Monday, July 31, 2006

Belle’s Box

My mother-in-law’s grandmother was a tiny woman named Belle Lamunion. She lived from 1864 to 1948: she was born in New York and died in Michigan. She and her first husband Henry H. Fellows were the parents of either eight or nine children, the records aren’t completely clear. The Lamunion family were apparently close, and had a reunion each year. Years ago when Papa was young and in his teens, the reunions of what was then called the “Fellows” family were an annual event. Stories still circulate about the reunions, and include one about ball games in which uncle Frank Fellows umpired from a lawn chair, glass eye and all.

The reunions ended sometime when my children were small and we saw many of the cousins infrequently. Then, a while back a cousin and his wife swept out their pole barn, called and mailed everyone they could find and revived the reunion. At that time, about 14 or 15 years ago, several of M-in-L’s generation either very elderly and ill or had already passed away. The reunion was held periodically for several years, and more of that generation left us.

For the past 3 years, M-in-L has held the reunion at her home. Now, there is an advantage to this. She and one of her brothers are all that remain of the grandchildren of Belle Lamunion and Henry Fellows. Many of the great-grandchildren and still living and either remember grandma, or have grown up hearing stories of “Grandma and Charley”. Charley Tinker was Grandma’s second husband.

In the course of my genealogical research I was able to locate the descendents of a “lost” branch of the descendents of Henry and Belle. This lady and her husband answered our letters, and even started coming to our annual gathering. We have been greatly enriched by meeting this “new” cousin.

In 2005, the year which marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Henry Fellows, an article was printed in the local paper which outlined the unconventional circumstances surrounding his death—which was apparently due to arsenic poisoning. Belle Fellows and one Charles Tinker, who was a hired man for the Fellows family, were charged with the murder. There is no record of any conviction, the case against Tinker was dismissed, and later on the one against Belle was also dismissed.

Oh yes, the box--. When the article was printed, M-in-L sent copies to several cousins, fueling the debate about the death, Henry’s character, and giving us a “real-life” mystery to ponder. One cousin received the article, sat down and read it, and immediately heard a knock on her door. At the door was a boy from the family who had purchased the cousin’s mother’s home after her death. Cousin was given a box, dusty and old, which was found in the attic of the home. Cousin said she had shivers run through her, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Inside were post cards, Christmas cards, birth announcements other written communications to Belle Fellows Tinker from many neighbors and family members.

Cousin brought the contents of the box to the reunion yesterday, in a newer, nicer box. We stood around the box in amazement as we read card after card. There was a birth announcement and a graduation announcement for the “lost cousin I mentioned above. We looked at cards, read them, and handed them to an appropriate descendent of the person who had written them. It was a treasure beyond any genealogist’s dream, and we felt blessed to have received “Belle’s box”.

Cousin gave the remaining contents to me, and I’ve got a new project. We will be scanning each item, storing it in archival sheets, and researching to find descendents of the writers. I’m excited at the prospects of reuniting these treasures with their rightful owners.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Papa’s Not Sharing

It’s garden season here at home. We have cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, peas, beets, zucchini and green beans. Radishes are done; they were used to mark the beet and carrot rows and are harvested. Michigan corn is cheap at the grocery and farm markets, so we don’t grow it in our limited space.

We have mostly veggies at a meal, and I don’t cook potatoes very often.

One evening last week when granddaughters One and Two were here we sat down the supper and everything was going smoothly. Granddaughters are used to their plates coming prepared and cooled, so I had done that. The veggies I gave them were corn and green beans, since they ate those well the night before.

Papa’s favorite is peas, any season, any form. Anyhow, a bowl of peas was on the table, closer to him than anyone. Papa is well know for feeding children. We have pictures of all our children and grandchildren on Papa’s lap, eating his food, while he happily shovels away.

Five in minutes into the dinner, granddaughter Two, who is two years old, looked up and said loudly, “Papa isn’t sharing the peas!”

She got all the peas she wanted.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Back home again

I have successfully retrieved our granddaughters, the secret now is to survive to the end of the week. We’ve been to two stores, put gas in my van, and raided the library for books and videos. We’ve eaten two meals and gone through two changes of clothing.

I found from daughter Two’s experience that it is best to duct tape granddaughter Two’s diaper. She removes wet or dirty ones immediately, regardless of where she is. Luckily she was in her bed the last time, unluckily it was a poopy one. Glad it hasn’t happened to me and doing everything to prevent it.

Granddaughter One is suffering from periodic homesickness. She knows changes are going on, and she also knows she has no control. It is mostly at bedtime, and that has always been her hard time. In an attempt to keep her mind engaged in what’s going on, I made a chart with a space for each day she will be here, and for the day she is going home. Then, we thought up things to do and drew pictures of those activities on cards. Each time we do an activity, we are putting the card for it on the day we did it. So far we have library, store and TV on today’s chart. At least she can visually see how long till she can go home. Wish me luck, I’ll need it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

On the Road Again?

Daughter Two is moving. This is because of the new job, which is a world away from her current home. Two needs to be in the new city with her family ready to go to work in late August. She has a house to clean out, needs to pack up, and has three small children at home; and her husband is gone on a 2 week assignment.

I'd probably kill myself, but she is having a garage sale, this Saturday. Remember, she received the job offer 10 days ago! This is really a good change for her and her family.

