As we say above, this is mainly for friends and family. Michael's blog on the Middle East can be found here. Most of our other links can be found below on the right, but be sure to keep up as well with our family website, here. We also have discussion groups for genealogy, links to genealogical information on us, and our (semi-private) Flickr and YouTube accounts for those who are invited. You can also get a quick-navigation guide here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

April is the Cruelest Month

April is ending, al-hamdu li-ll.ah (Praised be to God for the Arabic-challenged). April is always a challenge because Easter and Sarah's birthday come close together. April 2002 added her baptism to the mix. April 2008 added her First Communion. The Catholic tradition of saving the big stuff till after Easter is problematical. This year Easter actually fell in March, but within a month-long period we had to deal with it (eggs, chocolate, etc.), the birthday (presents, party at the rec center), and her first communion (religious presents, special dress and veil, taking extended family out to dinner).

It was great and wonderful, and it was exhausting and expensive. First Communion is a major life transition, at least for Catholics. It's past. Sarah asked if we could go to Mass on Sunday (she usually finds it boring) because she wants to receive again.

There's much more to be said on this subject. Maybe on the weekend.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

First Communion is Accomplished!

We have celebrated -- or perhaps survived -- Sarah's first communion. It was at the 5:30 Saturday Mass today (April 26) and went very well. Though her grandfather was unable to make it, we were joined by her godparents, Tom and Cindi Gallagher, whom we haven't seen in ages. Though they live in Severna Park, Maryland (Annapolis would be the closest landmark for those from outside this region), we just haven't gotten together for a while. We took them out to dinner (Italian, a Bertucci's pizza restaurant, at Sarah's choice) afterwards. She hadn't really remembered them but at one point announced she liked them better than me. Ah, well -- but she enjoyed the evening and so did the rest of us. Still photos are up on our Flickr account and video will be up within minutes I hope on YouTube. Again, our Flickr and YouTube accounts are for friends and family and we need to invite you, but if you're family or close friends we'll gladly do so.

Sarah and another girl carried the altar cloth at the offertory procession. She performed flawlessly, as did most everyone. There were the usual little glitches: the older kids bringing in the banners containing the individual emblems each communicant had made got to the altar and couldn't figure out where to go; when the kids went back to bring the gifts forward, one mother raced to the back of the church with a flower her son had forgotten but was supposed to carry, etc. Sarah did great though.

More soon.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The First Communion Choreography

Sarah will be carrying the altar cloth with one of her classmates for the Offertory procession on Saturday, her first communion mass. All the kids will carry something -- the gifts, offerings, candles, or flowers -- but Sarah will be carrying the altar cloth. This is what I think (speaking in my refined and expert capacity of an ex-altar boy) what we used to call the coproral -- not the main altar covering but eh smaller cloth spread out on the altar before the consecration. I assume corporal in this case has nothing to do with the military rank but with the fact that the corpus or body of Christ will rest on it.

She's tasted sherry and is still trying to decide whether to accept communion under both species or only the bread. The communion wine used at St. Anthony's is, like most in the US, a sweet, heavy, fortified wine in the sherry/madeira/marsala family. I know that some sweet Greek and Israeli wines are also popular, so we gave Sarah a (very limited) taste of cream sherry. She's still unsure whether to take it under both forms or just the bread. They gave them unconsecrated hosts at the rehearsal last Saturday, so she's prepared for the taste of that.

Okay, up too late again, enough for now.

First Communions Past, Third Round

Okay, just a couple of more things: First, the Joplin, Missouri newspaper clipping for my first communion, from either the Joplin Globe, (morning paper, still being published) or the old Joplin News Herald (evening paper, long gone). Unfortunately, my cousin Linda Sue Hendricks appears here as Linda Sue Henderson. And speaking as a professional editor, I note immediately the "at at St. Mary's" in the headline. (Click on the image to read it.)

