was not the first son of Sir Roger and Elizabeth Collings; he was not the second or third son. He and his twin brother, Roger, were the fourth and fifth sons.

I think that young Anthony Collings, sensing there was little future for himself in England, decided to travel to America to build his own legacy.

Anthony started his American adventure in Westmoreland Co. in the Colony of Virginia, then for some reason moved to Charles Co., in the Colony of Maryland where he lived out his life.

Anthony Collings returned to England, probably around 1715 returning to America in 1716 when he is listed as a passenger on a ship arriving from England. It’s possible this trip had something to do with a disputed inheritance concerning his grandmother, which is an interesting side story, but I find no official records to support that.

I did find, however, that in 1717, one Anthony Collings purchased 100 acres of a 320-acre plantation called Partner’s Content, for the price of “2500# tobacco.” I can’t help but wonder if Anthony returned from his trip to England with enough money to buy this land and start his life as a plantation owner and man of some esteem in his community.

In those early days of our country, property was described on deeds and in legal paperwork by the names of the neighboring plantations and their owners. Several pieces of property in early Maryland records are listed as bordering on or bounded by the property of Anthony Collings. He was also listed in various wills as creditor, appraiser and “test.” which I took to mean that he attested to the signatures of the witnesses of those wills, possibly individuals who could only sign their name with a “mark” or X.

I also found records of his paying for land and other goods with various amounts of tobacco, which was the main crop of those early plantations. The Maryland Tax Roll of 1733 lists him as owning 1 taxable property in “Durham Parish, Upper Part.”

I believe Durham Parish was in Maryland at that time, but one of the fun little tricks of genealogy that I have discovered is that our ancestors may not have moved around in America as often as we thought. It was actually the state, county, and other boundaries that were fluid.

The states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina all disputed boundaries and claimed land that was or was not theirs well into the late 1700s. The same town could one year be in one state, the next year in another. Sometimes these changes would be accompanied by a county name change, or the familiar county name might show up in a different state at a later date.

Interesting sidebar fact: these disputes continued until two men were sent to survey the disputed areas and established a line from which all future claims could be decided. The names of those men were Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, and the property line they surveyed, known as the Mason-Dixon Line, played an essential part in the history of our country for many years.

I want to briefly return to the above three reasons immigrants chose to come to America. Strangely, while these immigrants were firm in their determination, second-generation Americans seemed to gravitate to the third category…adventurers.

The newly minted citizens who came seeking religious freedom did establish communities dedicated to their religious beliefs, but many of their children became dissatisfied with the rules and regulations…and began pushing the boundaries of our country westward.

Those men who came to America to obtain land or become merchants and shop owners, ambitions that were never available to them in the Old Country, were often successful and became influential citizens. Their children, though, were reluctant to be tied down by the responsibilities of those same plantations and shops…so they traveled westward to seek their own fortunes.

And the children of the adventurers who simply came to the New World to see what they could see? They kept looking and they, too, pushed west.

My family was no different. That second generation, the children of Anthony Andrew and Jane Collings moved west.

The story continues.

 

Large Arch

Moore was inspired by Stonehenge and the shoulders of a man, but sometimes the Arch appears to be marching across the plaza.

In the early 1970’s the Henry Moore sculpture Large Arch was installed in front of the Bartholomew Co. Public Library.

At the time, I fancied myself a poet. I sat on the steps of the library one day and just watched the public as they came to see and experience the new addition to the Columbus art scene.

This past Sunday I went down to visit the Arch and sit in the sun and as I did so, I remembered the poem. When I got home, I dug it out and read it and decided it wasn’t too bad…thought I’d share it and some photos I took.

 

the Arch 

Massive at all angles.

Sun warm stronglydown on me and on

the Arch as we(he and I—theArchandi)

watch the People(little ant beings)

comeandhurriedlygo

pausing to lOOK at him

But taking most of them no time to see

because time it takes to see and any

time taken they resent. Somemostly

Sl o wl y t o touch the surprising warm green of him

children t o u c h him—reaching o u t

Sl   o   wl y t o touch the surprising

warm green of him

and those who t o u c h him seehim.

But so many neverdoneversee

By nevertouching neverknow

Just Some Words

Words

Not feeling especially inspired this week, but I feel I owe myself to keep writing, so I gathered together some quotes and thoughts on words.

I love words, their meanings, their twisted logic. If you think about language and just how far we have come from the prehistoric grunts of our ancestors, you should be amazed at the number of words and meanings we have developed to attempt to communicate.

