I descend from immigrants.
My fourth great grandfather came here from Ireland. My third great grandfather fought in the resistance and revolution to separate this land from Britain and establish a new country of immigrants. At the end of the war he fought on the frontier, tracking and killing native people, the originals who owned this land.
Two hundred forty years ago today, John Mahaffey signed up to fight for America’s independence.
Here’s what happened to some of America’s first heroes, now rock-stone and dusty bone stiff and piled up in a quiet graveyard of Revolutionary soldiers in Ohio.
Here is the original stone for my Revolutionary era ancestor.
Granted, John Mahaffey did get a new tombstone.
John Mahaffey was born August 31, 1759, in Sussex County, New Jersey, one of seven sons of Scotch-Irish immigrants, Moses and Jennet McIntyre Mahaffey. In the fall of 1774, at the age of 15, John moved with his parents to Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, where they resided two years. In the spring of 1776, near the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in nearby Philadelphia, in his seventeenth year, John accompanied his parents to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.
The War of Independence began in 1775. John Mahaffey served four voluntary terms, totaling twenty-five months, during the War of the Revolution.
John was almost nineteen years of age when, on July 3, 1778, he originally enlisted for four months. He volunteered for two seven-month periods in April, 1779, and in April, 1780, serving as a “spy or ranger, watching the Indians and giving the earliest information on the approach of the Indians.” During the year 1779, in the frontier settlements of Pennsylvania, British Loyalists and Indians attacked American settlers. The Loyalists soon were defeated, and Americans destroyed many Indian villages whose residents were fighting on the side of the British. The British surrendered October 19, 1781. America was officially independent.
John Mahaffey’s blood now runs through my veins. I take after him. I stand up for this country. I will resist anything that makes her less and harms her, that which keeps us from worshiping in the religion of our choice, that which makes us less equal and takes us toward authoritarianism.
Last week I went to the eye doctor. As expected, I had to fill out a standard medical form—you know, the one where they ask your name and age, medical history, insurance information, and social history. The form that’s not really important because nobody ever looks at it. So I did on this form the same thing I have done on all forms for ten years. I left the Social History blank. I refused to check a box.
Married. Single. Divorced. Widowed.
Nope. None of their business. It’s odd how I picked this one little thing to have an attitude on. If they added a box that said All the Above, I might’ve checked it. But I refuse to check the appropriate little white square sitting beside the “W” word. If they really care, they’ll ask, and then they’ll get a piece of my mind.
Once a nurse did ask. “My husband is deceased,” I answered. I got shot a look that said, There’s a box for that, to which I replied, “I refuse to be labeled that word.” My look back said, Don’t mess with this.
Ten years ago today, after thirty-six hours of surgeries on my husband, I became that…that word I abhor. After all the heroic efforts by surgeons, the not being able to pink him up, the flatline, he went, and I was left with a social status I didn’t understand and didn’t want. That was the visual summary of the chaos I was thrown into, like a rag doll in a wind strong enough to blow the seams apart, a wind strong enough to blow the accumulated dust out of it, a wind strong enough to blow the red stitched smile right off its face.
Picking out one insignificant thing to take a position on, while holding on to the only self I knew, was within my rights, I figured. It was one simple way I could keep some control of my life, which was in splinters up in the air in a tornadic swirl of dust and debris and cloud and earth particles.
That is one of the important things I learned after my husband died. State what you need and want. If something bothers you, let it be known. (Be reasonable, be firm, and don’t be unkind in your positioning.) If it doesn’t hurt anybody, hold to it. Take some control where you can. Because you’re going to be tossed, bruised, banged around on many fronts. Getting the steam of grief out where you can is important to healing.
Everybody told me in the ten months between the engagement and the wedding ceremony that the job of the groom’s mother is to “shut up and wear beige.” I worked hard toward doing that, failed some, succeeded some, and wore cobalt blue. So now, I’m having my say! (All in fun, and all because I want to remember it forever!)