I am intrigued by how many of these people stayed with me through high school. Besides Linda, there is Jane Meyer, whom I took to the freshman Christmas dance (my first offiicial "date"), Diane Lichty, Pat Randall, Steve Patterson, Richard Baine, Mike Ellison, Leonard Orcutt -- some of these were a year ahead of me but stayed in Joplin and the Catholic schools -- and "Roddy" Harsh, now Rod, who is still promoting Joplin and Route 66 after years away from it, at his Route 66 Online
site. If the St. Peter's first communion class (there were two parishes in Joplin but we all went to the same grade school) were listed, more of those whom I knew through high school would show up.

Though the clip says we were 7 the dates say we were still first graders, most of us anyway, and the fact that Sister Mary Andrea was in charge confirms this. She was my first grade teacher and lived on into her 90s. She used to visit Linda and her family even, I think, when I was in college.

The other illustration is the record of my first communion from a little booklet given to us at the time. Again, click to read.

More First Communions Past

It's after midnight and I should be quitting, but continuing to put up some first communion memorabilia: Here's what we think is a picture of Tam's Mom (Mary Boylston Mehuron) and her first communion group. She's the girl on the left in the front row. (For all these pictures clicking on the image will give you a blown-up version.)

And, below, the priest who gave me my first communion, Father James J. Holmes. Later, I became an altar boy and served Mass for him (and for his successor); I remember him well though I'm quite sure he's been gone for many years. He was sweet man so far as I can remember him, but like most priests and all nuns in those days (the 50s) he seemed something almost alien to me. I was always surprised when I saw priests or nuns driving cars. It seemed to make them human, and it was hard to think of them that way. Any Catholic who wasn't around in those days will think this sounds crazy, I'm sure. Pre-Vatican II was different. That's me and Linda, of course, with him.

Do the cars in the background date me, or what? They're classics now, but what does that make me?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

First Communions Past

As I've already noted, Sarah makes her First Communion this weekend. Non-Catholics may not have a clue about this, but it's an important rite of passage. Our Orthodox brethren, even our Eastern Catholic brethren with whom we're in full communion, give communion to infants, so even they don't have the same rite of passage around age 7. The Eastern churches have always given baptism, the Eucharist, and what they call chrismation and we Latins call confirmation, to infants, so even many Catholics of the eastern tradition don't do it the way we Latin rites do. (I think the Maronites in Lebanon are the exception, but may be wrong about this.) It may be comparable in some ways to the bar/bat mitzvah, but it's done at a younger age. The closest parallel I can think of is that many varieties of Islam think that Ramadan fasting should begin around age 7, though others put the age later.

Anyway, both Tam and I had mothers whose families had been Catholic for a few generations (including Irish lines that went all the way back) while our fathers were converts. I thought we'd honor Sarah's first communion with some photos from our families' past. That's me and my cousin Linda Hendricks (now Duncan) in the photo, taken, if my little booklet is correct, on May 9, 1954. If the date is correct I did it in the first grade slightly before turning 7, while Sarah is doing it in the second grade.

My cousin Linda and I were and are virtually the same age, born about three weeks apart, and as a result were in the same class from 1st grade through high school. We were both only children, which made us closer since we had no siblings of our own. We're still close.

To go back a generation, here's my mother's first communion photo at left, from sometime I would guess in the late 19-teens or 1920ish (she was born in 1912). For years I didn't realize this was she. Then someone sent me some other childhood pictures of her (she had brown hair later and is a blonde in the childhood photos) and I suddenly realized this must be her at her first communion. Some other family photos will be showing up between now and Saturday, when Sarah makes hers.

Sarah, incidentally, will be helping carry the altar cloth at the offertory, and has already proclaimed herself "nervous," so we're working on getting her prepared.

Monday, April 21, 2008

First Holy Communion Next Weekend

I was under the weather over the weekend and didn't blog, but following the big eighth birthday series of events, now we're cranking up for Sarah's First Holy Communion next weekend. She'll be one of the kids carrying the altar cloth during the offertory, and has told us she's "nervous" about it. We're doing our best to assuage the nerves.

