Twice, the opportunity presented itself during our second official day of discovery in the field. “What opportunity?” you might ask. Well, the very real possibility that something “bad” was going to happen to my father. Cue the screeching voices of my older siblings.
Our morning began at the Skowhegan History House. The restored home houses an impressive collection of artifacts relevant to the town’s early history and prominent citizens. The museum has an impressive assemblage of resources for research in addition to well-preserved historical items on display.
We arrived promptly at 10:30 am to find Ruth waiting for my father and me inside the air-cooled historical dwelling. My relationship with Ruth has blossomed into one of fun and engaging interactions on subject matter that has transcended beyond our early historical and genealogical conversations. I am thankful to call her friend.
Nearing the end of our History House tour, we were invited to climb the stairs to explore the upper floor. Potential for Disaster #1 for Dad. The dimensional construction of stair steps in present-day family dwellings differs greatly from those of homes built a hundred-and-fifty plus years ago. The height of each step from earlier times is greater than its depth. One must step up higher and rest their foot on what I would describe as a tiny ledge. Maybe our ancestors had smaller feet? That might explain a few things.
Going up those stairs seemed plausible. Coming down, on the other hand, was gonna be tricky. Balance, distribution of weight, gravity. Murphy’s Law. It made sense that I should descend first; if my dad did stumble, I was more than willing to take one for the team. Dad, nonetheless, led the way. He’s still quite the trooper and addressed the particulars of the stairway like a champ.
We had crossed the river from Skowhegan and found ourselves immersed in Paine and Hilton territory. A well-deserved lunch of a rather tasty lobster roll was enjoyed by us both at Amy Lynn’s Fast Food, a popular dining spot set beside the banks of the Kennebec River in Anson. Fayette’s and Sarah’s ancestors settled in homestead lots north and to the northwest from where we sat.
Our big ticket agenda item for the day was a meeting that afternoon with Emily at the Stewart Public Library in North Anson. The time had arrived at last for Sarah Hilton Paine’s personal collection of Carte de Visites to rejoin the ranks of other early Embden and North Anson family historical items presently housed in the holdings of the North Anson Historical Society. Donating those photo cards was the right thing to do.
A trek through the woods with one of Fayette’s distant Paine cousins to the ancestral burial grounds for the Gray and Paine families was the much anticipated, outdoor experience and Potential for Disaster #2 (Murphy’s Law) that awaited dad and me. Cousin Laurie was in her element as she scouted the dense terrain for a route we all could follow. She knew the land of her ancestors well.
Emily had joined our ranks for that final Somerset County adventure. Through the years, she has transcribed the inscriptions from grave stones found in many of the accessible cemeteries in the towns of Embden and North Anson for MOCA (Maine Old Cemetery Association).
We had saved the best for last. My dad and I had already stopped at three cemeteries (Moore, Sunset, and Cragin) before we arrived at the Library that afternoon. With each deliberate step, every calculated move, dad arrived no worse than when we first set out, eager to explore that hallowed ground. He was not about to let an overgrown trail riddled with stones and fallen debris stand in the way of that ancestral Paine family encounter.
I was among kindred souls. We were drawn to the tributes etched upon the faces of those family memorials, each one of us snapping pictures with the cameras we had brought. In the stillness, beneath the canopy of trees that grew around the stone wall’s perimeter, we made a near-perfect memory together.
Early evening found dad and me back among our llama friends at Maple Hill Farm Inn. I quietly opened the door to my father’s room, just a bit - he was sleeping peacefully in a winged-back chair.
Pleasant dreams, dad. It’s been a long and memorable adventure.
All photographs and blog entry copy copyright Linda S. Sanders 2013