Thursday, February 4, 2010
This is my Great Grandma Morgan. She lived in a small town called Marion in southern Illinois, just above the Kentucky border. She played the piano, was mother to 8 children, tons of grandchildren and even more great grandchildren. We visited her every summer as kids. Our mom's family grew up in this small town where most of the homes were built by my Great Grandpa Walter Kelton (also known as Red.) We connected with our extended cousins and had the time of our life. Her little backyard swing was everyone's favorite and we took turns. We picked fresh blueberries in season down the road a piece and frequented the local store, Busy Bee, at least 3 times a day. Beaulah Morgan is my mom's maternal grandma and the Keltons were my mom's paternal relatives. They lived one block from each other, so when the tribe went down for a visit, we all slept on their floor and toggled from house to house the whole summer. My cousin Becky and I would perform sing-a-longs like Downtown and she actually became a little famous when performing on Barn Dance with her dad, Frank, as manager. She had a great voice, similar to Janis Joplin, and could really belt them out. And she did, all the time.
These are my mom's relatives from down south but they moved to Wauconda for awhile, then Antioch, where this was taken, keeping the feeling of nature around them. They were a hoot, let me tell you; never a dull moment with this clan. Guitars blared everywhere and their vocals could knock you down. The southern accent brought you back to places you could never know in the city, and they are loaded with tons of dramatic stories. Who needs a soap opera? Just listen to some of the stories about our people.
When we visited the Keltons, it was a whole different world, yet the same. They adored their preacher and food was a constant in their lives. I remember Grandpa Kelton eating pork and drinking iced tea every day and Aunt Rachael made breakfast that always included gravy and biscuits. We would pick string beans from their garden and prepare them for our meals. Every home graced a glazing ball in the front yard and when our local nursery began selling them I had to get one just to have that remembrance of Marion. Our site-seeing adventures included numerous visits to Fern Cliff which offered a beautiful place for enjoying Mother Nature. I was told our great- great grandpa lived in a little shack in these preserves.
When I was a teen I decided to take the train to visit them in Marion and continue on to Carbondale to see my cousin, Deena, who attend Southern University. I spent the weekend with her getting acclimated to college life before making my decision to attend. Translation: frequenting the local bars. My Great Grandpa Kelton drove me around town and I have never been on a more daring ride in my entire life. He hit every curb and you could hear the folks yelling down the road 'look out, here comes Walter!' I survived... barely. When Mike was a toddler we made the pilgrimage to show Grandpa Kelton our little darling and he couldn't get over how big he was. Wayne and I still recall how he would hold our son and say "what a fine youngin' he is." He lived to be 100 years old. This is a story of my roots. I am grateful for my good genes.
Sometimes a person has to go back, really back -- to have a sense, an understanding of all that's gone to make them -- before they can go forward.
Glorify what you are today, yet do not condemn what you were yesterday, nor preclude what you could be tomorrow. xo