Of Great-Great-Great Grandpa & ghosts

May 15, 2012 in North America, Travelogue, United States

Today has been a quiet spot in the midst of a frenetic tour.

I sat for a long half an hour and inhaled the quiet as the sun set, in every shade of antique rose and african violet, over the newly plowed field, stained chocolate as dusk settled. The only sound was the gentle creak-creak-creak of the chain of the swing and the deep contented snuffle of my cousin’s baby snoozing in the crook of my elbow.

There’s not much I love more than rocking a baby to sleep.

Robins mined the new mown grass for bugs and the tiniest spider crept out onto her web, woven between two links of chain, to keep me company. The ghost of my grandmother, no more than six years old, laughed and tumbled beneath the trees and down toward the creek where the ducks had just landed. Violin and guitar music poured through the open kitchen door, much as I imagine they did a century and a half ago when my great grandmother was toddling over the well worn lintels to watch the same sun set over the same field, another lifetime, another incarnation of myself. When I closed my eyes I could almost hear her mother, the youngest and last of my great-great grandfather’s three wives and mother to his twenty-third child, my grandmother’s mother, call in french that it was time to wash for bed.

Gabriel pitched a ball for the dog in the new mown grass as the ghost of his great-great-great grandfather dusted his hand on his pants and ruffled the dog’s ears, headed for the house. I exhaled, the baby shifted and my eyes drifted off into the sunset.

The wishing star sparkled between the inky black limbs of the catalpa tree and I made my three wishes:

  • Happiness. 
  • Safe Journeys. 
  • And for my great grandchildren to sit on this same porch, where the currents of our family run deep and watch the sun sink into the horizon holding their babies.

It seems fitting to spend one of the last days on this continent in the place where our roots run deepest. To return to the place where one branch of our family pulled their existence from the earth all around us and built a house that would house six generations over parts of three centuries. It is good to be reminded that no matter how far the winds may blow us we come from somewhere, we’re going somewhere and the threads of generations are inescapable.

It’s dark now.

The music has stopped.

The baby has been scooped from my arms by his sweet mama and tucked into another house somewhere nearby. My children slumber in the room that housed the hired help and the boys, while my bed is made in what was the bar built off of the back of the house. I never sleep too well in this house; there are too many ghosts. When it’s quiet, and I’m still enough to listen, they come out and tell me their stories, in french, of course, as they spoke no english.

I’m thankful for my cousins, keepers of this house, curators of the history, tenders of the ghosts. Their generosity and hospitality is unmatched and even if they weren’t my cousins, they’d be among the finest people I know.