About The Barn

Guest Blog by Madislandgirl

I love digital cameras, because you can just shoot and shoot and not worry about wasting rolls of film that when developed show a nice out-of-focus art shot of the back of someone’s head. My son prefers taking shots of interesting images as opposed to the documentary shots I grew up with (“here we are at Mount Rushmore!”).

A little while back, discussion on the Trail was about wabi sabi. There had also been a bit of talk about old barns and how they are disappearing from the landscape. This got me thinking persistently about what once was my grandfather’s farm.

Grandpa's Barn

And so it was that one weekend, the son and heir and I headed out to Scott County with the express purpose of taking pictures of my grandpa’s old barn. I figured this might be our last chance, as the family who currently own the place will be selling in a year, and I feel certain the barn will be coming down at that point. An electrical fire destroyed the farmhouse about 5 years ago, so this abandoned barn is what remains of “the farm” as I remember it.

A Tree Grows Through the Fence

The teenage son of the current owners was in the yard when we got to the farm, which solved my quandary about asking for permission to roam around the barn. He acquiesced to our request to take pictures in a way that made it clear that he thought we were nuts, but probably harmless.

I was seldom allowed near the barn as a child, I’m sure it was considered too dirty and dangerous for a “town girl”. My son wanted to go inside. It looked pretty stable, so I let him. We both managed to resist the siren song of the ladder into the hayloft, barely.

The Beckoning Hayloft

We had a great time shooting that barn, trying to figure out how some of the old equipment must have functioned when this was a working farm. My nostalgia for a past I could never recover lifted. This was An Adventure!

We were on a roll, so I decided I would try and find an old family cemetery on the other side of town. It is a corner of a cornfield and completely unmarked. I had been there exactly once before, 10 years ago with a toddler and I was not driving. Still, I was feeling cocky.

We headed out-of-town on what I thought was the right highway. I kept scanning the landscape for something that “felt right”. We came to a little town that I remember hearing of as part of the family lore and took it as a good sign, but had we gone too far? Kept driving. As we were driving, I thought I saw a little gravel track at an odd angle to the road-maybe? I decided to turn back and give it a try. The track was pretty well washed out. I parked near the highway and decided to hike in. If I got stuck out there on a fool’s errand, I would never hear the end of it.

My son elected to stay in the car with the cell phone to call the authorities if the farmer who had posted all those No Trespassing signs decided to mistake me for a pheasant-I had 20 minutes to get there and back or he was calling 911!

I hiked around the bend, thinking this was nuts, when I saw up ahead a small grove with something in it.

I had found what I was searching for.

Sellnow Cemetery

Where are the places that hold your family’s history?

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100 thoughts on “About The Barn”

  1. beautiful photos of your adventure, and a vivid and interesting description also, MIG – thanks! spooky how you could find that old cemetery after all those years.
    neither of our families’ history will be see by folks in 100 years, i think. the farms, barns, houses have all been sold, remodeled beyond recognition, or torn down. the farmers are dead. i have one item saved from each side of the family – something that is easy to store and doesn’t take up too much room. i guess my favorite piece is my Dad’s pocket knife. i never use it – it is tucked away. he had it in his pocket every day of his life. my favorite was when he used it to open gifts. always carefully slitting the tape and taking FOREVER to carefully peel back the paper. i’m sure that came from a time when having one wrapped gift was a big deal. one gift to be opened slowly to make it last. and while he was opening it he would always say “i hope it’s a mustache cup!” he didn’t have a mustache – just always fooling.
    so i can only imagine what memories a whole barn and cemetary brought back to you, MIG. thanks for sharing.
    a good and gracious good morning to You All. i think Sugar is going home this morning (unbred) and will only come back for a speed date in about two weeks. :-)

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  2. Good chilly morning, fellow baboons. Isn’t our reveille girl off to Iowa today? I’m not authorized to order you to rise and shine, but nobody should mind if I greet you and wish you well as some of us begin Turkey Day preparations.

    That’s a lovely story, MIG, and I appreciate the photos. You are fortunate to have such a romantic and accessible place to visit to restore your memories. And I love it that you value them.

    As I reflect on this, it seems that people used to be buried in family groups, generation following generation. But many folks today opt for cremation, and we are all so geographically liberated, so we have fewer and fewer family burial sites to visit. Which is a loss.

    My family’s history might be considered to be held in several homes, for we moved a number of times. But strangers occupy all but one of those homes now, and the homes themselves no longer look as they once did. My family’s cabin still stands as a place that harbors countless fond memories. With its cheesy construction, it can hold little more than that!

    And so I’m left understanding that my family’s history–which is rich and well documented–is preserved in stories. Some stories that my father told me I passed along to my little girl as she drifted off to sleep in her crib. Those stories and many others will now be part of my grandson’s go-to-sleep routine, especially if I am able to move closer to where he lives so I can have the privilege of launching him into his dreams some nights.

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  3. Morning all! C — what a wonderful nostalgic piece and the pictures are terrific. I’m not sure how you and the s&h managed not to climb to the hayloft. I’m convinced I would have!

    My great great grandparents came over from Scotland to the northern woods of Wisconsin at the turn of the last century. The old homestead that they built and where I spent lots of summer and winter vacations is still standing. My father’s ashes are spread around a tree on the property as well. Every summer the teenager and I take a weekend camping trip up north and one of our many rituals is to drive out to see the homestead and the tree. A family friend of my grandmother’s once did an oil painting of the homestead and I was lucky enough to receive it when she passed away. I have it up on the wall in my house right now!

    My mom comes in this morning… so I’m off to the airport soon. Have a great day everyone!

