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[sticky post] Welcome to Wonderland

In one way or another, I have kept a journal since age 12. I've kept an online journal called Musings since late 2002. My topics range from things that happen in my daily life to my thoughts on pop culture to my ponderings about everything from dreams to the secret thoughts of pets. In November 2007, I began mirroring it here, although I often included extras to this version, such as memes and quizzes. In February 2010, I stopped updating the original journal on my home page and instead started a writing journal there.


For some insight into who I am, read Intro to Alyce. For a guide to the many nicknames I use in my online journal, check out Who's Who in Musings.


The beautiful, sweet dog in one of my icons is Una, my best friend and nurse dog for nearly 11 years, who passed away on October 22, 2010. She was my inspiration, and she taught me how to be a better friend and mother; a better person. My son, Kung Fu Panda (KFP for short), benefits from all the caregiving skills I learned in those 11 years. My husband, The Gryphon, probably does, as well!


The goals I established when I first begin an online journal remain the same: this is a way to explore the tangential, the seemingly accidental observations many of us overlook but which may, ultimately, be where all life and all mystery hinges.

LJI 10 Week 1: Her Eyes

This is my entry for this week of therealljidol. The topic is "I need the struggle to feel alive."

Senora-Hampton-Hinkle-with 7-children-noframe

Her Eyes

Worn, a slight head tilt, lips pressed thin
wavy tumble of hair, she sat beside
her clapboard house, surrounded by a clump
of children. The mystery woman fixed
resigned eyes on me from across a century.

A discarded thought
the day I scanned in the photos I'd found
inside a rugged leather valise -- secreted
in a safe corner of my Mom's cat-rampaged house --
the thought eventually returned, as all
thoughts do when you are finally
quiet enough to hear them.

I knew that head tilt.
I knew those eyes.

Amongst all the family photos -- some so old
they'd escaped even my Mom's memory -- Mom
had pointed out my grandmother,
my great-grandmother,
my great-great-grandmother,
matrilineal history mattering more
to her than men.

In gray dusk, I pulled up the 1929
portrait of Senora Hinkle, my great-
grandmother -- her last formal portrait.
That head tilt.
Those eyes.
Plumper, yes, dressed in a shapeless dark dress
(I'd thought her a widow, but her husband
lived a decade more, fathered six more kids)
but yes!

Clockwise, I ticked off the roster of children --
gauging age by relative size. Harriet, Jennie,
John, Ella (my Nana), Joseph, Elmer
and chubby baby Harry. As tired as she looked,
Senora would birth four children more, losing
the last at age 6. Senora lived just 3 years more.

My Nana seemed to wink at me, the one dark carrier
of her father's hair, as well as the blonde gene
she would pass to my Mom
and my Mom would pass to me.

"You got it, Bud!" I could almost hear her cheer.
(In life, it sounded like "butt," to my perpetual
confusion.)

Eight faces
reclaimed from memory's abyss.

- November 23, 2016

Senora-Hampton-Hinkle-1920s
Senora Hinkle in the late 1920s

Question for Philcon Panel

I'm on a panel at Philcon tomorrow about cerebral characters and why we love them. I have my own thoughts but would love to hear yours. Why do we love characters like Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Strange? (And don't say "Because they're played by Benedict Cumberpatch.)

Here's the description of the panel: "The Martian. Sherlock Holmes. Bones. We really, really like characters who kick ass with their brains rather than their brawn, and there seems to have been a resurgence of these types of stories lately. What attracts people to these cerebral characters? Is this a shift from traditional superheroes to a different standard? Why is it happening?"

Tags:

When I asked my son, kfp_rawr, to describe me, he said I was very nice and that I often give him what he wants. Wise words, because we don't always get what we want. Ask more than half of the American electorate right now.

Escaping from the public streets fights on Facebook, I have been focusing on learning more about my family at Ancestry.com. Descendant of both Quakers and Civil War soldiers (in the same line, no less), I have been cyber stalking my ancestors.

My current obsession, tracking down my paternal great-grandfather, a sordid tale of intrigue and lumber.

At Thanksgiving last year, two days after we buried my mother, my Dad revealed a family secret. Our grandfather's father was not, in fact, William S. Wilson but a logger with the last name Eutsler. He told us he learned this information when he was in college, working on a project about family history. My grandma, a genealogist, told him this story.

My great-grandmother, Fannie Weaver Wilson, ran a boarding house after her husband died, leaving her to raise a young daughter. A logger stayed there and had a romance with Fannie, and she discovered she was pregnant. He asked her to marry him, but she refused, saying, "I'm not worthy." She raised him herself, giving him her married surname. Eutsler went on to own a lumber mill. End of story.

My brother and I, drunk on wine and glad for something to laugh about in our time of grief, suggested she simply hadn't wanted to change her name to Eutsler. We also teased Dad for waiting until we were in our 40s to tell us a secret he'd learned in college.

Turns out there was more to the story.

A simple check of my grandfather's vitals revealed he was, indeed, born three years after the man listed as his father on all legal forms had died. In the days before the technology existed for freezing sperm or IVF, their familial relationship was physically impossible.

Then I started searching for someone named Eutsler who lived in Grottoes, Virginia, and had a birthdate within 10 years, plus or minus, of Fannie's. I also plugged "lumber" into the search terms.