What a fun October Friday night rehearsal dinner at trendy West Asheville’s Buffalo Nickel restaurant! There are so many neat things about this place: the flooring came from 120-year-old barnwood in Kentucky. The 18 vintage chandeliers—some nearly 100 years old—came from all over the world, including a church sanctuary in London. There’s fine dining, farm to table, downstairs, and upstairs are the bar area and a huge game room—three pool tables and foosball and other punch-and-push games—and this was our reserved venue. Our guests selected greens with champagne dressing, an entrée of salmon or chicken, rice pilaf or fingerling potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and dessert.
But this night was about PEOPLE! Guests came to the wedding from 14 states. The rehearsal dinner hosted folks from Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Pennsylvania. This night was about Leah and Corey, the bride and groom—a CELEBRATION. It was peak-leaf time and a beautiful weekend for a wedding, and the weather was perfectly marvelous.
WELCOME! to a recap of the night! First was a poem I wrote, beginning with a quote from Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
The others are a solitary hue, brown or green,
But October comes clothed spectacularly
In cheery yellow, orange, and maple red.
The mountains put on a jubilant show,
A pageant in full splendor.
Calliope colors sing a treetop chorus,
Wind-sway, frolic, swirl,
Colors gather round,
Spin joy, fascination, awe
As two hands hold enthralled
And two hearts together beat
In passion, desire, and love
Like the fiery mountainside.
You’ll always have October to tell your story.
PRAYER FOR LEAH AND COREY.
Lord, help them always remember when they first met and the love that grew between them and the common likes they’ve shared and the team they quickly became. Give them always words both kind and loving, and hearts always ready to ask forgiveness as well as to forgive. Help them to always cherish each other, to endure all things together, to walk life’s path together to its end—and in the yellows and reds of October, as in every day, to be reminded of their story, their love, their vows to each other. Bless our time of celebration, bless our food, bless our evening … in their honor, in your honor. Amen.
Head Table Decorations – a pebble art canoeing couple, a big L & C, and on sliced wood, 3 cylinders with birch twigs, river rocks, and river glass. Pebble art: the canoe came from Devil’s Tower, the paddles from the Harpeth River, the rocks forming the couple from the French Broad River, and the boulders and stones from the Oregon Coast and Jasper Beach, Maine.
The room was adorned with objects that reflect the lives of Corey and Leah, an outdoorsy couple living in the mountains of Asheville, hiking, kayaking, camping. She’s in Outdoor Recreation at UNCA. I pulled in the elements of earth, fire, and water. A few vases held white and green mums and baby’s breath. Most tables were decorated with a host of glass cylinders holding water and some with birch twigs, some with river glass, some with river rocks, and a lighted candle on top of each cylinder.
Birch is symbolic of beginnings, renewal & starting over. It was used by the Native Americans as the center pole in yurts and teepees—the center must start fresh the process of gathering, shelter, and all other representations of home. The Gauls used birch twigs in marriage ceremonies. Traditionally, branches would be lit as a sign of good luck and an omen for a long, happy marriage.
All the river rocks and river glass I used came from Section 9 of the French Broad River where Corey and Leah kayak. He collected them for me and mailed them to me over the summer.
Baby’s Breath is a flower that symbolizes everlasting love. The tiny white flowers represent the purity of emotion that two people should have for each other during a wedding ceremony. White is the color of new beginnings.
My sister Judi, her husband Buzz, Adam, Hayley, and Chaderlee took charge of following the theme and making the room fabulous! (Thank you!)
I commissioned a poem for Leah and Corey by my longtime writer friend, Susan Donovan Dunham, member of ASCAP, author of several published essays, writer of a song for a movie, and member of the Arts Collective at Journey Church. She prayed about the task before her, got inspiration and a vision, and this is her creation about our sweet couple (whom she knows and has followed for eight years) getting married in October, outdoors in an arboretum next to the French Broad River.
Bared soles rest on patches of smooth river stone as
clear, cold, liquid satin flows over twenty toes.
Butternuts, birches and maples create a stained-glass sanctuary,
offering prayers of protection for two hearts, bodies, souls.
