I wrote this about my ancestor a while ago, but it’s been coming to mind lately so I figured I’d share it again.
I’m alive only because people died. Well loved mothers and fathers, wives and husbands. Dead. In the ground. Cold and gone. So that I may be warm and alive and writing to you.
I am the 21st child in my family. Yes, you read that correctly – Twenty. First. I have 20 siblings – some who were cold and gone long before I was born. I have a sister just about old enough to be my grandmother.
I hope you want to know about me first – before we get to the cold and gone people. I am nine years old – I will be ten in just two months. I hate sewing, I hate cooking – especially the feeling of cold, raw meat against my hands, I hate cleaning. I like school and my books. I like to walk on the paths under the trees. My favorite flowers are lilacs. My family has raised me to be Methodist, but I’m not sure that I am. Sometimes I believe I see God winking at me in the sun reflecting off the lake behind our house.
I’m an okay looking child. In the summer my cheeks are usually bright red because I get hot too easily. My hair frizzes around my forehead like a fuzzy little halo. I love fresh, new and pretty dresses. Not that I have ever owned a brand new dress. I’m the 21st remember? Someday I will work hard and earn some money and buy my own pretty dress. One that no one else has worn, that doesn’t have a faint ring of sweat under the arm that is worn down thinner than the rest of the fabric. Someday.
Oh. I forgot to tell you. My name is Kate. I forget things like that sometimes. Manners and whatever. So, Hello. My name is Kate.
My Da’ is Scottish. He was 68 years old when I was born. He’s almost 79 now. An old man – older than most men in the town. He was married for the first time before my mom was even born. Well almost. I shouldn’t exaggerate. His wife Mattie had 10 children before her parts gave up and died, taking her with them. That’s what I heard said once when no one knew I was around to listen.
My Ma’m was 15 when she married “her Bobby”. So when I say I have sisters who could be my grandmas, I’m not telling a story. It’s true. Or could be true. Ma’m had four children and then “her Bobby” died. Seven weeks later she had her fifth child. Thirty-five days after that she married my Da’.
She was twenty-six. He was fifty-five. Without Mattie and Bobby cold and gone, they never would have gotten married and I never would have been here to tell you about it all.
I’d like to stay and tell you more. But I have to go. I think they must be done putting Ma’m in her best dress. The new one she’d just finished last week. Out of fresh new fabric with nothing worn out of it. Ma’m in her new best dress is going into a box to go in the ground to be cold and gone like the others. She made me warm and alive, but now all I feel is cold and gone myself.