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  4. Rise and Shine Babooners:

    MIG, now you a woman of my own heart. Love the pix, love the barn, love the cemetery. Next you can have a deletion binge!

    These days the computer holds the most family history. Every year or so, I go on a family history jag, log on to the LDS site and follow lines back to the deep past. Once I found a line that took me back to someone named “Shady Grub” who married Daniel Stratton. There was always a rumor that we were part Indian. I thought, hmm, maybe we are. My grandpa had some Indian features as he aged.

    A distant relative near San Diego has spent her retirement gathering my Great-Great Grandfather’s Civil War letters to his wife during Sherman’s march to the sea. My sister and I visited her in Carlsbad, California and went to Savannah, Georgia with the text of the letters and my mother to see the sites he described. The relative donated the originals she gathered to the Bancroft Library at UC Berkley.

    The Nevada, Iowa Cemetery holds the most history, though. Two of my great aunts would take us there every Memorial Day and tell us about these people: Mama made the best biscuits and packed a picnic for them on “Decoration Day” when they were children. “We would eat it right over there.” Papa died early and left Mama to run the farm; Lovey ran with scissors, fell and died from the injury (we were VERY careful with scissors after hearing that!).

    Places I have yet to find or visit that hold family history are the Maxwell Cemetery in Story County; the Alice Church between Wellsburg and Grundy Center, Iowa which was founded by an ancestor who was a preacher on horseback; a Quaker Cemetery in New Medford, New Jersey that holds the remains of our Quaker emigrants; Nagold, Germany where sits an old house over the barn, European style, in which the Civil War letter writer was born.

    Happy picture-taking MIG! Thanks for a great entry. I’m coming to enjoy guest-blogger weeks a lot.

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    1. Alas, Jacque, I have but one memory of Nevada. When I grew up in Ames the state liquor laws allowed only one town in each county to sell alcoholic beverages. I’d keep my father company as he drove over from Ames to study painted walls that listed what was available and for what price at the “county pop shop” (as most folks called it). That was Nevada to me. But that was before Nevada became famous as the town that produced you! :)

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      1. And don’t forget all the butchered French where I grew up… St. Louis. My favorite is Creve Coeur… pronounced in those parts are Kreeve Core.

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      2. I thought Nevada was pronounced Nah-VAY-da. I could never figure out why their grudge was against Aveda…goes to show what I know…

        And, of course, there’s Kissimee (Ki-SIM-ee), FL. And Prescott (PRES-kit), AZ. I enjoy teasing people when in Prescott by telling them that I’m headed for Flagstaff, oh wait, I mean FLUG-stff. They really hate that…hee-hee…

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  5. Greetings! Great story and terrific pictures, MiG! Amazing how you were able to find it after all those years. I don’t know about our family history, but I think our favorite childhood memories lie at my parents’ old cottage in northeastern Wisconsin (which had belonged to my grandparents). It was small until we built an addition the size of the original cabin — Dad, son and son-in-laws provided the labor with lots of pictures to prove it.

    We were on the narrow part of the flowage and there was a small sort of marshy island right across from our dock. Occasionally we’d spot egrets and even more rarely, a blue heron. Those nesting herons became a symbol for our family, especially after our parents died. One of my aunts made a beautiful stained glass window of a blue heron on the lake which was in the cabin. Once we sold the cabin, we took out the window. I believe it’s at my brother’s house now.

    Hopefully, we can get there for Christmas this year. They have no kids, but live in a beautiful, 4-br home so there’s lots of guest rooms and Jackie loves to cook and entertain her extended family. My boys enjoy the downstairs as it’s the ultimate man cave called Andyland. Big TV, bar, foosball, old pinball machine, urinal in downstairs bathroom, old coke vending machine, etc. Very cool. Have a great day everyone!

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      1. Yeah — all contract admin assistants are on furlough this week (as well as the last 2 weeks in December). So it’s a good news/bad news deal. It’s great to have the time off, but it sucks with no pay. So there it is … time to make my Thanksgiving cheesecake that my sisters expect. I call it my 4-hr cheesecake, because it’s just something I would NOT typically make — it has 3 different layers, made separately plus a pomegranate syrup topping. It’s a wonderful, earthy, gingersnap, sweet potato, pomegranate, autumn tasting cheesecake. My sisters love it, but my kids hate it.

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      2. Joanne… is a share-able recipe? Sounds delish. I’m making cheesecake filled pumpkin cupcakes this year (along w/ my sage craisin stuffing).

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      3. Sherrilee – of course it’s share-able. I’m not going to type it up unless you really want it as part of Kitchen Congress, but here’s the link http://deliciouslivingmag.com/food/recipes/dl_recipe_864/index.html

        I made it one Thanksgiving on a whim and now my sisters insist I make it every year — yikes! The molasses and date sugar give it a rather strong flavor. I suggest you cut the molasses in half or not use it — use honey or agave nectar instead. Date sugar can be found in health food stores, but not always. Or try processing old, dried dates into fine crumbs. It says the pomegranate syrup you make is optional, but that really makes the flavors come alive; so I don’t consider it optional.

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      4. No, it is not an easy recipe … {sigh} … I don’t know what possessed me to make it. I think I was intrigued by the flavor combinations and the thought that it was for “special” occasions.

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  6. There are the places of the distant past that I have visited: the parking lot of a bar that (in 1977 anyway) sat on the spot where my ancestor Margaret lived in Springfield, MA – her daughter (a many-times-great aunt) was accused during the witch trials of old, but successfully defended herself (the neighbors pigs were dying, so obviously it was her fault…). Margaret had come into the family with money and land and expanded it after her husband died. The bar was, fittingly, on Margaret and Bliss streets. Also, the family farm where my maternal great-grandfather and his brothers emigrated from in Norway – powerful stuff standing on that farm looking out at the mountains they climbed with a handcart holding all their worldly goods to reach the fjords and the boat that would take them to Wisconsin.

