Saturday, September 25, 2010

So excited about Halloween...

Halloween 2001 with my Lads 'n Lassies Kids
I have always loved Halloween, and sometimes I really wonder why.  I mean, its a scary holiday.  Each one of my children have gone through stages where they have been frightened to walk down the "scary mask" aisle at our local Walmart.  I would question my parenting skills at times, when I would try to convince them that the items on the aisle were meant to scare them, but don't be scared.  They eventually each came around, and like me, dive full force into Halloween.  I guess you could look at it in a positive light, because my children think witches, ghosts, boogeymen, and random "bumps in the night," no matter the time of year, are nothing to be feared.  All three of my children love their own beds, their rooms, and they have never dealt with night terrors, nightmares or sleeping in my husbands and my bed.  I'm not saying they are perfect (well, maybe in my eyes) but just that Halloween, and embracing the holiday hasn't had an impact on them negatively.  Actually, I think quite the opposite.  Because I love this time of year so much, call it what you want; Fall, Autumn, Harvest, Halloween, I embrace so many traditions that go along with it.  I think I mentioned before that my son pointed out to me the fact that I am an idealist.  He is absolutely correct, and until now, I didn't have a name for my philosophy.  When I think of Halloween, I believe it introduces a Seratonin like high to my brain.  A combination of the smell of leaves burning, the coolness on my face of the northern wind of dropping temperatures, images of apple-bobbing, haunted houses, and children running through the streets collecting their candy on All Hallows Eve.  Its a tradition, and one I have always loved.  Before my husband met me, on Halloween he kept the porch light off and didn't give out candy.  He loves Halloween now, and I truly think its because he sees how much fun our whole family has together, making so  many wonderful memories.  Its not unusual at all for him to surprise the family with a spooky prop from Walgreens or bring in a pumpkin from the local grocery for us to carve.  Its amazing to see his enthusiasm, and to see the kids reaction to Daddy being excited about something they truly love.  

Maddie-Grace carving a pumpkin with Daddy

Every year, it has become a family tradition for us to build a "Haunted House" in our garage.  As the years have gone by, the kids have learned to love it more and more.  Sometimes I think my husband has lost his mind, he and my son Will spend hours making "not too scary" props-all so neighborhood kids can have a great memory of that "really cool house when I was a kid."  It makes me so happy to see my son Will dress up as a Mad Scientist, handing out candy and having a great time.  He and the girls are so proud of their "Haunted House," and can't wait to take all of their neighbors and friends on a tour.  I know its a lot of work, but they will take wonderful family memories into their adulthood.  They will know their parents enjoyed spending the time with them to put it all together, and maybe it might inspire them to have similiar positive vision for their family. 

Maddie-Grace with friend Sarah inside of our "Haunted Garage"

I guess like anything else, Halloween is what you make of it.  It can be something frightening, foreboding, something parents don't celebrate, and insist their children avoid.  It can also be a wonderful opportunity for parents to bond with their kids.  Hunting for that perfect costume, carving that spooky pumpkin, reading that  cute little book about ghosts.  Its all about your traditions, and Halloween like Christmas, Easter, and birthdays can be a wonderful chance to show your children how much they mean to you. 

Mary-Caroline dressed as a ladybug
Halloween 2007, her 1st Halloween
This week, when I mentioned unpacking our Haunted Halloween Houses from storage, I heard fabulous squeals of delight from my girls.  "Ohhhh, I'm so excited about Halloween," I heard Maddie-Grace scream joyfully.  Mary-Caroline so excited when the pumpkins were brought back into the house, not knowing what to think about all of this fun.  Of course, my Will, almost 16, trying to be grown-up, but still loving it all.  Trying to maintain his composure, but up on the ladder, digging for more Halloween decorations.  This year will be wonderful, we will embrace it, like always-and of course, I can't wait!! 

