Also see Heritage Albums, Family History and Genealogy.
(Alice Mackenzie Swaim)
Sunbonneted, a baby in your arms,
Your home for months, a jolting wagon bed,
How staunchly you suppressed the deep alarms
That grew with every mile you forged ahead!
You watched the prairie stretch day after day,
An endless sea of grass, vast sinister,
Your heart remembering clean salt, sea spray
As trail dust clogged your throat, made your eyes blur.
You tried to face the future unafraid,
Not yielding to the doubts of yesterday,
Your lips with outward smiles while you prayed
Kind providence to guide you on your way.
You lacked possessions, yet had love to see
Children were your true immortality.
One tree outlives the mighty oak
Our parents' parents and before,
A sturdy trunk that lends support
The children, branching toward the sky,
Your tombstone stands among the rest;
Neglected and alone.
The name and date are chiseled out
On polished, marbled stone.
It reaches out to all who care
It is too late to mourn.
You did not know that I exist
You died and I was born.
Yet each of us are cells of you
In flesh, in blood, in bone.
Our blood contracts and beats a pulse
Entirely not our own.
Dear Ancestor, the place you filled
One hundred years ago
Spreads out among the ones you left
Who would have loved you so.
I wonder if you lived and loved,
I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find this spot,
And come to visit you.
The way I walk
The way I talk
The way she thought
The bridge of immortality
There's a tree that grows within my house,
a tree with many lives;
It holds within it's great branches
a tale that makes it thrive.
Among it's leaves are many faces
of those from whom I came;
It's bark is the strength of family
it's roots became my name.
This tree is very precious
it has lived untold years;
It will live on in life and memory,
and bring both joy and tears.
My family tree is a treasure
that I'll pass on to mine;
They'll nurture it and make it grow
until the end of time.
"When we came to Kansas," grandfather said,
"I built us a cabin and chinked it tight,
There was oak and hickory for our fires,
And a good, cold spring near the cabin site."
"I shot plenty of deer," he reminisced,
"And prairie chickens were thick as hops;
Fish in the crick and squirrels in the woods,
So we didn't depend alone on crops."
She sighed, "We were miles and miles from shops."
"I broke the sod for some corn and wheat
But grasshoppers plagued and dry years came;
Some folks packed up and they went back East,"
Said he, "but we stayed and proved our claim."
Said she, "All alone when my first child came."
A square of bright red calico
To a narrow strip of yellowed white
That tiny piece of pink and white,
Her fingers touched a dainty blue
There, woven in my Mother's quilt
And when she left her earthly home