Her granddad and his friend Marge were going to come but the logistics got too complicated, so it will just be us and her godparents, Tom and Cindi Gallagher.

Tam and I have been gathering photos of other first commuions in the family: both of Sarah's grandmothers, and several pictures of mine. We can't find any of Tam's but we did find a rosary she got for first communion. Mine took place in 1954, it seems, so 54 years between the events. More on this as we get closer, and of course reports from the scene.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Catching Up -- Again

Okay. The laptop is back up, after a week of adventures, and that makes it a bit easier to post. I don't have to run downstairs where the desktop is and be a recluse from my family to post. It was one of those Catch 22 situations. I got a registry problem in Windows ME (yes, I know; I'm thinking of putting XP on it before they take it off the market just in case the laptop survives a while longer, since ME is useless and it will never be able to run Vista) on this ancient laptop that dates from 2001. I needed a boot disc. Couldn't find mine. Downloaded what I needed from the Internet to a CD, but because my CD drive is unreliable (typical flimsy CD drive on a laptop, needs a lot of loving care to load these days), it wouldn't boot properly. So I needed a floppy boot disc. But the versions I downloaded would not let me copy to a flash drive: only to a floppy. My desktop has no floppy drive. So I ordered from Amazon a Sony floppy drive for about $25. With shipping, about $32, got it Thursday, and got the laptop back up. A cheaper fix than taking it into a geek place, but nevertheless, left me without a laptop for nearly a week. Oddly, it's amazing how dependent you become. How you resent having to walk downstairs to transfer money from one bank account to another! I'm old enough to remember when you actually had to go to the bank to do that. Now I resent going to the basement. We're betwixt and between Sarah's eighth birthday and her first communion (a week from tomorrow) so I should be posting more, and hopefully now that I have my upstairs portal available again, I can.

And I do feel as if I accomplished something by fixing it myself.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Eighth Birthday

As if I weren't having enough problems posting to this blog, my laptop is down. A "Windows Protection Error" which requires a reboot disc and well, you don't want the details. I haven't time to deal with it just now because the 10th (Thursday) was Sarah's eighth birthday and the 12th (Saturday) was her party for her friends at Providence Rec Center. I'll post more as time goes on but if you've ever tried to preside, at age 60, over a party of eight year olds (many of them boys) you know the meaning of critical mass.

Even when the first two kids arrived at the party, you knew things were going to go crazy. They and Sarah immediately started playing on the mats, big rolling things and other stuff in the rec center party room, and I had to take the pinata down lest it be broken early by the craziness. I'll try to post some video of this on YouTube for those who have access to our site.

Anyway, Tam and I both found ourselves pretty exhausted by Sunday; not only did we spend a lot on presents, party room, cake, etc. etc. but expended a lot of energy too. Eight is great, Sarah keeps saying, and I agree, but wow. Tired.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sarah and General Braddock

Sarah often claims a certain nonchalant boredom with history because her Daddy is so avidly trying to teach her history, but sometimes it clicks. We went down to Old Town Alexandria today and discovered that at the Carlyle House reenactors were doing the meeting which took place there in April 1755 in which General Braddock met with the colonial governors before his expedition to the forks of the Ohio. (Okay, he didn't make it to the forks of the Ohio, but you know what I mean.)

Sarah watched the soldiers firing muskets on the lawn and looked over both the British soldiers and Virginia militia reenactors on the lawn. When we went inside Carlyle house we discovered that my old friend from college Ted Borek, whom I haven't seen since Sarah was a baby, and his wife Jamie were doing roles inside; they're avid historical interpreters and Ted was Robert Hunter Morris, the (Lieutenant) Governor of Pennsylvania. I had explained to Sarah that I knew him (she hadn't seen him since she was a toddler and wouldn't remember), but because he was playing a role he had to stay in character. But he was able to take a break, leaving Gen. Braddock at the table and talking to us for a bit.

