She told me so

She told me so

Dear Mother,

I’ve been thinking a lot about you this week and missing you considerably.  I’m sure you’re gloating just a little bit over my feelings of abandonment, because I’m certain that at least once or twice you warned/threatened/tried to guilt me with a statement to this effect: “You’re going to regret not getting involved in my family genealogy with me. Because when I’m gone, you’re going to be left to do it on your own. And you’ll be sorry!” Your threats didn’t move me far enough or fast enough, and you’re right – I do regret it – fearfully so.

Mother's genealogy repository
Mother's genealogy repository

Remember all those files that I brought home from Dad several months ago? All those files that harbored your years of genealogy research? All those files that I wasn’t quite sure how to handle? All those files filled with names I only had a passing acquaintance with?  Well, I’ve cleaned and organized them several times since bringing them here, and this week I finally started the project of assembling my surname binders for “Compton”. Who knew you had such a treasure trove of family history memorabilia? I am impressed!

I’ve read the letters of research requests you made and marveled at your determination to find information back in the day before the internet. I even found a couple of letters Gram wrote in the 1950s. Oh, how you would have loved ancestry.com! How you would have been thrilled to find so much county record information online.

Marriage Record for Francis Compton & Mary DeVall
Marriage Record for Francis Compton & Mary DeVall

And I know you would have been as giddy as I was when I found the actual marriage record for Francis and Mary DeVall Compton, scanned and available on the internet, right from the comfort of my own home.  (If you’re looking, their names are 4th from the top)

I’ve studied the pictures and seen a lot of history in them. I’m fascinated with the clothes and hairstyles of both the men and women, and I look for family resemblance in an effort to connect to these ancestors that I never knew.

I’ve decided that I take after the Compton side of the family – a little bit like Great-Grandma Iva and a little like her sister Pearl.

Iva Compton Pratt - about 1909
Iva Compton Pratt - about 1909
Pearl Compton
Pearl Compton

But I hope not too much, because their mother, my great-great grandmother Mary DeVall Compton, didn’t age too well. Maybe she was just having a bad hair day!

Mary Emma DeVall Compton
Mary Emma DeVall Compton

I wish you were around to answer my questions. Did you know Pearl Compton (Grandma Iva’s sister) worked at a silk factory in Belding, Michigan and lived in a dormitory there? I discovered a memory book of her friends tucked down in a file, and did a little internet research about The Belrockton.   I wonder why she never married. And why did her brother LD not have a real name?

And even though you may not know the answers to those questions or a million others that pass through my mind, at least we could have a good laugh together when reading this letter Aunt Nonie sent with the obituary for Willard Parker Ross (haven’t yet figured out who he is):

“Of course you know Ross and Daisy Compton was my Mother’s brother. Maudie was their daughter. Willard & Daisy Ross, Daisy’s mother was Grandma Compton’s sister my aunt Matt. Also Willard was Aunt Matt’s second marriage. Of course we called him Bill. I hope this is clear.”

Are you kidding me?

So, Mom, know that you’ve been vindicated! How I wish I had spent more family history time with you – much, much more. How I wish I had responded to your pleas for help. How I wish I had you as a partner in this fascinating and addicting pursuit. But I’ll carry on, because I love it, and I know you did too.

And even though I probably don’t deserve it, could you drop me a few hints from time to time?

This girl would love a little help.

The stockings were hung – part one

The stockings were hung – part one

. . .by the chimney with care –
in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.

The mystery of Santa Claus and the anticipation of what surprises would fill my Christmas stocking were huge contributors to the mood of excited, noisy chaos that filled our home on Christmas Eve.  I felt something almost magical when I carefully positioned my empty and flat Christmas stocking in its place on the couch – in line with those of my brothers and sisters –  knowing that in the morning I would find it lumpy, bumpy and filled with presents, candy and an orange in the toe.  Settling down to go to sleep was almost impossible for all of us.  We could hardly wait for morning!

Berrett family Christmas - 1959
Berrett family Christmas - 1959

I think it was 1959 when my mother made Christmas stockings for each of us six children.  After cutting them from red felt – with pinking shears, of course – she decorated each stocking the same.  Shapes of a Christmas tree, snowman, and star were carefully sewn to the front of the stocking and then further trimmed with sequins and beads.  On a strip of white felt at the top of the stocking she wrote each of our names in glue and then sprinkled red glitter over that so that individual ownership was sparkling clear to Santa.  The jingle bell sewn to the toe of the stocking was just the right finishing touch, and we sometimes imagined we heard those bells jingle when Santa was at work. . .

