born on this day one hundred
nineteen years ago
Each summer you came
to the farm to visit with
your only daughter
I can still see you
standing at the farmhouse sink
shelling garden peas
And I remember
your black crocheted shawl kept for
cool New York evenings
This weekend was a lovely weekend away, with a visit to family on the farm where I grew up, and a loop around through the mountains of north-central PA to lunch with my step-daughter at college.
Western NY is lovely at the close of summer, gardens bursting with tomatoes and beans and pumpkins, the corn drying on the stalk and the leaves not quite turning.
When I was a little girl, perhaps 11 or 12, I was out in the maple woods beyond the cow pasture on our farm. I bent to crawl under a fence and my eye caught something white glinting in the earthy leaves and moss, whiter and smoother than any rock that would have been likely to be there. I don’t remember why I was in the woods; I know that some of my siblings were with me. I tugged at the white shard in the dirt and to my surprise, pulled out a tiny intact teacup from a child’s tea set. The ceramic was stained from a long period in the dirt. I tucked the teacup into my pocket and added it to my little collection of treasures at home. I have it still, along with a tiny Eiffel Tower, a glass swan from my Corning Glass Works trip in grade school, and sundry other trinkets that remind me of a place or time long ago.
Last weekend while visiting my parents at their farm in NY, the memory of finding that incongruous little teacup in the woods came back to me when I heard a piece of the farm story that was new to me. I knew that my parents bought their farm in 1964 from a woman named Doris, whose husband had died in a car crash in which she and her son were survivors. What I didn’t know before was that they had a little girl named Mary Grace age 5, and a son Kevin age 4, who also died in the crash. Doris was in a coma for a period of time, and a well-meaning friend removed the children’s toys from the house and took them out into the woods and dumped them. This is known because a neighbor who was an avid bird-watcher stumbled upon a pile of perfectly good toys just sitting there in the woods and took them home. She later discovered that the toys had belonged to Mary Grace and Kevin, and wanting no part of this connection to the town tragedy, discarded them. So the question in my mind, of course, has to do with the possibility that my tiny teacup could have belonged to one Mary Grace, a little girl who met her end far too soon in a car crash November 4 1962, just a year before I was born in November 1963. Although there’s an eerie element to this story, there’s a part of me that likes the possible connection– that I could hold a teacup that Mary Grace played with, in the same house that I grew up in, many years before.
What does this have to do with a blog about gratitude? The obvious connection has to do with being thankful for life because we never know when it will be taken from us. But mixed in there somewhere is also an appreciation for serendipity and the interconnectedness of human beings. Like the old Harry Chapin song “All my life’s a circle. sunrise and sundown, moon rolls through the nighttime ‘til the daybreak comes around. All my life’s a circle, still I wonder why, seasons spinning ‘round again, years keep rolling by.”