And yet so often we fail. Maybe we forget that words are just words without meaning and context to go with them. I started thinking about this the other day when I was watching a news clip about a project that brought criminal offenders and victims face to face.

Victims of crimes are often full of hate and the need for revenge, while criminals are often remorseless and defiant. Yet in many cases, with the proper preparation, bringing the two together to talk out the issues of why a crime occurred and/or how the crime has affected both parties, a sort of calm acceptance can take place.

It is the combination of words, physical presence and eye contact that equals communication. Let’s try to remember that.

Anyway, off my soapbox and on to the fun side of words. Hope you enjoy the following “facts” about words and language. If you do and let me know, maybe I’ll find some more fun facts!

Fun with Words

It took the editors of the first “Oxford English Dictionary” five years to reach the word “ant.”

Umchina, a Korean term meaning “mom’s friend’s son,” is used to describe a person who’s better at everything than you are.

Editor Bennett Cerf challenged Dr. Seuss to write a book using no more than 50 different words. The result? “Green Eggs and Ham.”

The Scots have a word for that panicky hesitation you get when you can’t remember someone’s name: tartle.

Tsundoku is the act of acquiring books or other reading materials and not reading them.

The term “lawn mullet” means having a neatly manicured front yard and an unmowed mess in the back.

Many years ago, “jay” was slang for “foolish person.” So when a pedestrian ignored street signs, he was a “jaywalker.”

In 1974, the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis published a paper titled “The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of ‘Writer’s Block’.” It contained a total of zero words.

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words.

Javier Santana writes:

In Spanish, French and Italian, “decisions” are something you “take” like a train that leads you somewhere new, whereas in English you “make” them like little pieces of your own creation. But in German you “meet” them, like friends.

Aren’t languages beautiful?

Yes, they are.

The Black Tulip

The Black Tulip – You know who you are Tom C.!

 Mother’s Day is coming up so I thought I would tell you a story that includes my mom.

Mom loved flowers. With five kids and a husband who insisted on driving his mower fast and straight, never around anything, flowers were something she always fought to save. She didn’t have a lot of time to spend in the yard, so she planted flowers that could fend for themselves; lilies of the valley, crocus, daffodils, tulips, all plants that could bloom, die down and come back the next year.

For a couple of years she favored tulips. Somehow she acquired a bulb for a black tulip, and she babied that plant like a sixth child. It took a couple of years for it to really kick in, but finally one spring day, a bloom bud appeared.

She walked out every day to check the progress, pulled the weeds around it and probably even talked to it. She was so filled with anticipation of the opening of the black tulip. Her red tulips and her yellow tulips were lovely. She had some frilly tulips and some she called parrot tulips, but the black tulip…that was going to be a wonder.

I happened to be in the kitchen with Mom the day Tommy our next door neighbor kid, came to the back door. Mom welcomed him casually as she did all the neighborhood kids and then, a half second later she realized that in his grubby little hands, he was holding up to her the entire plant that was her precious black tulip.

“I brought you a flower,” he said proudly.

The bloom had opened overnight, and young Tommy had picked it just for her, along with leaves, roots and, for good measure, some surrounding soil.

He looked a little like a TV commercial for laundry detergent as he presented his gift. My mother took a brief moment, finally smiled, reached to receive her prize and said, “Why, thank you, Tommy, what a very special tulip this is.”

That doomed black tulip had pride of place in a vase on our dining table for the couple of days that cut flowers can survive, then it was no more.

Mom appeared to be unflappable through five kids and all their neighborhood cohorts, but we couldn’t have been easy. In spite of worn bare base paths in the front yard, jars of tadpoles on the back porch, broken windows, and the sometimes frightening screams of children playing kick the can in the dark, she always liked and welcomed the neighborhood kids and was especially proud of the adults our neighborhood produced.

Eventually she became an excellent gardener with a yard that looked like a city park, but as far as I know, she never again had a black tulip.

Tom grew to be a talented musician and actor and a devoted family man, and he brought his wife and kids to visit her a couple of years before she died. She was thrilled by that visit…to think that when he came such a distance to see his family, he thought to drop in on her.

That was the kind of person she was to her kids and the neighborhood kids and to everyone who knew her…a person to be remembered.

I just miss her.

Happy Mother’s Day to you all…the moms who have been and who will be, and to the daughters and sons and friends who love you.

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