    Nearer family history resides in places like Powderhorn Park, where my cousins and I played when we were kids visiting Grandma and Grandpa (though the play equipment has been replaced several times), and the basement of the Mindekirke where I sat through many pancake dinners and concerts from my grandfather’s Norwegian male chorus (there are songs that I only can sing in Norwegian – and haven’t a clue what I’m singing).

    Stay warm all!

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  7. A grave here or there, widely scattered from Sebeka, MN to Brookings, SD to Lanesbro, IA to Washington, the state. Little else except memories, yes, some pix stored digitally. Fine with all of us. We are not that sort of people.
    I envy you, Catherine, for being able to go back, even if you did tresspass. I was once told by a mortician that you have the right of access to family plots such as these. If that is true, I am sure you need to ask, but that’s not adventurous.
    I would wish to walk the farmland where I grew up, but both men who have owned it since very forcefully denied me the right. In my silent reveries, which come on me unbidden, I even see specfic copses, can hear the cat which went feral, except for a strange affection for me, mewing down at me from a specific tree, can trace the path of the two creeks that drained the land, would know where I am because nothing could look the same, by the slope of the land and the sort of ground and some key rock formations and even specific rocks. I do not care that the house was burned down as firemen practice, acutally think that’s a fitting end to any old house.
    Thanks, Catherine.
    I do want to ask a question: would you babooners want a grave to visit for your dearly departed or not? My wife and I are trying to decide this very concretely right now, mostly for each other, and not for our kids, most likely for me in regards to her. My daughter is the least sentimental human being on the planet and our son is too sentimental. She would not care if there were a grave for us and he would have trouble visting it. So would you want your closest loved ones buried in a place you can visit or would you want their ashes strewn or maybe their bodies given to a medical school? If I may ask, Barbara in Robbinsdale, since you have been addressing your grieve lately, is there a place for your son?

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    1. I am not a particularly sentimental person myself. Even though my parents have a lovely spot in a mausoleum for their ashes in Green Bay, I don’t make a point to get there. It’s nice if I do get a chance to go, but it’s not important to me. Jim and I plan on being cremated and I don’t think my boys are that sentimental either. We don’t plan on having “final resting places” so to speak — just let our ashes blow in the wind. Attempting permanence in an impermanent world seems futile. If you want a nice place to visit a loved one who has passed on, I think a special park, church, or a special corner or chair in the house would give the same effect. Only your mind, beliefs and emotions can give it sentimental value.

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    2. I’ve spent a significant portion of my life visiting nursing homes, funeral parlors and cemetaries–there was a generation dying off when I was a child, and now the family members who lived through the Depression and WWII have all passed on. I don’t believe those early experiences scarred me. I still think cemetaries are beautiful (I drive past Lakewood every day), and enjoy a good funeral…and yet, I haven’t visited any of the multitudinous graves in a decade. It might be because I remember them every year at Hallows, and don’t feel a need to make a physical pilgrimage. Maybe it’s because I know they aren’t there (and I’ve read enough about what *is* in those caskets) that it feels like an empty gesture. Might I change my mind and come to need a physical place to commune with them? Maybe, I can’t know yet.

      Clyde, keep in mind that funeral traditions are evolving rapidly right now, and there are many other options. You might prefer a niche in a columbarium, scattering, placing or burying ashes in a specific location that can be revisited, a dedicated memorial such as a tree, stone or garden bench, an urn on the mantel, any number of possibilities beyond buying an expensive plot that might never be visited after the funeral. Another point: if you donate your body for a dissection model, I understand it will eventually be cremated and returned to your family, so you may still have to think about this issue. Personally, I’m leaning toward planting a tree sapling in my ashes–tweaking the reincarnation odds a little, perhaps?

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      1. As a pastor I did so many inspring interments or scattering of ashes (as well as the meorial services themselves) that I could be pulled either way. I wrote my requests for my funeral itself for our daughter, but told her that she can do what she wants since funerals are not for the dead. If I could pick one thing it would be to be buried amongst all those I buried up in Silver Creek, but that would be a silly expense just for me and be pointless to anyone else.
        Well, we will decide soon and get it in writing. The fewest dollars is one of the points.
        John Birge just played the turkey thawing record.

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      2. what would the expense be clyde. im starting to pass the hat right now to cover it if that would be the place you’d want to be and money is the only thing affecting the decision.
        i’m in for the first 25. happy thanksgiving

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      3. How nice an offer, tim, but there are larger reasons why not as well. We are quite sure really we will go for cremation of donating our bodies, and, as someone said, then getting the ashes. Having worked at the medical school, I have my doubts they would be purely my ashes but the symbolism would be the only real point.

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    3. Clyde, the Green Mound Cemetery in Wisconsin is the burial spot for my parents, and several other relatives including my grandparents on my fathers side. I have only visited it for burials. My parents and some of my aunts and uncles had a tradition of decorating the graves on Memorial Day every year. One of my cousins asked me about coming with him to decorate graves last year. We decided not to do it. I like continuing the tradition of doing burials at the Green Mound Cemetery but I don’t know if I will ever go back to visit the graves.

      I have no plans for my burial. It is my opinion that those who handle the arrangements for dealing with my remains should do what ever suits them.