That's how I found out about Marvin Beard Eutsler, who was born and raised in Grottoes and later owned a lumber company. But I couldn't confirm exactly where he was living near the time my great-grandfather was conceived (1882-83), because the 1890 census was almost entirely destroyed by fire.

Marvin may have been living in Fannie's boarding house, or he my have still been living with his parents. You see, he was only 16 when my great-grandfather was conceived and only 17 when he was born. Fannie was in her 30s.

"Ohhhh!" I gasped. The story suddenly made sense. Why else would a widow struggling to support a child decline a marriage proposal in those days when women's choices were limited? She knew accepting would only lead to further problems: public scrutiny for both her and her children. While teenagers routinely married and started families, their age difference would have been the source of gossip. Perhaps she also worried about limiting Marvin's future potential, saddled with responsibility so young. Or perhaps she feared reprisal from his parents.

Whatever her reasons, she quietly raised my great-grandfather with his half-sister, her secrets remaining hidden until I, her curious descendant, unearthed them.

Far from judgung my great-grandmother, I admire her for her strength. I hope in some ways I am like her, doing what I feel is right, no matter how hard.




According to my sleuthing, Marvin enlisted in the Army when my grandfather was only 3 and fought in the Spanish-American War. Returning to Grottoes, he married a girl his age a few years later, and had one child, a daughter. He relocated the family further south at about the same time my great-grandmother moved her family to Washington, D.C. Marvin became a prominent figure in the lumber industry, calling himself M.B. Eutsler. Dying in Tennessee, he was buried in a family plot in Grottoes. My grandfather was also buried in Grottoes -- though in a different cemetery -- when he died of a heart attack at age 48, while my grandmother was pregnant with my father. Like his father before him, my Dad would grow up fatherless, raised by an amazingly strong woman.

Bus Stop Counseling

I had a group of children around me at the bus stop today, all talking to me about the election results. Many of them are biracial and very worried about what will happen. I told them I think we will see a female president in my lifetime, and we have to keep believing and working for it. Like someone in my Zumba class just said, "Do not give in to the fear."

Insight from a 6-Year-Old

I mentioned to KFP this morning that his daddy and I were up late watching the election results. "Who won?" he asked. I told him the guy that Mommy and Daddy didn't vote for. "You mean Donald Trump?" I was surprised he knew that; he hadn't been noticeably paying any attention to the election, and The Gryphon doesn't like to talk politics.

Then, putting his library book in his backpack, my attention was caught by a slip that said, "I voted." I asked him if he voted in school yesterday, and he said that yes, they had a mini-election. The class voted for Hillary Clinton. When I asked who he voted for, he said, "Donald Trump." I asked him if he knew anything about Trump, and he admitted he didn't. "Why did you vote for him if you don't know anything about him?" I asked. His answer? "I've heard a lot about him."

I think it's time for us to start talking politics in front of the kid!

Believe

Nearly a year ago, I got the worst news that I could imagine getting: learning that my mom had died suddenly, just before Thanksgiving. I spent weeks walking around in a daze, barely able to sleep or eat, wondering what I could have done and if anything could have been done to change what happened. Over the past year, I've come to grips with a truth both difficult and comforting. You can not change the past, only move forward.

As difficult, as heart-wrenching as it was some days to put on my clothes, go about my daily activities, and take care of all the estate business that had to be done, I did it, believing I would heal, acting normal in the belief that one day, I would feel normal again. I'm happy to report that, most days, I feel very normal, indeed. While my mom is always on my mind, I am beginning to be able to remember her without bursting into tears. Sometimes, I even laugh.

The point is, as my husband, Mike, reminded me tonight, no matter what, we all still have each other. Don't forget that. Don't stop working for the things that matter to you.

In the past year, my family and I did things we never would have thought possible. We dealt with the heartache and disarray of my mother's estate, including my sister working tirelessly to rehouse dozens of cats. Both my sister and I have moved into better school districts for our children. My brother is an active role model for his two amazing children, one of whom just won a Veterans Day essay contest. My husband discovered long-lost family, and my recent genealogical sleuthing has provided facts to back up some of our most intriguing family stories. My son has joined Cub Scouts and is striving actively to live out its principles: to be helpful at all times, to be friendly, courteous and kind.

At my deepest emotional nadir last year, I never could have predicted where I would be this year. I only knew where I wanted to be.

Let hope flourish. Let us move on with dignity and determination. Let's all believe in and work for a brighter day.

LJ Idol Season 10 - It Begins!

I am throwing my hat into the ring for LJ Idol Season 10 (therealljidol), because having deadlines seems to be the only way I make time to write these days!
This week Wild Violet's contributors take on belief, in its many manifestations.

Featured Works: Week of Oct. 2 (Belief)
I hope to start blogging again on a more regular basis now that many of the commitments that have been taking all my time -- handling my Mom's estate, running Otakon Press Relations, moving -- are dying down a bit. There are still, however, quite a few boxes to put away before we are really settled in.

In the meantime, here is the second Wild Violet posting to come out in the past two weeks. Not yet quite back to the weekly schedule, but hey, it's progress!

Featured Works: Week of Sep. 25 (Modern Life)

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