Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Come hear Uncle John's Band.

New Hampster. I call it New Hampster because Dowling does. He lives up there in them parts, so I figure he knows better. Besides, it’s funny. It’s become one of those words that we can no longer pronounce properly. It strains me to try and say “New HampShire” – which is truly no fun at all. It’s become like the term Mr. Husband and I use to refer to our electronic magic map: Gpiss. Instead of pronouncing the letters G-P-S, we have always said Gpiss to one another. Again, slightly humorous and now a word that we can no longer say correctly in common speech. This becomes somewhat embarrassing when conversing with strangers or even those who know us well. Traveling to New Hampster with our Gpiss. That’s what me and Mr. Husband did.

Anyhow, since our friend Adam asked the color of our new hamster, we need to clarify that Mr. Husband and I did not begin hamster farming. We are not breeding hamsters in an effort to begin a hamster burger industry to compete with the booming Emu burger industry. No. Not yet.

We went to visit the great Sibley farm in Etna, New Hampshire (New Hampster!). We were gathering as part of the Butler Girls’ Family Reunion. All of us gathered as descendents or spouses of descendents of the four Butler girls from Indiana: Anne, Hibbie, Mary Gray, and Jean. Mr. Husband and I are part of the Anne Butler Stewart branch. Only two out of four Butler girls still survive, and we assembled on the homestead of the youngest Butler girl, Jean Butler Sibley. The farm in Etna is a magical place with an overgrown pond and wooden gazebo; with bright wildflowers that sing in colors more stunning than a rainbow; with vegetables and fruit sprouting from the ground and falling from the sky in a medley anew; and with the warm sun keeping us company at all times while letting the wind get in some family time, too. It is nature at her finest. It seems as if sadness knows not these parts and is never invited to visit. It was all warmth and kindness as new family members got to meet for the first time and see youngsters all grown. We first congregated among Jean and John’s wildflower and vegetable garden.
We smelled fresh mint: regular, lemon, and chocolate. We ate string beans straight from the stalk and snapped peas in half to get at their green goodness. We poked our heads into cabbage, onions, and garlic. We ran from the bees. We gazed on the flowers and felt the calm of vacation. We laughed—at all times, there was a cacophony of laughter. Stories were told of love, marriage, and break-ups. Life was shared.

The most interesting new relation that we met was Uncle John Sibley. Actually, Mr. Husband had met Uncle John before when Mr. Husband was a mere four-years-old. Everyone asked Mr. Husband time and again, “Do you remember being here when you were four?” He never admitted it. Never submit. It was like the first time all over again. Uncle John seemed to me to be a modern day Thoreau. While he was a renowned surgeon in his younger days, reconstructing the faces and bodies of leprosy victims in Korea as a missionary, these days he is unable to speak due to a form of Primary Progressive Aphasia. He cannot understand the spoken word. It gets all jumbled inside his head. But he does understand the written word. He’s sharp as a tack with the written word. He was always busy inspecting the land, feeding the birds, and nodding his head in agreement with the many stories that were shared. He is there. He is participating. He is ever smiling.

So that Uncle John was fully involved, white boards were kept busy with writing so that he was included in all conversation. The cousins took turns writing to him about the stories that rang out from the relatives around the table. Aunt Jean told about finding her own self, her own niche, in her marriage as she organized a knitting group for young Korean women. Annie told the story of Seth joining the army and then leaving the army as a conscientious objector. Don and Pricilla told stories about their two grandchildren. Taz and Micheala described the details of their forest wedding. Uncle Dick told stories about his many travels to foreign countries as an independent pilot. We told the story of our meeting at the company Christmas party in 2005. We shared stories and all was spoken and written—a flurry of communication activity. The Sibley children shared with the Stewart children and the Stewart children’s children the many tales of their lives in New Hampshire, Korea, Maine, and Chicago. Throughout the summer afternoon on the back porch with hummingbirds, yellow finches, and bluebirds floating about and twittering among the many bird feeders in the backyard, we began to know more about where we come from and who we are and what we can be.
The descendents and spouses of descendents of the four Butler girls from Indiana have done great things. They are a creative lot of artists, writers, political activists, pilots, professors, engineers, missionaries, doctors, lawyers, architects, and musicians. No one is resting on their laurels. But between achieving great things, we are gathered together in the meadow on a summer evening eating, laughing, sharing, and learning about what tomorrow will bring for the next line of descendants of the four Butler girls from Indiana.


facingthetrend said...

I used to love the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. In the movie, they pronounced "Socrates" as "So-Crates" (the 2nd half pronounced like the plural of crate). One day in college, I so nearlyalmostohmyicantbelieveit said "So-Crates" in the middle of class, so I understand about New Hampster!

BTW, I like Uncle John. What a nice story.


Nancy said...

What a nice memory of New Hampster '08. I hope you make sure the Sibley's see this, as well as other family members.
Love you, MIL

Pop said...

Anne (Stewart) would be very proud of her grandaughter-in-law. As a younger lady with kids, Anne was a member of the Nashville Press and Authors Club -- a group who loved the written word, pose and poetry.

Did you know that the nickname Hibby is from the initials HIB -- Harriet Ingold Butler? (Hibby was the oldest.)

What a great job you have done of capturing this wonderful and all too short, sweet and bittersweet, long weekend that we shared.



-J. said...

How odd, this post turned up in a Google search for me -

My name is John Butler Sibley, although I don't think I'm related. The Butlers in my family are from Ireland and came to NY 2 generations ago; I'm not positive of the origin of the Sibleys.

Richard said...

Hey Heather,

Wonderful prose, that almost is poetry (feels like it to me anyway!), capturing the many miracle moments in NH! Having you and Jeff there was an important part of the overall ambiance! Btw, speaking of poetry, I see that Yeats middle name is Butler. Hat!

Uncle Dick

P.S. J,
We Butlers are from Ireland as well, as most all probably are, since Butlers are of Norman origin and arrived in the 12th century. Our Sibley's parents lived in Long Island, if I'm not mistaken, so who knows!