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?