To do my little part, I'm going to drive up today and retrieve my grandaughters. Today, not when the stars come out. Grandson Three is going to a day camp and isn't retrievable.

Daughter Two is heading up north on Friday after work to assist with the garage sale. I think she might have the easier job, but mine is more fun!

Speaking of "up North", I just looked it up and found that Wikipedia says I mean the upper peninsula of Michigan. I don't. Everyone in the Detroit Metro area goes "up North" on vacation and they can mean anything north of M-46--or perhaps north of Oakland County. Check a map if you care. I read a newspaper article after I moved here (from up North) that talked about the "up north" phenomenon. It said that some Detroit-area elementary school children thought "up North" was the name of the place they went, as in a city name. Really, it's just a concept. It means rural, quiet, no job, vacation, fun, lakes, summer, skiing, etc, etc, etc. Unfortunately, to some people it means hick, dumb, dull and so on.

Since I was born in one of those little towns, and lived there for 40 years, I get easily insulted when the Mufia (yes we have them in the Detroit suburbs too) talk about it.

But, what matters is that daughter Two will get as much help and support as we can give and I get to have 2 cute little girls visit for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Class Reunion

Papa had a class reunion last Saturday, and I accompanied him. There were the usual assortment, old friends, fun people and not-so-fun people. The food was pretty good, and after 40 years no one was so nervous that drank too much. Many were retired already, making some of us sad for ourselves, but glad for them.

One man asked me if I had graduated from that school. When I said yes, he asked me my former last name. When he heard that, he pointed out that my dad and his had been buddies. That was a revelation to me. I barely had time to grow up before my dad passed away. I never considered him from an adult perspective, certainly never with "buddies". I did know he had friends, but buddies? We had a short conversation and I got some good advice, "remember the good times".

So, no matter what the situation, remember the good times.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Not Until the Stars Come Out

After our wonderful vacation last week, we were driving home on Sunday, when Lex stalled at one of those wonderful turnpike toll booths. Papa started him up, and gave me the look. The battery wasn’t charging.

At the next service area, Papa put one of the house batteries in the engine position. For the uninitiated, most motor homes have “house” batteries and an engine battery. The two house batteries were in great condition, since we were plugged in at the campground. The engine battery is isolated from the house (so you don’t use all the power you have to run your lights or whatever) and doesn’t benefit from charging when plugged in.

It was 9:30 a.m. or so, and we were several hours from home. We gave each other uneasy looks. I turned off the refrigerator so it wouldn’t drain power from the remaining house battery and off we went. The diagnosis was failed alternator, since no charging was taking place as we drove along. No radio, no new CD’s played, nothing but the engine and our uneasy sighs and glances.

The problem was that we needed to get home, and fast. We had left early, and with good reason. Daughter two had an job interview and I had agreed to pick up grandson Three and granddaughters One and Two in the early afternoon in a town 1-1/2 hours north of our home. I called daughter two, no answer. I called the rendezvous point, daughter’s mother-in-law. She said OK and good luck. When daughter Two called us back at 10:30 we were still chugging along.

At the next service area, Papa filled up with gas and turned on the generator. The idea was that that would charge up the battery which was put in the house position when he made the swap. If we needed to, we would have two charged batteries to switch to the engine to get us home. The battery we were running on hung in there, and after we paid our toll and left the toll road in Ohio and headed up I-75 north toward home, I turned off the generator.

A little after 1:00 p.m. we pulled into our drive, what a relief. We plugged Lex in, took showers, ate, and headed out to get the kids.

So what is the point of the title? We were privileged to have our “little” grandchildren here for two nights, the second daughter Two was here also. That second evening we were making every attempt to get the kids ready for bed. Daughter told granddaughter One that it was almost time for bed. That lovely girl is almost 4, and sometimes can make us laugh. She said about 4 or 5 sentences, rant like, and ended with “Not until the stars come out”. The message us very clear, she wouldn’t go to bed or sleep when it’s “blue”, it needs to be dark.

So, we had fun, went to bed late, and got a good laugh. We are awaiting the estimate on the alternator for Lex, and daughter Two got the job. So, if you want to buy a 4 bedroom house on a very large lot just north of Reed City, Michigan for a reasonable price, e-mail us now!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

It’s been a long couple of weeks. We enjoyed a 3-day camping trip with grandson Three and granddaughter One. They were fun, for the fishing, s’mores, the fireworks, and the whole weekend in general. We took them to meet their mom, daughter Two and drove Lex home for re-supply.

Garden, laundry, and one nights sleep and we were off to Pennsylvania. Grandson Three says, “where the pencils live”. We didn’t see a single pencil, they probably rolled away. Papa and I spend six great nights alone-that sure doesn’t happen too often.

We saw a bunch of great bluegrass bands at the Mountain Top Festival, near Tarentum, Pennsylvania. The groups included a favorite of Sista Smiff, The Grascals. The Grascals are in a class by themselves, as far as I'm concerned.

We also were able to see Kenny Baker on fiddle with several different groups. Smoothest fiddle player of all time. Audie Blaylock and Michael Cleveland have teamed up and did 2 great shows.

Then back home to a lot of un-done chores which may never get done. Papa has a class reunion this weekend--so we're off to see all the old people. Well, they seem old to us, even though we don't feel any different.

I've got to pull some weeds!

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