Congregations of birds harmonize to the fantasia of the French Broad,
its fragrance filling what’s empty, entwining two lives through
chilled breaths suspended in the autumn air.
EVERYBODY GOT A DRINK?
Six toasts were presented by loving guests: Buzz (uncle of the groom and Hardy family patriarch), Karl (grandfather, or Opa, of the bride and family patriarch), Jesse (longtime friend of Corey from Nashville), Pete (brother of the bride), Dave (father of the bride), and Charlie (father of the groom). Fun, funny, happy, tender, sweet, meaningful, loving!
The groom’s father’s toast ended with an invitation for his son to call him any time he needed advice. All Corey’s life, his dad would share lessons and life stories from his vast reservoir of knowledge. He’d preface any advice with that phrase, and it became a rolling-of-the-eyes moment for both sons. But those are the things one remembers. So Charlie had a cup made for Corey, and on it was printed…yeah! Vast Reservoir of Knowledge. Great moment!
TRADITIONAL CUTTING OF THE APRON STRINGS.
In past centuries, toddlers wore aprons or pinafores to keep their clothes clean. These aprons had a pair of ribbons or strings sewn to the shoulders, which the mother would hold onto, rather like a leash. When the child was old enough for some independence, the strings would be cut off. So, “cutting the apron strings” means becoming independent from one’s mother and family and going out on one’s own. Corey has been independent for years, but since it’s a family tradition, we rolled with it.
I ordered chef aprons that said “Someone in Nashville Loves Me” on the front. (That would be me.) I explained the legend, pulled the apron out of a gift bag, put it on Corey, and tied it. Then I picked up my scissors and held them to the tie string. “No!” Corey said, “no, no, you’re not going to cut it, are you? I’ve always wanted a barbecue apron. Don’t ruin it!” Well, I’m too practical to destroy something new. And I don’t like the idea of cutting people off and sending them away. So I changed tradition. Instead of detaching and separating, I widened my tent and welcomed in Leah and her family, by presenting her with an identical apron and tying it on her. “Now, you two go off, establish your hearth, and cook on your own, but remember you’ve got a bigger family now, and remember someone in Nashville loves you both.”
Somewhere amidst all this fun, we enjoyed food and drink.
It’s just my luck, when traveling, that places I really want to see are closed on the day I am scheduled to be there or they close an hour before I arrive. Such was the case on my trip to Philadelphia PA earlier this week. I’ve wanted to go to the Daniel Boone Homestead since 2001 when my mother and I did genealogy on our Boone family. I knew the place was closed on Monday, but did not realize it was also closed on Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon, I had a flight out to Nashville, but Tuesday morning, we’d planned to visit.
Leah, Corey, and I rented a car and drove an hour northwest of Philly anyhow, to Birdsboro, not quite to Reading. The place was deserted, but half the gate was open for recreational walkers. We drove in and parked at the visitors’ center. Also onsite was an old house, a barn, a smokehouse, and a few other outbuildings. The house, of course, was locked, and all was closed up tightly.
“Let’s just walk down there anyway,” I said. It wasn’t what I came to see, but it was something, and something is better than nothing. At the barn in the distance, I could see a man herding some sheep. I figured he’d come run us off.
We walked around the house and took pictures, and then the two others walked back to the car, but I lingered, and the man approached behind me.
“Do you have any questions?” he said.
“I’m family,” I said. “I am here one day, from Nashville, and the Boones are my ancestors. I didn’t know the homestead was closed today.” I showed him pictures of George Boone III’s house I wanted to see and told him about my genealogy research.
My ancestor George Boone III, weaver and tanner, came to America from Stoak, England, in 1717. He was a friend of William Penn who had perhaps persuaded him to come to America.
“In 1720 they [George III, grandfather of Daniel Boone, and Mary] went to Oley Township, Philadelphia County (now Exeter Township in Berks County), where their daughter Sarah and family had moved earlier. In Oley Township, George III took out a warrant for 400 acres of land on December 20, 1718 and established his permanent home.”
