Something has been bubbling around in my brain and heart that only writing will make clear.
On the last day of travel in England, I was in London on a bus tour.To say I was tired does little justice to the coma I was in but something caught my eye down by the Thames.By the way, this river is everywhere and beautiful as is London.Ancient historical buildings and new strange ones.Clean and neat;I loved it. Anyway, I looked up from my map in time to see a classy looking street sign on a side street near the river.A white sign with black letters said it was John Carpenter St.My camera was away so I have no picture but it might have been the most thrilling thing I saw.He is one of my ancestors.I confirmed it on Google that he was a descendant of a John Carpenter who served in Parliament in 1323 at the age of 20.That person on my father's side is the furthest back I can go with any relation.His descendants left England for the New World in 1638:William Carpenter,his father,wife, 4 children under ten and a 14 year old indentured servant named Thomas Banshott.I love that name.
I try to imagine what that first New England winter must have been like in 1638.What courage to leave the known.It came to me that I may be the first of my family to come back to England.A full circle made.
On the wall of my writing/prayer room is a picture taken in 1904 of a group that includes my grandmother, Johnann Morrison.She is five years old and is holding the hand of her father who is seated.Her face is round and solemn;her hair seems blond with ribbons on either side in the back.Behind her is my great grandmother who is tall with brown hair piled on her head.She has a strong, determined face.I don't remember her but I do recall her daughter, Elizabeth who is to the right of her father in the picture.When we were children, she used to babysit for us and had a strong Scottish accent.Sweet, kind woman.Aunt Libby.
They all left Scotland and came to New York in the steerage section of a ship; my grandmother, a 6 month old baby.Steerage to me sounds like the bottom of a large ship where the rats play in the dirty bilge water.This was in 1898.I can't imagine how long that trip took before they landed in the New York harbor to begin a new life.These were adventurous, hardy folk.
The Famine Irish who came to America had three choices in 1848:starve, be fed by the British if you dropped the filthy Papist faith or leave.The ragged,poor Ambroses left and, listing themselves as farmers on the ship's manifest, came a 'sailing to New York.My great grandmother was Ellen and she was 16 years old when she arrived.I can see her and her 3 siblings huddled around their Mother thinking "what now?"They never got over the loss of home.I know from the songs.
These are my people.I feel them sometimes;this cloud of witnesses,this communion of saints,sinners,drunks,war heroes, abandoned mothers,bigamists, leather workers, telephone operators, installers, firemen.I pray for them and they care about me.I know this.I have seen them, indistinctly, a line of people praying for my granddaughter, who hung by a thread in her mother's womb.They who handed the baton of the Faith to me for safe keeping.
I know most people haven't the knowledge of their ancestors that I do.I have been blessed with letters, the old Bible, pictures in abundance and have done research to fill in blanks.Their story is my story.Their faces are known to me.I feel hemmed in by this knowing.Tucked in by a warm blanket of family.Where you go and they have to take you in.
I think Nature intended for us to have family for our protection and the continuation of the species.Also, so that we wouldn't feel so alone in this immeasurably vast universe.