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      1. jim went to see the orange whatever music last night and they were amazing the venue was interesting. minday night at the red stag is geek night os they palyed music form the video games of the early days of nintendo and the likes. donkey kong super mario etc. fiddle, stand up bass with bow and electric keyboard offerings of those little ditties we all know form early vidiot ism. it was a riot. the music was played with such joy and touch that it was inspiring. kind of like a keepers cd of a topic dear to our hearts. the nintendo tunes were a smile and the virtuosity was appreciated

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      2. Tim, thanks for the info on your visit to the Red Stag to hear the Trio. I was sure that they would do a great job, but they were doing new music that they hadn’t had much time to practice. I’m glad you liked and it sounds like this new music is working for them. I think that gig was actually a practice where they were still working on the new music which is being put together for a show the the Cedar in January.

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    4. Clyde… since you asked. I haven’t visited the gravesite of any of my grandparents – I remember them all fondly, but seeing a stone marker doesn’t do anything for those memories. As I already mentioned here, the teenager and I do visit the tree where my father’s ashes were spread after his death – we refer to is at “JB’s tree”, but it’s more of a ritual in a very ritualized annual vacation than a serious connection. Like my other relatives, my memories are strong and good w/o a physical place to go visit.

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    5. i miss my Dad but i have never gone to his grave since we buried him in 1971. my Mom used to make a point of telling me how (friends from the past) decorated and landscaped their parents’ graves for each memorial day. i know she hopes i’ll do that. i won’t.
      the two of us will either be dissected at the UofM or cremated and tossed. if Steve is alive when i die, he will scatter my ashes over the pasture here. i think maybe he’d like his ashes scattered in Tennessee, at the Jack Daniels distillery (one of his favorite bourbons) :-)

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      1. Tell Steve I love the Jack Daniels idea, although for me, it might entail my first (and last) trip to Ireland-to the brewery where the fine Guinness comes from. It may seem odd, but while I like to at least make an annual pilgrimage to the graves of all four of my grandparents (and therefore, all the great-grandparents-a grand total of 2 cemeteries about 25 miles apart), it does not occur to me to ask my parents where they intend to end up (I hope to goodness one of my brothers has this information).

        I do like the idea of the columbarium and would especially like it if it were in a church I had strong ties to-sort of the modern day equivalent of the old country church cemeteries.

        Like Crow Girl, I find the annual remembrance (in my case, All Saints Day) to hold as much meaning as my pilgrimages to the places my ancestors chose.

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    6. i think its nice to have a place but i don’t need the plot at the cemetary. pick a spot out by the tree where you can hope to be able to come back for the next 50 years or so. public park so the developers dont built a seven eleven on me is a thought. my dad is at leach. my mom will be too. as for the family i will ask but i don’t think blowing down to lake celestine in the canadian rockies will do the trick for them. i do have a skippy peanut butter jar full of my dads ashes as per his instructions. in the cupborad next to the other one.

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    7. We have scattered Joel’s ashes in a number of places that he loved, and also on his Grandpa’s cemetary plot in Roland, Iowa. Some of Husband’s (Catholic) family members were a bit taken aback that we didn’t have a place in a cemetary that they could visit. Another sister took them aside and explained to them how they could create a physical place of their own for that purpose. One has made a beautiful place in their back yard with a special rock she painted on. I have said I will do this, but it hasn’t happened yet. I have found that I visit Joel, intentionally, when I am out in nature, the deeper into it, the closer the connection, which is where he loved to be. Thanks for asking.

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      1. I have three friends who lost a child between the ages of 14 and 22. They always tell me that I am the only one who ever mentions their child to them. But in all three cases it was my loss to some extent, students I had and much admired. So I want to talk about the child too.

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      2. i agree, no one talks about dead people. i do and it is nice listen to a bit of recall about people that deserve to be remembered. i do like th idea of planting a tree in the ashes and making it a monument of a different sort.

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  8. Some special spots themselves disappear, preserved only in memory. I realized my first wife and I would fall in love while standing in the corridor of the old Guthrie Theater during intermission. The building is now gone. We had our first kiss in the parking lot beside the Scholar Coffeehouse, after which I started up my Corvair Monza Spyder and drove into a tree. All gone now: the Scholar, the parking lot, the tree and the Corvair!

    I’ve considered having my ashes dumped in Wisconsin’s Bois Brule River. It will remain beautiful as long as anyone remembering me is still alive, and will never be bulldozed into oblivion.

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  9. My family’s distant history is in New York City. A few years ago we visited and rented a van. My father’s parents’ house in Brooklyn is still standing, but abandonned. My mother’s parents’ apt building and the playground I visited as a toddler are still there altho they repainted the doors and modernized the incinerators that always fascinated me….not nearly as evocative as MiG’s farmstead.

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  10. Wow, beautiful pictures illustrating a lovely story. Digital photography saves me money but great shots are just as rare as they were with film.

    Thanks for letting me in. I like it here.

    My greatest family “legacy” was recently disproved by my brother-in-law. My mother’s side of the family has always believed that we were directly descended from John, and therefore John Quincy Adams. The family genealogist (on my husband’s side, no less), looked into it for me with his high-priced subscriptions to multiple sites and can’t find the connection. My mother and her sister were happier with the myth than with the apparent reality. I do still qualify to join the DAR (if I ever feel the urge) through both branches of my family tree though; no immigration tales here.

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    1. Caroline, you fit right in here on TB, which is a far more elegant group than the DAR, so don’t sweat it.

      Actually, while the DAR in other states is best known for snobbery, the MN DAR left us something incomparably fascinating: a book called Old Fence Rail Corners. It is oral history captured from the very earliest European pioneer settlers in the state, and it is local history with a hot throbbing heart. I recommend it to anyone interested in MN history. And it’s online now, free for all of us to enjoy.