That home has been torn down. In 1730 the son of George III, Squire Boone, purchased 250 acres and erected a log house and spring cellar. Then in 1750 the current stone house behind the visitors’ center was constructed on the log cabin’s foundation. My seventh great grandfather was Joseph, brother of Squire. Joseph owned 400 acres near the road’s “jug handle” at the homestead’s entrance. Joseph bought Squire Boone’s land in 1750 when the latter moved to North Carolina. Maybe the land this stone house was on?
The man pointed to the house. “This was where Daniel Boone (son of Squire Boone) was born and raised. Do you want to go inside?”
“I would love to.” I motioned for Corey and Leah to come, as well, as the man went to get his keys. The house was built over where Daniel had lived back in the 1700s.
Interestingly, there were five intermarriages between the Boones and Lincolns in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The Boones and Lincolns stayed together in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana. Mordecai Lincoln’s son, Abraham, married Anne, daughter of James Boone and Mary Foulke. Mordecai Lincoln’s grandson, Abraham, was a friend of Daniel Boone. Abraham Lincoln’s grandson, also Abraham, became the 16th president of the United States of America.
We had a full tour of the house, with explanations and historical details. They actually make period clothes from the sheep on the farm, and the man leading our tour makes period buttons for the clothes. I think he was wearing a jacket made on the farm. He was also a history teacher. He asked us if we wanted to go into the basement—the original part of the house, where Daniel Boone lived.
Oh yes, we did. Dark, low, with a spring running the length of the old stone cabin—inside.
I dipped my fingers in the cold water of my roots.
The man drew a map and told us where the Exeter Meeting House was, where probably three of my many-great grandfathers are buried. The Boones were Quakers. In accordance with the custom of the Friends Society, no stones were placed on their graves. By 1817, the burying ground was filled. As no additional land could be purchased, dirt was hauled in and filled to a depth of four feet, and a second tier of graves was begun.
Markers onsite read:
HERE ARE BURIED DISTINGUISHED PIONEERS AND FOUNDERS OF BERKS COUNTY
THIS TABLET IS PLACED BY THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS
NO. 36…THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF BERKS COUNTY 1944
FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE AND BURYING GROUND
ANCESTORS OF PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND DANIEL BOONE ARE BURIED HERE.
HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF BERKS COUNTY 1915
We had a picnic lunch at the Meeting House on a table beside the cemetery under ancient trees. We observed the slope of land where dirt had been hauled in and built up to support more graves on top of the old ones. A gentle breeze reminded me that this was holy ground, that family nine generations before me had walked on this very dirt. That means something to me.
It was from this location in Berks County that Daniel Boone asked my fourth great grandfather Jacob Boone, Revolutionary soldier, to go to Kentucky in 1799, where they founded and surveyed the town of Maysville. Jacob is buried there in the Pioneer Cemetery. My grandmother, Anna Bell Boone, was born in Maysville exactly one hundred years after its founding. I look down at those under me and their places in history, and I think about how wonderful it is to know these things and to be in the places they have walked and lived.
I picked up three chestnuts that had fallen from an old tree there [and got them through security] to remember the three greats who lived on Boone land and were buried at the Exeter Meeting House.
The waiting room was full. I sat facing the other way from the door that went back to the catacombs with tiny rooms and monster equipment. Imaging Center. They take images there so they can see what’s on the inside of you that shouldn’t be there.
I was supposed to be at the Red Cross making Christmas cards for veterans with Susie.
I like to leave a chair between me and the next person, but that was not an option Tuesday afternoon. I occupied an end seat next to a woman in a red blazer. Across from me a man did what I was doing—trying to lose himself in his cell phone. Checking for emails over and over. Looking at Facebook. Messages? Looking for distractions. He never looked up. We never made eye contact.
The door whooshed open. “Kathy Rhodes.”
My stomach dropped. I clenched my purse, made an audible groan, and for some reason, slapped the top of my leg as I moved to get up, like, “Well, this is it.”
