Sunday, August 18, 2013

Joe Was Here.

I’m better.

Still sad and tender. I miss my nutty girl but am resigned to her loss and feel like we did what we had to do. My neighbors are healing and we have had some lovely talks. We can walk dogs with them now. Gittel and Jakson just trot on down the road side by side. Unconcerned. Normal.

I think about her mostly at night, when Al’s on the road. I crawl into bed and let myself fall into feeling. I let my hand recall her big, bony head under my hand, and the way she trusted us – yeah, that’s when I cry.

For a few weeks after Chloe died, I didn’t want to metal detect or anything. But when Cheryl got permission to explore a 50-acre tract of land just south of town in a decidedly historic area, I pulled myself together. We spent several weekends there.

Without getting too specific, I’ll say that for well over 100 years, this place has been a home to children who have no parents. I was very aware of this every time we drove into the beautiful, casually landscaped property. We knew there had been an old home or two on the property – now long gone. There’s a tiny cemetery where a man and his wife rest under a tree.

The digging was fun. Nothing truly amazing, but a LOT of stuff.

Here’s one day’s haul, all spread out and minus the obvious trash.

Themes emerged. I’ve never found a lock before but found three in short order.

Also, pocket watches abounded, as did old spigots, tops to salt shakers and cheap jewelry.

And toys. The toys made me think a lot about the hundreds of children who lived there.

On a rise, close to the road, I found this old log splitter.

Jakson wanted to display it for you, so I let him.

I found several things with stuff written on them, like these 1940s-era earphone parts.

What were these things doing there?

But some things were written by hand.

I can't read it. But someone wrote it.

This is part of an old cigarette lighter. I guess
"Irene" wanted everyone to know it was hers.
When I found this, and saw the name, I was
suddenly aware that children with no parents
might really need to claim things, to write their
names on things. I mean, everyone likes to
do that, but it might be extra important to a
an adolescent girl named Irene who's pretty
much alone in the world and who smokes
secretly behind the cafeteria, waiting for the
day she turns 18.

I remember that the second day we were to dig there, I had woken up thinking about my grandfather, Joe Whitley. I often think of him when I go metal detecting because he would have loved it so much and I know that the weird gene that makes me want to dig in the dirt comes from him. 

Joe Whitley (his grandkids called him Jody) loved finding things. He loved sneaking up on you and surprising you with a pecan in his hand, or a flower. He was not an eloquent man – a high fever had left him with a mild aphasia – but he was smart and funny and he knew how to love people. 

Anyway, I’d been thinking about the blessing he always said before every meal: “Forgive us of our sins, O Lord… accept our thanks, for Christ’s sake, Amen.” And I’d started to work on a song called Jody’s Grace.

Here's Joe Whitley with a couple of great-grands.

That day, after about five hours of frenzied digging, Cheryl and I were heading back to the cars and I was idly swinging my machine as I walked, when I got a signal and hurriedly dug it. It was an old ID bracelet! We looked at it up close, but, alas, there was no name on it. Still, cool find.

I got it home and put it on the table and kind of forgot about it. But much later, I decided to look at it under my most powerful magnifier.

There was a name after all.


1 comment:

  1. Oh I just love this...this whole piece was beautiful. Jenny