Sarah enjoyed taking pictures of the soldiers and generally I think got a good idea of what was going on. We spoke to several of the characters but not to General Braddock. I think I'd have suggested he not take out any two-year magazine subscriptions.

Surely no one else who presided over a major disaster for the British Empire has so many things named after him as Edward Braddock. It's like instead of Trafalgar Square, you named it for Percival at Singapore or something. Locally we have Braddock Road, a Braddock High School, Lake Braddock, Braddock Heights in Maryland, and so on. I wonder what they'd have named for him if he'd won. (Actually Forbes and Bouquet, the folks who eventually did retake the forks, don't seem to have as much stuff named for them, though my experience in that part of Pennsylvania is limited and I suppose they're well remembered there. I know there's some Forbes stuff at least up around Greensburg, PA.) And you may say that Braddock died in battle, but then wouldn't it be better to remember Howe, who after all won at the Plains of Abraham while dying heroically. (But I know, that was in Canada someplace, and we Yanks don't do Canada. The victory at Quebec can't have had any influence on our history, right?)

Okay, enough rant. I belong more or less to the traditional interpretation of Braddock, namely that he was pretty much an incompetent, though I am aware there has been a sort of pro-Braddock resurgence in the last century or so. (A good bibliographical summary is in Paul E. Kopperman's Braddock at the Monogahela, one of the most detailed accounts of the campaign I know of.) I have no doubt that Braddock played by the rules, and did everything according to the book, but it was the wrong book. To use a modern term, the French and Indians (mostly Indians with French officers and a few French forces) were fighting asymmetrically against British regular tactics. The colonial militia weren't completely innocent because they weren't used to operating with British regulars, or with each other for that matter, but the whole thing was a big screwup and when a combined operation is a big screwup, the person responsible is the senior officer in command. In 18th century Europe, the howling wilds of Pennsylvania (claimed by Virginia I should note), or in modern war as well. Braddock had the command. Let's name a lake for him.

Anyway, enough of a rant about Braddock. He paid the price for his errors. Of course, so did the folks in the Shenandoah Valley and Western Pennsylvania. (I'll rant another time about how the historical marker at Narrow Passage in the Valley used to read "Last Indian Outrage" and now reads "Last Indian Attack" or something like that. I suppose it will eventually read "Last Indigenous Resistance against Occupation" or some such. No doubt deservedly (I think Indian casinos are a wonderful revenge, frankly), but it's still interesting to watch the PC progression.)

Anyhow Sarah soaked up some history whether she will admit it or not. (Occasionally I overhear her lecturing her friends about stuff she's learned, so it is sinking in, despite her claims of boredom.) And Sarah also got to pet a great dog at the Alexandria Visitors' Center where Tam stopped for a restroom. And then we went to the Torpedo Factory where she enjoyed assembling the broken plates in the Archaeology center. As I've noted before she really does enjoy archaeology and has even enjoyed a dig at St. Mary's City. Alexandria's little center is more like the kids' room at Mount Vernon in that they let you put broken pottery together, but she is good at it. Archaeologist is still one of her chosen professions, though she has decided to combine it with fashion designing, being a rock star, and a Mom. Hopefully the rock star part will finance the rest. I certainly can't.

Besides, this opens a door. She's heard of Braddock. She's seen a big guy in a red uniform with lots of gold frogging on it. That can get us to Fort Necessity, Braddock's grave, and the site of Braddock's defeat, and excuse a trip to Pittsburgh. If I finesse it right.

We were at Harper's Ferry a week or two ago. I tried to sneak the John Brown and Robert E. Lee and JEB Stuart and other stuff in among the scenery.

Update: I realize that in a previous post I never explained why Sarah moved worms. It seemed important at the time, but all I can recall now is that they needed moving. I hope that clears that up.