I've just returned home from my trip to Connecticut; and while I am grateful for your kind words and thoughtful gestures, I hope you'll understand that I'm not up to discussing the events of the last several days. Not yet, anyway. But I will say that there was lots of light among the shadows, not the least of which is the quiet comfort that comes of knowing that my father-in-law passed away peacefully in his sleep after enjoying a long, full life.
If you'll indulge me, though, I'd like to share a few blog entries about my visit to the East Coast, beginning with a last-minute field trip to central Massachusetts. It was a Nancy Drew adventure of sorts, in that I was physically retracing my maternal grandmother's footsteps.
Nana was 16 years old when she disembarked at Ellis Island. For several generations, the Harding family toiled at a lace-making factory in Nottingham, England. Quality handiwork was in high demand, so they were recruited by a State-side corset factory. That's how Nana ended up in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. (More about that in an upcoming post..)
May Harding, aka Nana, married Ernest Harding on September 3, 1933. She was 32 years old at the time, and he was 50. I wish I could offer you a better picture of their wedding day, but I'm glad this image survived my childhood travels.
They were married in West Brookfield, MA, at this very church. Charming, don't you think? It's named for George Whitefield, the "sensational evangelist of Britain and America."
I admit now to being a bit naive. Perhaps overly optimistic, as is my wont. But I assumed that someone would be there to greet us when we arrived, maybe share some history or tell a few stories. But when I called the church, I got a recorded message. And when I eventually reached the pastor on his cell phone, he said he wasn’t available during the week. "Maybe I can get a parishioner to open the doors for you," he said...
...but that didn't pan out, either.
I circled the building several times, snapping photographs and jiggling knobs. Would that the doors would magically open, that a light would shine through the darkened windows!
Though the grounds were shrouded in snow, and the stair-steps were cloaked in a mossy-green garment that was years in the making, I sensed what I couldn't see. There were traces of my relatives having been inside and around that building; I felt it in my bones.
I thought about expanding my search, but it appeared as if the neighbors had long since moved away, taking their stories and secrets with them.
On the bright side, it's very likely I'll be returning to the East Coast in the very near future. This affords me the opportunity to do some advance work beforehand. No surprise to those of you who know me, I plan to revisit that church. Here's hoping (praying) that someone will grant me access when I do....