Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tracing our roots

Over spring break, we went to DeSoto State Park near Fort Payne, Alabama, to meet up with my Uncle John, Aunt Philia and my cousin April and her family and to explore the land where my father’s side of the family has fairly deep roots. We also visited with some of our lingering Fort Payne relatives and the kids enjoyed playing with a sweet 7-year-old girl who was some kind of cousin to them (third or fourth perhaps?).

We visited this church, built by my great grandfather about a century ago, and now on its last leg.
Will was feeling hesitant about entering the dilapidated building until he learned there was a dead raccoon inside. Funny how the things that repel us are the things most alluring to our kids. Owen and second-cousin Jasper ignored the stench and explored the old piano at the back.

We later began to suspect that the niece my great grandfather had named the Edna Hill Church for may have gone over these falls and drowned.

Not too long before she died earlier this year at age 99, our oldest relative in Fort Payne, in a conversation with her daughter, had suddenly remembered a story of Edna Hill drowning at the "big falls." We’ll never know if it was an accurate memory, but it seemed very plausible to us.
We heard the completely unconfirmed story of Edna’s tragic death after we’d already visited the falls, enjoyed their beauty and played near the water just above them.
Now I can’t help but think of a girl named Edna when I look at the pictures. And life feels a little more precarious -- and precious.

Mostly though, we just enjoyed good family fun. The highlight of the visit was watching our boys, who have no first cousins, play and hike with Lucy and Jasper. We feel lucky that Will and Owen have several second cousins who feel a lot like firsts to us, even if they all live far away. This was our first real extended time with any of them, and Will and Owen loved it.

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