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      1. Just took a quick look at this Steve, thanks for the referral. It’s intriguing and I’m anxious to dive into it, but work calls now and I should answer.

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  11. Connections are always interesting. When you go to weddings in a small town you assume everyone there has a multiple connections to the wedding party. But weddings in Mankato make you ask “Now, why are they here; who di they know or how?”
    I just had a woman, I assume a former, student be-friend my on facebook with a married name I do not know. So I thought I could figure out who she is by her friends, but she and I share 8 friends in common, all former students of mine, spread over 22 years of graduates. Hmmm??

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  12. Wonderful story, MIG. My family’s story is contained in places that stretch from New York City to Foley, MN, to Rock and Pipestone counties and George, IA. My maternal grandmother, born in 1900, lived in New York City from 1914-1916 after she immigrated from Hamburg, and remembered the addresses where they lived there and wrote them down for me. I would love to visit there sometime and see if those places are still there. I’ve seen most of the family farms in IA and MN where they all lived. My mother and father’s families all came from a narrow strip of coastal northwest Germany that stretched from Emden to Hamburg, and we have photos of their houses and farms there. I don’t know how many of those places survived the wars. They took photos of farms, barns, and graveyards before they left Germany, much like you have done, MIG, so treasure those photos.

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    1. My paternal grandparents grew up in an orphanage in a town in Germany called Volmwinkel. It no longer exists – wiped off the map by war – and I can’t even find any clues about where it was. I have one photo of my father’s grade school class. The family history dead ends there.

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      1. I posted this earlier and it’s gone or elsewhere or something. Thttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuppertal-Vohwinkel_stationry this:

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  13. One of the best pieces of lore in my wife’s family is that her Russian father, from Nordeast Minneapolis, would always say he was born at the corner of “Turdy Turd and Turd Street.” My wife is the one who would wish for family connections has very few; I who could care less could easily have connection with hundreds, but then I would have to put up with the West Coast ultra-guess whatism of that part of the tribe.
    Yes, I have nothing to do today. But I will go pretend I do and stop muttering away like an old man.

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  14. Don’t forget New Prague for it’s pronunciation. I defy you all to pronounce New Hradec, a small town near me famous for its Workmans Hall.

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  15. Good Morning to All,

    Last summer I tried to find the house in Wisconsin where I was born and didn’t find it. My grandfathers farm, on my mothers side, was sold to another farmer who continues to operate it as a dairy farm. I have a paper bottle cap from that farm which was used to cap milk bottled on the farm and sold on a milk route in the nearby town. I have seen the location of the livery stable that my mother’s father ran before he turned to farming.

    When I was a very young boy I visited the farm of my great grandparents where my Dad helped with farm work during the summers when he was young. A relative still runs this farm and I could visit it, but I haven’t. My father’s Dad had some small wooden tools for making fish netting and they were passed on to me by my Dad.

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  16. Thanks for the wonderful story and pictures, MIG. What a fun adventure you and the s&h had!

    My immediate family memories are from Cannon Lake, just southwest of Faribault. My brothers and I played and explored up and down the northwest shore of the lake, trespassing in the lawns of summer neighbors’ vacated seasonal homes, peering in the empty windows out of childish curiosity. We climbed trees, skated on the ice in front of our home, played hide and seek, wrestled with the dogs, hid in the boathouse, swam like fish and learned to water ski. I had two horses and boarded them at the little farm across the county road. I went there daily to care for them and ride them. (Aside to yesterday’s topic: there were holstein steers in the pasture with my horses. They often charged me! I’d jump quickly on Ben’s (my Arabian gelding) back and ride him back to the barn with only his halter on.)

    The Cannon Lake property had been my paternal grandma’s. My uncle didn’t want it so my dad bought him out. There was a large old cabin with an enormous brick fireplace and a huge mantel. The cabin had no indoor plumbing. There was a spacious room with big windows facing the lake upstairs. The floor was creaky. There were two brass beds up there but they weren’t very attractive because of the bats. There were hundreds of bats up there. As kids, my brothers and I slept in sleeping bags on cots in the lower level front screen porch. It was much like sleeping outside. I still need to sleep with the windows open as much as possible and will always miss the sound of waves while I’m sleeping.

    We began to build a permanent, year-round home in the ’60s. We lived in the basement foundation for a year or two. The home was finished in 1970. We were one of the first year-round lake residents there. I loved it there and when I think of home, that’s the place I think of.

    My parents divorced in 1985. My mom moved to an apartment in Owatonna. My dad stayed there for awhile until his health began to deteriorate. He sold the place for a song in 1988. He died in 1992. Mom remarried and lives near Wabasha now. She and Bill built a lovely home on the bluffs overlooking the Zumbro River. Bill died two years ago. I enjoy going there and feel at home but my roots are still on Cannon Lake – only about seven miles from where I sit right now.

    I have no children and my brothers aren’t sentimental. I don’t like the idea of taking up space in the ground with an elaborate casket. I’d prefer to be cremated. I hope someone is around to sprinkle some of my ashes over Lake Superior and plant a white pine with some of them.

    The Babooners have been asking great questions that require careful consideration. Good job, y’all! It’s so nice to “know” you!

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  17. What a beautiful day… outside and on the blog as well. These stories are just wonderful and it makes me glad to know you all. Off to the airport to get my mother – do you think I’ll be able to explain this blog to her?

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    1. Just walked the two blocks to the post office; went by a parking ramp under construction (well, so what else would Mankato do but build a new parking ramp down here); crew was putting up reinforcing and forms for next level of pillars. So glad I am not working outdoors today with metal.

