Monday, January 4, 2010

My Best List

It's the time of year when we reflect on the past, and hopefully build on the best. I started thinking about what my Best List of 2009 would contain. I had some lovely times and several delightful reunions, but at the top of my best list has to be a spring day in Rhode Island, when I was able to share some of the research on my new book project with the family of the Civil War soldier whose letters I have. To protect their privacy, I won't use real names of the current descendants.

My husband and I were fortunate to share a 100th birthday in the process of our visit. That alone was worth the trip. Assembled were the great-grandchildren of Julian W. Merrill and Matilda Caroline Morgan Merrill. They had one daughter, Georgianna. The folk gathered in a sun-drenched living room were her grandchildren. Unfortunately, they knew very little of her because of her early death when their father was just a toddler. When a new mother came into the family, Georgianna's memory dimmed over the years. Matilda did live many years beyond her daughter, but the family ties seem mysteriously to have vanished.

I shared Julian's letters--the writings home of a young man involved in a brutal war that shaped his future life. A wonderful historian had prepared a CD of them--a miracle in itself. And from that same source, there is a reprint of a book Julian wrote in support of the building of a monument to the men of his unit who served and who perished in the Civil War. The monument still exists, as does the book, published in 1870. Julian and Matilda had exciting lives in many ways--and I was able to recount them as they revolved around Matilda's father, and Julian's benefactor, Nathan Denison Morgan. What became clear was that while the Morgans had a fascinating historical footprint, it was the story of family discovered and rediscovered that was the most exciting and rewarding.

We tarried into the afternoon, had pie and refreshments. As we left, I stopped to admire the tidy garden kept by a tall and graceful man who walked with us to our car, thanking us for the day we had all had together. A best of 2009, or any year, to be sure. What tops your best list?


  1. Top of my list? A very, very special holiday season! First, a lovely Thanksgiving with some new and dear friends, and then, a blissfully beautiful Yuletide with my eldest daughter, where I finally learned to embrace the spirit of Christmas present, rather than cling to the ghosts of Christmas past. And, finally, making a costumed introduction to "It's A Wonderful Life" at our local movie house to a sold-out house of over 500 people! That's what I call a magical holiday season!

  2. A magic moment in early fall tops my list. My husband and I stopped in Cedarburg, Wis., for a bite to eat on our way to Chicago. Cedarburg is full of small, locally owned art, craft and antique shops and we parked the car across the creek from an old mill that is also filled with shops. But the creek side is lined with houses, and on this particular gray afternoon, the houses reminded me of some I had admired in a similar setting a year earlier in the southwest of France. These were lovely houses, some of them in Craftsman style, but they all sported little touches of whimsey that captivated me. I love residential architecture anyway, but especially when the owners create a sense of place with a sense of humor.

  3. Gee whiz, I forgot to "sign" my comment! Mea culpa! I'm the lucky gal who introduced WONDERFUL LIFE to the sold-out crowd and had such a marvelous holiday! Karen Marline

  4. I work part-time at a local library here in Kansas and usually leave at 1pm on Wednesdays. But a week ago, we were having an important meeting at 2:30 pm and it didn't seem to be a good idea to go home for lunch and then come back to work, especially in sub-zero temps, so I brought my lunch. At the end of my shift I took my lunch to the break room and dined with some of my colleagues where a 5-gallon bucket of homemade, buttery but not greasy, tasty, comforting potato soup awaited anyone in the lunchroom. Had someone ordered it or the new restaurant down the block sent it over, who knows? All I know that it was such a lovely thing to have, bowls and spoons provided, and conversing with the ladies at my table. Oh, and by the way, I love your cat!!!! I have two--Wiley, a male, grey, American short-hair and Gordie, a sealpoint, Himalayan, given to us who weighs 20 pounds. Memarge:)