Vintage Christmas stocking - 1959
Vintage Christmas stocking - 1959

I have put out that same stocking every Christmas since then.  The snowman no longer has a mouth, the hanging loop has been torn off, and the bell went missing years ago.  The glitter is patchy, but the name is still readable – Santa still fills it every Christmas Eve.

Freshman creation
My freshman creation - 1972

In December of 1972 I was a freshman at BYU dating Don Butler and wondering what would be an appropriate Christmas gift for my new boyfriend.  Deciding to go the “not too serious, but still casually personal route,” I made a red felt stocking, filled it with a variety of little gifts and treats, and then gave it to him somewhat nervously.   That stocking was a success that year, and has been hung every Christmas during our 37 year marriage.  His name, spelled out in bold blue letters (no glitter here), leaves no question about ownership.  Like my 51 year old stocking, Don’s is also showing its age, but Santa makes sure that it is never neglected.

Even as an adult I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve.
Yuletide excitement is a potent caffeine, no matter your age.
~Carrie Latet, poet

Christmas Prelude

Christmas Prelude

Joyce with Lynnette - 8 months old
Joyce with Lynnette - 8 months old

By 7 p.m. on that Saturday night, the hospital room was quiet, dimly lit, and very peaceful.  Dad was napping on the extra bed, and I had pulled a chair close beside Mom’s bed.  Her breathing was slightly labored, but she was resting peacefully and stirred only occasionally.  I knew her time was short, and I wondered how much longer she would be with us.  The lights of the Christmas tree on the table cast a soft glow on the room.  Christmas carols playing from the bedside CD player provided my favorite kind of background music.  I hummed along with “O, Holy Night,” remembering how Mom would often break into song with the Tabernacle Choir at her favorite parts!  How Mother loved Christmas!

I looked at her in the bed, her physical body tired and worn out, and my mind and heart were filled with memories of so many good times.  My mother was one of my best friends, and I felt so grateful for the relationship we shared.  She was strong – yet sentimental, outspoken  – but sensitive, and exacting  – while at the same time gentle.  She had supported and encouraged me throughout my life, even if she did think I was crazy to take up skiing when I was almost 50!  She had given me a lot of guidance – some asked for, some not – and I knew that her passing was going to leave a void.

But more than what we had shared and what all of us would miss, I wondered about her next step.  She was going where none of us had yet been, nor could now.   What was it like to die?  I wasn’t concerned so much about physical pain or discomfort, but particularly curious about the transition from this life to the next.  Where was she going?  How would it feel?  Who would she see?

I picked up a copy of The Book of Mormon that was lying on the bedside table and began to read where the pages fell open:

“Now concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection — Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.”
– Alma 40: 11-12

The room seemed sacred, my heart felt peace, and the Christmas carols were as a prelude . . .

Eighty

Eighty

October 2, 1992
October 2, 1992

Happy Birthday, Mom!

This picture was taken while you were on a mission in Manila.  In the background I see some things that make me think your fellow MTC-ers had a little celebration for you that day.  I’m assuming that Dad came through with the roses for you, even as a missionary.  He’s good that way.  And I’m pretty sure you’ll be getting some red roses today as well.

This year we had a big party for you in August.  Remember – the one you helped plan to celebrate this milestone?  Almost all the family came to the festivities at Reid Ranch.  I think we had 90 rowdy revelers on Monday night.  We reminisced . . . cried. . . laughed a lot . . .  and had a great time.  You taught us how to have a good time.

We remembered you with this DVD created by Todd.  Although it was difficult to see you back in that hospital bed, you looked good, and it was great to hear your voice.  Did you ever imagine that you’d star in your own movie? Some things just take time, I guess!

. . . starring Joyce!
. . . starring Joyce!

We also remembered you with chocolate that Michelle wrapped up as party favors.  Because really, what could have been more appropriate than Hershey’s?  I suppose Godiva or See’s or even Dove might have been tastier, but we had 90 guests to favor.  And most of them were too little to really appreciate good chocolate.  They just melted it into s’mores and ate it as fast as their mothers would allow.  But I think I’ll savor some of the really good stuff today in your honor.

Thoughtful party favors
Thoughtful party favors

This is the second time we’ve recognized your birthday since you’ve been gone.  It’s easier, but we still miss you.  Do you celebrate birthdays in heaven?  I hope you’re having a bang up party today!

Love, Lynnette