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  18. mig nice blog,
    good for you to get out to the spot before it is gone. and nice find on the cemetery, how cool. i’ll bet the s&h was impressed that you pulled that one off huh?
    my familys history is not being passed on to my kids too much. my people are form fargo on my dads side. i used to sit in the station wagon on those long trips as a kid before there were freeways on highways through exotic places like new york mills ( a favorite joke for the cousins was that we came up from minneapolis and went through new york on the way…new york mills hahaha ) and he would tell the stories of the family growing up and the uncles and the deer shack my grandpa had near duluth ( an epic journey from fargo in the 30′s) called the makalovich. the relatives that had land in red river valley where the soil was so rich and dark they had been very successful farmers. the address was 1444 6th ave so and when we went to fargo we would always stay with j.b. (no one ever called him anything else , grandkids included) candy on top of the fridge, checkerboard in the dining room, one of the first color tvs i had ever seen. still had the big philco radio in the living room and the coal bin in the basement. if you live in fargo, you live in the summer in detroit lakes in the summer. its a rule. the cabins were really cabins, rustic so sand on the floor and fish guts on the porch were part of the deal. listening to the waves lapping on the shore as you fell asleep in the summer was the most comforting sound after the maniac cousins all quit bouncing off the walls and did the crash and burn. ahhhh. my kids missed fargo and i don’t think they will ever get a shot at it agian. no close relatives up there, we go for weddings and funerals. my son may be going to und so we will see. grand forks will make fargo a routhe thatmay open it up a bit to experience. he doesn’t want to consider ndsu in fargo (i like it) but he doesn’t have the same affection for fargo as i do. i really like that town. the downtown is exactly the same as it was 50 years ago. exactly. its pretty cool. the other half of my family is from leach lake and my kids did get to do a couple of summers there before my dad passed a year ago. my folks built a lake home that my kids love and we try to get back form time to time but the schedule makes t a challenge. we are trying before my mom has to leave there too. my great grandfather was alive when i was a kid and he was the indian who went to the university of minnesota and became a lawyer ( a big deal for an indian in 1903) and he ended up coming back to the leach lake area as the county attorney to look after the indians and make sure they didn’t get their butts completely kicked. the point up there is called rogers point named for ed rogers my great grandfather. my mom and my brother and a couple sets of cousins have places up there. my mom and brother live there year round the others are summer visitors but all enjoy the history and traditions that come with the place. i dont feel like i am creating much int he way of a family tradition for my kids. yellowstone, teddy roosevelt national monument, beartooth pass on the montana side and disney world in florida are the family spots for this clan and i guess thats what they get. video games in the monster van and never being in chatanooga when the sun is up are the traditions we will remember. we used to fly but the need for a van when we got there and the expense turned the drive into one of the most integral parts of the tradition. 24 hour drive used to sound long to me as a kid when i heard someone say their maniac dad would take them to some far away place. now it sounds like part of the equation. my kids whine but adapt well with reading computers and games that mix laughter with cussing and sleep in equal parts. its a nice family gathering where we are all in confined quarters for a day before a week of spreading out in the orlando area before the return trip. a good tradition for them to carry with them. so with the exception of leach lake, instead of places for my family to lock in on it will be areas of tradition, florida and montana mostly and the kids learn to travel with comfort. oldest son talks of his trips to rio and prauge and the oldest daughter about florence and her great year there. younger son is good with his travels with teams to florida kc spokeane and the little girls see all this going on and plug it in. we are a peripatetically shiek group and that i guess is our tradition. good turkey day all. enjoy your day, your family and roots and traditions. it is nice to have a comfort zone of the way it ought to be for you. you baboon you.

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    1. Downtown Fargo has been jump-started and renewed in the past couple of years with the invasion of the NDSU Architecture department, a new dorm, and many, many students. Its a lively place that hums from morning until late at night. I think it was brilliant to move part of the campus downtown.

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      1. he is so bummed about not making the starting lineup at eden prairie he says no but we will see. he is down on sports as a college activity. wants to allocate his time for studies. i ask how that is different form high school and he tells me to shut up. we will see. no is the answer i have been given today. he does not appreciate my bringing it up

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      2. My best friend from HS starred there back in the 60′s.
        They have to decide themselves. I played for two seasons, a decision my knees regret seriously.

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    2. Your trips, tim, are creating a family tradition, even it they lack the connection to a particular place. I suppose it is easier to ground kids in family culture if there is a place that centers the effort, but we should have our minds open to all sorts of possibilities on how it might go. It sounds like you are doing well by your kids.

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    3. By coincidence, downtown Fargo appeared on PBS the same day tim mentioned it. The coverage was a brief sequence on “This Old House.” Although brief, it was enough to show why tim and others appreciate the “new” old Fargo.

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  19. The main places where you’d find people that would recognize our family name would be Cloquet, Sandstone, and Duluth. Of course, as my brothers and I have moved to larger cities (and with my sister being married), that family name recognition is fading over the course of time.

    Interestingly, I just found out that by a long-past relation through marriage, I am indirectly related to the recently canonized Saint Andre Bessette. That buzzing you hear is him spinning in his grave.

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      1. Hm…possibly…or my Mom’s maiden name. My folks are a little older than you but in the neighborhood. My sister is still there.

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  20. I must say it is lovely to be able to putter at home, listen to RH (only without kids around) and do more blogging. Work kind of gets in the way of life … Although there is an older gentleman in the cube across from me who must be late 60′s or early 70′s who is also a contractor, but as a systems engineer. He absolutely loves his work, has always wanted to work for an electric company and has done so all his life. He’s tried retiring 3 times, but he can’t get enough of his work. He’s from South Carolina with an absolutely charming accent and will be here until about March. Murray works four 10-hr days so he and his wife travel around the state over 3-day weekends. I envy people who love their work that much.

