Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Family history

One of the things my mom wanted to do while I was here was to go through some of the genealogy records that she has. Between her mother (my grandmother) and my father, there is a bit to go through. We have made a small dent, but there are multiple boxes and it's all so interesting that it takes a while to go through it. And you have to go through every single piece of paper because you never know when you're going to run across something like this.

Can you see what it is? It is a letter, addressed to my great-grandmother on Hull House stationary and signed by Jane Addams. My mom is letting me take it, and I think we'll be getting it framed.

And then there are the photographs. Dozens and dozens of photographs to sort through. Because my grandmother was perhaps the most organized person in the history of the world, each of them is labelled. This means we know they are family members and feel badly getting rid of them. It is so much easier to get rid of anonymous pictures. And they're pretty cool photos. An example would be this.

That would be my great-great-grandmother seated in the center, surrounded by the surviving eight of her eleven children. My great-grandmother (of the Jane Addams correspondence) is the one with her arm on her mother's knee.

This woman was pretty remarkable. She attended university, worked as a court stenographer, and was also on the ballot as a voting delegate to the Republican national convention. (She didn't get to go and vote, as her candidate was not elected.) It turns out she also wrote poetry, some of which we have come across. This is one that particularly amuses me.

The Spider's Ghost by Mary Alice Archer Fegtly

Oh, I saw the thing, black on my smooth white bed;
And I shrank from the thing, but it still was there.
It polluted the sheet and the clean, pure air,
While I shuddered and stared with a long sick stare,
And I knew I must crush the thing -- strike it dead.
     (Nothing but a spider has such loathsomeness.
      Nothing else could make my heart so pitiless.)

Oh, its long legs were eight, and its eyes were eight,
And its body was fat, and the thing was still --
And immovable blackness that I must kill.
Oh, my blood-lust arose while I felt its thrill,
And I struck with a blow like a blow from fate.
     (Nothing is so loathely as a spider dead,
      Twitching in its blackness on a snow-white bed.)

Oh, I carried each trace of the thing away,
And then I lay me down on the spotlessness
Of a fresh, clean sheet; but the long duress
Of a wakeful night and a soul's distress
Came to harass and torture me where I lay.
     (Nothing is so horrid as a spider's ghost.
      Nothing is so hideous -- nothing is so lost!)

Oh, the spider's ghost spoke to my inmost ear;
"You have been brave by day; but when dank, dark night
Brings you lost things like me, you are sick with fright.
You are sick with the frenzy I incite!"
An unclean spirit spoke, but I had to hear.
     (I can never hide me from the spider's ghost.
      Nothing is so hideous -- nothing is so lost!)

"Evil thing, you are dead! Just as Christ was dead
When they carried Him down from the cross one night.
Dead are Buddha and Socrates, dead the might
of Mohamet's glance" -- But immortal quite
As a black shadow flung on my snow-white bed!
     (Holy wraiths are watching by the spider's ghost.
      Nothing is so hideous -- nothing is so lost!)


Kristin Mueller said...

The Jane Adams letter is so amazing! You should take it down and show it to the Hull House Museum (but don't donate it) - I love the idea of framing it and hanging it on your wall! Thankful that you have this time with your mom, and keeping you in prayer.

Shecki Grtlyblesd said...

:) Love the poem! That's so cool.

Genealogy is so fascinating. My great grandmother was a county sheriff in Colorado. We actually named our homeschool after a poem I found in her things.

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