Tuesday, May 02, 2017

the birthday train has left the station!

This is truly a glorious month in which to be born. In this part of the world (southern New England) the tulips are at their peak, the lilacs are bursting forth, dogwood are stately as ever, azaleas are preening, and fruit trees are releasing their blossoms to float on the wind and land on our cars, and sometimes in our coffee. I shared this picture on Facebook, but here's some of the glory I witnessed today.

My birthday falls just shy of mid-month (13th), and most of what I've got on tap will happen prior to that date. But as new ideas dance in front of me like devil-may-care congo dancers, the list of stuff to do just keeps growing. I'm exercising my executive privilege to include an activity from April 30 in the mix of my birthday joy. Some may think this one isn't particularly joyful, but it was special to me, and that is the final--and only--criteria necessary.

After leaving Norfolk, VA Sunday morning following a Templar event, I headed up the road to Richmond, and the Hollywood Cemetery. A few years ago, thanks to cemetery and historical records becoming available online to aid genealogy research, I located the remains of my great-great-grandmother's brother. William Dowse Whitehead was a young man with a hope-filled horizon in front of him when he enlisted with the Second Georgia Infantry to serve the cause of the confederacy. Color-bearer for his regiment, he was killed in the Battle of Malvern Hill 1 July, 1862,at the tender age of 21. I know the details of this uncle five generations in the past because his portrait hung in our dining room while I was growing up. And we, like my mother before us, learned to recite these specifics about Uncle Willie. I also hold in my possession letters that he wrote home to his family from various encampments as part of his service, offering a tender, personal connection to this member of my family. This was a grievous loss to my great-great-grandmother, and it was really for her, to whom I also feel some attachment, that I made the pilgrimage to Richmond. 

Willie's grave is unmarked, though a modest, square stone indicates the stretch of earth into which he was laid.  For $100 a proper, identifying slab of granite can be erected at the relatively precise spot, but in the immediate term it was enough for me to estimate the location and spend some time there, letting whatever may linger of his spirit know that he was not forgotten. He's got a nice view, if that matters, with the triangular monument to confederate soldiers rising high above the ground just across the road a little way. This isn't the post to carry on about the war and its legacy. My goal was to bring some peace and closure to what had seemed, to me, a family restlessness born of the heartbreak that Willie never came home. In some small way I feel that this visit served to tuck him in where he lies at a distance from his youth.

After Richmond I traveled on to Great Falls, VA, to visit with dear friends from St. Louis days. Their easy and comfortable hospitality is always a joy into which to sink and put my feet up, and I left there the following morning renewed and reconnected. That night, back on home turf, I ventured out to Tom Ryan's book signing at a nearby library, having listened to the newly released Will's Red Coat in audio form on my way north from Virginia. It was a delightful evening, and though I took Cassie with me she was road-weary and shy.

The days have been full, and they feed my spirit. Tomorrow I head to Maine to fetch Raisa, and I am working in a few little delights along the way as additional parts of my celebration. I only turn 60 once, and I plan to make it count. Try to keep up! ;)


The Bug said...

That side trip to visit Willie sounds lovely. I'm glad you took the time to do it. And I'm glad that you're planning all of these treats for your birthday. You are worth it!

Jayne said...

How special that you found him and were able to let him know how much his legacy lives on. I'm loving reading about your birthday adventures! XO


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