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    1. It is nice to have you back, if only for a few days.
      A metaphor: I am driving down a two-lane highway across the prairie at the posted speed limit plus three miles because my speedometer reads two miles slow. I am meeting many trucks, campers, cars, SUV’s, snowmobiles and ATV’s along the shoulder. Up behind me comes a black 3/4 ton extended-cab Dodge Ram pickup at 12 miles over the speed limit. It slows for a second , sees it can sneak by before the next grain truck. It slips by very close to my left rear fender and shoots by me. The windows are so dark I cannot see the driver. He almost clips my front left fender cutting back into the lane.
      That vehincle is the world passing me by.
      I envy anyone my age or older who can keep up.

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      1. darth a hole is not the world passing you by clyde, its the jerks we all have to admit we must share the planet with. extended cab with dark windows is all i need to hear. i don’t wanna have coffee with joe camouflage. reminds me of the hummer i cut over in fornt of so he couldn’t drive on the shoulder past all the people in line at the clearlake stop light on the way up north a couple summers ago. he went balistic and i loved watching the big dummy implode. he let me know i was dirt and he was able to afford a hummer comapred with my little volvo. i told him i had a hundred but wasn’t gonna fill his tank with it. then i rolled up the window and he put it in 4 wheel drive and went through someones field to get past the traffic. if you want to keep u with that be careful what you wish for

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      2. Clyde — I’m not always sure I know what tim means, but in this case if I’m right about his response, I agree with it. That truck is not the world passing you by. It is some jerk rushing at the job of destroying himself. He’ll get there, sooner or later, and it sounds like sooner.

        The world passing you by might be the 20 year old kids on bicycles on the extreme margin of the road, the ones you blew by in your vehicle. They have strong hearts, lungs and legs, and they will “pass you by” sometime, just as they will pass me by. Which is as it should be. I’ll bet you have preached that many times.

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      3. I like both your responses to my metaphor. I am turning this into a poem. This comes from a comment my mother made 30 years ago that all of a sudden the world is going to fast for you and you are eating the dust of the young.
        Felt this way today dealing with some technology and new business attitude issues, feeling very slow and old fashioned as a result.

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    2. Thanks, Clyde. Reminds me of last night. My 15-yr old black belt son went with our 28-yr old karate instructor/owner to a demo last night. They returned while I was in my class, but my son told me later that Mr. Z was kind of scary to ride with; reading/texting on his phone, etc. Although they had fun in the big movie theater parking lot sliding around, doing donuts and generally messing around in his SUV on the ice. Mr. Z is a great guy — young, dynamic, handsome, fit, has a gorgeous wife, 2 beautiful kids and a thriving karate studio. Feeling kind of stuck in a rut at times …

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  21. I wonder why it was important to our ancestors, especially those who immigrated from other places, to have a public, final resting place? I can’t imagine the enormity of actually immigrating and putting roots down somewhere far away from where I started out, and never returning to the old places. What would we want at our endings if we moved to, say, western Siberia, northern China, central Asia, etc.?

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  22. As always, this board is a wild ride – barns to recipes to cemeteries to childhood home stories. Delightful reading! As seems to be too often the case, my family has dwindled down to one very old uncle, several cousins, my brother and me. I haven’t seen my five cousins in half a century. I have ten grandchildren, eight of whom are nearby. What occurs to me is that lacking blood relatives has enabled me to “choose” my family right here. My ragtag collection of close friends warms my heart and keeps loneliness at bay. As to cemeteries, the only one I’ve ever visited is my pet cemetery out by my garage. There are several cats, an albino squirrel, a couple of hamsters, and some birds. Other than the cats, the rest of the little bodies were contributed by my grandchildren since it’s very clear that I’ll be in this old cottage for whatever remains of my life. Handmade gravestones mark each individual critter, too. After losing two precious cats mid-winter, I came up with a way to bury future ones when the ground is frozen. I’ve dug a deep hole during the summer, placed a wood slab over it, and purchased two bags of top soil to fill it in. It saddens me that two of my favorite fur persons died mid-winter before I figured this out, however.

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    1. crystal bay you lucked out and got to pick your friends unlike the deal with family congrats. when i went through my divorce 20 years ago i went to some meeting of divirced guys on saturday mornings and came away saying “these guys are a mess,i got to get outta here fast” family feels that way sometimes too. i have the person to contact to get rolling in the sd33 stuff you asked about. i will email a name and phone number of the person and you can take it from there.

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      1. Thank you, Tim. I’ll strongly consider getting involved at the local level. As to friends or family…….I’ve noticed that the deaths of people’s oldest members often leads to the disintegration of the remaining family system. How many times I’ve heard, “If so & so wasn’t a blood relative, I’d have nothing to do with him/her”. I feel quite lucky that my brother & I have been far closer after losing our parents, though. I treasure our friendship even though it took over five decades to blossom.

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  23. Lovely conversation, great photos and thoughts…I’ve photographed and explored where ancestors are buried often…St. James, Heron Lake, Norway and Sweden…and decided I like the sense of history, continuity and connection. Both my father and mother chose cremation and the only marker is a tree we planted in the cemetery near our mother’s parents and grandparents. But I decided I would like to be “planted” in that same cemetery…just cuz.

    The buildings, the homes of my past are mostly gone, my uncle still has the farm where I played and explored as a child. The farms in Norway and Sweden where those ancestors were born, lived and died are still there, some of them still in the family. I like that.

    But…back to the present. Happy Thanksgiving all!!

