I loved Carole's suggestion to skew this week's Ten On Tuesday from "10 Things You're Thankful For" to "10 Guests You'd Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner." We've been doing the Thankful Thursday theme all month and, while I could certainly find something to be thankful for every single day, I love a little variety.
I knew right away who I'd invite — and they'd not only be invited for dinner, they'd be invited into the kitchen, too. In fact, they'd be expected — required, even — in the kitchen to help prepare the meal!!
Oh my gosh, I make myself swoon when I think about it… compressing time and filling my kitchen with my daughters, my mother, my grandmothers and my great grandmothers, and all the mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers before them! And my mother-in-law, et aliae!
My problem was going to be the 10. I have been blessed with a couple of people in the family tree who were interested in its roots — and I was quite immersed in research myself for a time. There are over 70 mothers on the tree — 10 of them named Margaret! That would be interesting — a table full of Margarets — in a way.
There's Agnes (2), Alice, Amelia, Amye, (7) Anna — four of them are Anna Maria – (3) Barbara, (5) Catherina/Katherine, (2) Christiana, Dorothye, Eleanor, (5) Elisabeth/Elizabeth, Esther, Eva, Experience, Florence, Georgie, Gertrude, Hanna, Helena, Isabella, (2) Jane, Janet, Jemima, (2) Johanna/Johanne, and Louise.
There's the (10) Margaret, (2) Maria/Marie, Marcella/Marstella, Marthe, (5) Mary, Mercy, Phillipina, (3) Sarah, Susanna, Virginia, and Wilhelmina.
That could be quite the feast with women spanning the years between the 14th and 21st Centuries; from England, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, Austria and (mostly) Germany; Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota and (mostly) Wisconsin. But narrow it down, I must.
It's a given that my mom and my girls are hosting with me, so here's my list of invited guests/relatives/ancestors:
1. Marcella F. – a.k.a. Marstella, "Mary of the Stars" — my maternal grandmother with strawberry-blonde hair. She died when I was 8. I have memories of being at her house — my strongest olfactory memory of all time is of grandma's house. I've inherited my love of needlework from her. She didn't teach me, we never worked together, and I don't remember watching her work, but I keep the back of my needlework as neat as the front because of her.
2. Mary B. — my maternal great grandmother — who lived in Rozellville. She came from Germany when she was 16. Mom has a grainy old photo of her — the only one I know of — shelling peas into a bowl on her lap.
3. Catherine K. — my mother's paternal grandmother. There's a fabulous old family photo — notable for Uncle Albert with his weird hair, and sweet little Aunt Nora with her head tipped so — where her hair is severely pulled back… kind of how I wear mine sometimes.
4. Katherine H. I'm a little rusty without my road map — I don't remember exactly where she fits — it's not too far back, though. She's been a stubborn road block.
5. Virginia S. — my paternal grandmother. She's still with us, physically, but has been otherwise lost for the past several years. She was a huge influence and inspiration in my life — all the little things that end up being huge – supportive and encouraging, steadfast and strong, loving and wise. I miss her so much.
6. Mary Naomi "Mayme" H. — Virginia's mother. She was a school teacher, as was her only daughter, marrying a railroad man and settling on a central Wisconsin farm while raising her family.
7. Mary Elizabeth G. — Virginia's paternal grandmother. Oh, my pioneer! Mary lived in Montana for a year or two in the early 1910s — wide open, windswept, and wonderful.
8. Sarah Nutting Drake — The Methodist! – has intrigued me (frightened me?) from the moment I laid eyes on her.
9. Phillipina "Bena" R. was Virginia's mother-in-law. She was one of four sisters who married four brothers — three of the brothers were in business together. As far as I can tell, the families didn't live in close proximity — I have no idea how they all met! There was definitely some chemistry there, though.
10. Amelia G. (Bena's mom) died just a few months before I was born. She had snow-white hair and my Aunt Marilyn always described her as "regal." I can imagine her holding court. She's another of the stubborn road blocks.
And there's ten, but I've a few more chairs to fill.
11. Eva R. would have been Bena's mother-in-law had she lived past 40; I believe she died in childbirth. The circumstances of her marriage, her spouse, and her death were mysterious and confounding for a very long time — she was a major focus (obsession) for a while there. I was never happier to see someone in a photograph as I was to see Eva; never thought it would happen.
12. Agnes O. traveled from Germany to Wisconsin as a young wife and mother. She named three of her sons Peter, after their father — the first died very young, the other two lived long and healthy lives — one of them was Eva's husband.
13. Janet Virginia McG. was my mother-in-law — who I never met. I sure wish I would have. She lived a life ripe for prime time — a Movie Of The Week, at least.
14. So as not to be overwhelmed by my side of the family, I'd also invite Janet's mother, Florence. Flo lived to be over 100, had a fiery relationship with her daughter, and might merit a MOTW of her own.
15. & 16. The only non-family guests would be Laura Ingalls Wilder and Ma. It was reading Laura's books as a girl that ignited my interest in history – family history, women's history, my women's history.
This little exercise was right up my alley. I can't believe how much fun I've had putting together, trimming down, thinking about this guest list — dreaming about being in the kitchen, working elbow-to-elbow with some of these women, hearing their voices, their laughter. Oh, it makes me cry — with love and joy and appreciation — to think of it. Thanks Carole. XO