Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Wedding That Went Before Me

My grandparent's, on my father's side. It was a wedding portrait. No white gown. No flowers. They were Appalachian folk. You wore the best you had, and that was the best you could do.

He was of uncertain origins. It is still not clear who his real parents were, since he was adopted by some Smiths, which makes me a Smith today. He became a coal miner at an early age, since in those parts, there were few options for making a living. He had a farm, but since he was in the mine all day, he was what people called, a 'moonlight farmer'. He worked the fields by moonlight. He was trapped underground for three days beneath a large slab of coal, and as the family stories go, when they brought him out, he had more broken bones, than whole ones. Prior to the incident he had been known as a faith healer in the small coal mining town he lived in. After the incident, he disappeared into the woods, carved out an untamed hollow, built a house at the very end, and spent his last days there; mostly content to be left alone.

She came up the hard way, as well. After her mother died, her father remarried. He then died. She was left as the oldest child in a large family of mixed-family siblings. She became the care-taker of these younger ones. She never attended a day of school, but somehow learned to read by following recitations of bible scripture in her bible. All her grandchildren called her 'Other Mom', because, quite simply, she was our other mom.

It is interesting to think of what it is that makes us up, besides all the stuff each day throws at us. In my own life, the other side of the family tree is all about Irish immigration to the US, and making it in New York City. So, I grew up with these clearly different histories, and in some way, I was some off-shoot of it all, living in a whole different world. And, now I have grandchildren of my own, and can hardly imagine what their future may throw at them. They come from hardy stock, so, I hope for the best.


  1. Now I have been reading this and I'm thinking the parents of my own, and their parents and their parents and so on, and I'm thinking I am the weakest link in the chain because I have got the easiest way to live. They, all of them, have had a difficult life, and so they have been stronger than me.

  2. i can never read such stories about people's life without having my heart ache. i don't know why, and looking at this picture it suddenly seems i could see all their life in front of my eyes, the beauty and mystery and pain of every human life...

  3. Loooooved this post. The photo is a prize of a portrait of two people who had salt-of-the-earth dignity. Their stories are wonderful and I love that you are telling them (to your grandchildren, also, I presume).

    Now, as for the other side of you...about now your feet ought to be gettin' a wee bit jiggly to do a jig, and your tastebuds might be cravin' a bit of corn beef and beer. Aye, ye'll be celebrating the green soon enuf!

  4. Lydia, talk about the luck of the Irish, my daughter has twins born on St. Patty's Day!!!