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  24. Lovely photos, Catherine, and a great topic, can’t wait to read the rest… I must get on the road, traveling to Iowa a day early to avoid the snow.

    My family’s history is now held in our memories – we don’t frequent the Roland Cemetary where I have clusters of relatives buried, including my dad’s ashes. The houses of grandmas that meant so much to me as a child are now almost unrecognizable when we drive by. Memories, and photos, I guess.

    Have a good cold day, ‘Booners.

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  25. Afternoon!

    Great story MIG! Very very cool and I’m so glad you were able to make this connection.
    I kind of yearn for the times when everyone had that agricultural connection to their ancestors… but it doesn’t really take very long to loose that does it?
    A curious side note; Sellnow Cemetery? Sellnow is the last name of one of the editors of the local paper. Hmmm….

    I am very fortunate to be on, what many in my family, consider to be the home place. My Great Grandfather on Dad’s side came to this farm in 1896. I have cousins that talk about spending summers here. While I’m too young to actually remember them… and sometimes their comments on Facebook pictures reveal that they don’t remember things *exactly* right, they do have an appreciation to the farm that is important to them and that’s OK too.
    My Great Grandparents on Mom’s side of the family was over in the Mormon Coulee region, near Lacrosse WI… and their farm is just a depression in the ground now.

    A little historic spot to Kelly and I… we first started dating while working on a show at the very college where I’m employed now… and we spent many nights sitting in the car under the street lights in the parking lot.
    Often now, I’m walking to the car late at night under the street lights glow…

    This is all a little poignant as we’re in the process of selling my Mother-in-law’s farm in SW MN. She’s not living there anymore and it’s the right thing to do and she knows it needs to be done and it’s going to a cousin and we’re all negotiating well… but I need to be careful as this ‘business transaction’ is very much ‘personal’ to my wife and her brother.

    In regard to burials… we already have plots; purchased by a favorite uncle of my wife so we would be next to theirs, but Kelly thinks cremation might be OK and I’m not so sure about that…

    Cool stories everyone!
    Travel safe if you’re traveling!

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  26. OT: I just had a very nice thing happen to me. It was a very small thing, but very nice.

    Last night as I was backing into my driveway I hit a frozen iceburg of snow in the street with the mudflap on my car. It tore the mudflap off and broke the little clips that hold the plastic liner thing inside the wheel well. It totally bummed me out, man. I tried to fix it but the clips were broken and I knew it was beyond my skills.

    So, I called Thielbar Auto Body in Faribault. They said to bring it in and they’d have a look. So I did. They put it in their shop and about 10 minutes later drove it back out with the mudflap repaired. Wow! So, I opened my purse to offer my credit card and he said, “Naw, just remember us next time.” How nice! It’s really the nicest thing that’s happened to me in a long time. Those stupid little accidents with cars can really cost a lot, and I was sure I was going to have a big bill. I’m really grateful for that nice guy. Happy Thanksgiving everybody! :)

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  27. Catherine, I forgot to say that I “collect” small country cemeteries. Love to walk them, analyze patterns in names, dates, and the cycles of nature. Have written a few sermons in small cemeteries. There are so many around here.

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  28. Wow! It has been a very busy day here, so I have only been able to just keep up with reading what you have all been sharing today. Thanks to Dale for allowing me to hostess what feels like a really lovely potluck and giving me some good editting advice. Thanks to Steve in St Paul for helping me out with formatting and tweaking the pictures.

    I’m really glad I got to take my son on this little adventure. It has really gotten us started on doing some research, and I hope to add to our personal “oral tradition” over this holiday. In the end, I think our stories are really the only thing we get to truly “keep” and pass on, and even if they are not entirely true-to-fact, the idea of which stories we choose to tell and remember still say a lot about who we are. Artifacts, like Barb’s dad’s pocketknife, and places, like cemeteries or old homesteads are springboards and triggers for the stories.

    Like Jacque, I think of the cemetery where my mother’s family is as the place I heard most of the stories, as we “visited” the people they were about.

    To give my answer to Clyde’s very realistic question: I would like to be among the ancestors, but that really is not practical at this point, at least physically. I’ve been on the “other side” in the anatomy lab, and I think that is probably as good a place to go as any. Back then, at least, at the U of Iowa, donors were honored at the end of the academic year in a ceremony that their families and loved ones were invited to, which seems a fine and good thing to me. I guess I’d most like whatever wealth is mine at that point to be used to encourage other lives and dreams. I would like my son to have some stories, some pictures, and maybe an artifact or 2 to jog the memory for the stories. I should like to make a quilt to that end.

    I’ve actually been cogitating on this question for myself for several months now. Thanks for just putting the question out there like that, Clyde.

    And my favorite Midwestern massacre of a place name has always been KAY-ro (Cairo), Illinois!

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    1. my wife is form havana (pronounced right ) but hey have a bunch of thos kind of names over there. pekin cairo and 5 or six more semms like and when i ask how they are pronounced i always smile
      this is dales part of the world we can see if he has additions to the list whne he gets back

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    2. MIG — the important thing is to be aware of family ties, to remember those who have passed and to construct some ceremony of linking with them again. The details (whether a cemetery should be involved, whether a ceremony should be involved) are less important. You are saying to the s&h that we don’t stop caring for people who are part of our family just because their lives have ended. You are modeling that caring for him, and that is your gift to him as well as to them.

      With each passing year, I become more convinced that the greatest gift we can give the young is the model of a person who cares. If we live in such a way that our sons and daughters can see us as a person who cares (about people, about the environment, about the English language, about beauty, about food) they will almost surely determine to be that kind of person. Nothing we tell them matters as much as what we show them, and nothing we show them matters as much as celebrating a life of positive passion.

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