I had gotten a call back on my mammogram. When I got home from a business trip, there was that flashing light on the answering machine. I somehow knew what it was. I didn’t check it. I let it flash for four days. I was aware I hadn’t gotten a letter saying all was well with my screening, which was the procedure. They call you if something is wrong.
I finally braved myself enough to push the button. “This is Vanderbilt Breast Center…” I slapped the countertop. What’s with all this slapping?
“Go in this little room [blah, blah, blah] and I’ll explain what we’re going to do when you come into this room.” She pointed to the big room with the big machinery.
“Wait, what did you say to take off?” I was melting into the floor. I couldn’t absorb any words.
I put on the gown and walked into the Big Room. There were two monitors with images. I saw lots of white in the image on the right. Oh Lord.
They needed to check the white out. If they used a bigger paddle and pressed harder, the white should go away. If the white didn’t go away, I would have to get an ultrasound.
Three films and she put me back in that little dressing room while the radiologist looked at the images. I sat on a wooden bench-like board and tried to breathe and wanted to cry and every muscle ached in waiting and I just wanted to go home. I looked down at the floor and saw big globs of dust. I remembered the floor of Vanderbilt’s Big House when my friend Neil had his surgery and walked the halls, and his yellow socks were coated in layers of dust. Vanderbilt apparently doesn’t clean floors.
“You’re good to go,” the tech said. “Nothing to worry about.”
I asked some questions because I thought I needed to. And I left wondering whether next time, I should just come here to this Imaging Center for the big paddles and not fool with the smaller paddles at the screening location. I don’t like call backs.
I walked out the catacomb door into the waiting room. The man that had been sitting across from me looked up and made eye contact. I gave him a half-smile. He kept looking at me, his gaze following me as I walked. I got the message that he wanted to know if I was okay. I smiled the biggest smile I could smile at him.
I dug in my purse for my phone. I knew my son was on pins and needles waiting. He’d already called five times. I needed to let a few others know. Susie, Neil. Neil was a few blocks away sitting in his easy chair taking in cisplatin and gemcitabine. Chemo. What’s wrong with this world?
Here’s a little something to keep in mind…via Herman King on Facebook:
“We are here on earth to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don’t know.” ~W.H. Auden
“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time.”
― Alice Munro
“I went on. I had no way of knowing what might happen. The doors of perception had not opened and I could see down the road no farther than the darkness permitted but I was on that road anyway. It was long but it was straight and wide and clean and my house lay at the end of it.
I went on into the night.”
It’s 59 and raining on this New Year’s morning at 6:38 a.m. I’m spending it with whatever disease the kids and grandkids had at Christmas. I have no voice, cannot talk at all, and my head and chest are congested. I feel sure my entire January will be spent this way, even though I am packing in the Vitamin C and a medley of juices. This happened last year at Christmas, as well. Then, I took two rounds of antibiotics and two rounds of steroids to no avail. [Note to self: require a clean-health certification prior to visiting Mississippi again. Hardy and Jillie have got to get well and stay that way!]
New Year’s Eve afternoon was spent cleaning out the garage of my new home, so I can get at least one car in it. I’m very close. I couldn’t finish because I didn’t feel up to par.
New Year’s Eve was spent eating takeout from Captain D’s that my friend brought over. Then we watched Midnight Cowboy, and then he went to Walgreens and bought OTC drugs for me. He actually found one that covered all nineteen symptoms.
I took the nighttime liquid and slept peacefully, but I did wake up at midnight when fireworks exploded all over the neighborhood. Some people must be happy to see 2012. Bah, humbug. It will be like all the others — a bunch of calendar days going by, waiting for “What next?” and knowing that question will be answered.
Maybe something good will happen, too, in 2012. We’ll see.
Resolutions? I’ve made them, and I am fully aware of how hard it will be to make them happen, and maybe in February, when this disease passes, I’ll have the energy to begin chipping away at them. Right now, on Day One, I’m already a month in the negative.
Hell no, I’m not a pessimist. I’m a realist. I’ve tried to tell people that for years. Plus, I just don’t feel good, uh, well.