My brother and me, Halloween 1979-I was 11 and he was 9.
 Our Mom always made us up with scary makeup.
I cherish this picture, my brother passed away in 1996,
at the age of 27.
Mary-Caroline sneaking her hand into one
 of the spooky haunted house props

Friday, September 17, 2010

More about Grandma Vida

In some ways, studying your past is sort of like solving a mystery.  The answers are there, they just have to be uncovered.  In someones old cedar chest is a forgotten family bible, family portraits lay untouched for years in a dusty attic, a misplaced filing cabinet stuffed into the backroom of any courthouse may hold amazing documents.  Its exciting what turns up, and oh how fantastic your bounty, when you are willing to dig for answers.  Many libraries are very supportive of genealogy, and have incorporated whole areas to research and materials.  The above picture actually came from a local library in Calhoun County, Alabama.  A local photographer had a wonderful archive that went back over a hundred years of photos of local families, homes, events, and they worked with the library to make these available digitally to patrons.  My family names associated with this picture are Nixon and Hay, but this picture was filed under Hay Farm.  The above farm was where my Great grandmother Vida, for whom this blog was named, lived almost her entire life.  It was named Merrelton, after the first Postmasters in the areas young daughter. Although the Postmaster wasn't related to my family, at the time I guess the name was already established, and it just stuck.  My great great Grandfather, William Dawson Nixon, Vidas father, eventually became the Postmaster here at Merrelton. He built a beautiful old Victorian style farmhouse, (you can see it peeking out from under the large shade trees on the left) around 1895, and raised his large family of three boys and five girls here. He married Nancy Jane Green, the local daughter of a successful Civil War veteran, William Butler Green.  Butler, as they called him, also had a big rambling plantation house very close to Merrelton.  At some point, according to Herman Clarence Nixon, the son of William Dawson Nixon, and author of " Possum Trot", Green farm burned to the ground.  Clarence Nixon stated that it was when he was about 8 years old, and he "watched it burn to the ground from the upstairs window of the Nixon house, as it was right across the street."  Records show William Dawson Nixon bought his land from an Arnolt family, and that it adjoins the Green property.  William Nixon must have really gotten along with his father in law, because there are many newspaper advertisements for their joint ventures. They did sharecropping, had a grist mill, and each owned their own stores, known as the "Green Store" and the "Nixon Store."  Amazingly, all of these years later, the building that housed the Nixon store is still in existance.  A wonderful Aunt of mine, a few years ago, gave me a tour of the old family property. Yes, it is still in the Hay family, and amazingly some parts of the farm have so many wonderful reminders of the past here.   Of course the highlight of the visit was the opportunity to go inside of the old Nixon store.  Some of the old cases that at one point housed sugar, flour and candy were still in the store.  On shelves were old cans and jars, dusty and bearing obviously antique labels and branding.  Even the key my Aunt used to open the front door was an old timey skeleton key.  It was an incredible experience, to be able to imagine my ancestors before me, bustling around the store. Helping their customers, ringing up items on their old cash register, maybe shooting the breeze out front while having a cold RC Cola.  The Nixon store catered to locals, but, since the railroad had a stop right on the property, its great success was fueled by travellers.  Of course, Merrelton was always a working farm.  My Aunt showed me existing equipment still on the property used to feed the horses and cows. Several houses throughout the farm were rented to sharecroppers.  Merrelton even had its own school, which the children of the sharecroppers attended.  My grandmother and great grandmother did not attend the school with the sharecroppers children, they were sent to school in "town."   My grandmother even told me she was not allowed to play with the sharecroppers children, but she used to sneak around and do it anyway.  In 1929, a tornado came through Merrelton, destroying the school on the property.  My Grandmother told me she was heartbroken to find out a few of her playmates had been killed. The Nixons lived a very traditional life, with Bill Nixon working outside the home and his wife, Nancy Jane (Nannie) taking care of the children, cooking, and managing the household.
My Grandmother said that it wasn't unusual for Nannie Nixon to have 25 gathered for dinner, on any given night.  She was always cooking, and especially Southern Fried Chicken.  Many times the sample salesmen, coming to sell their wares to Bill Nixon for his store would look forward to having one of Nannies wonderful Southern Dinners.  She was famous for her fabulous food.  As the years passed, Bill Nixon branched out into other businesses.  He was a true entrepeneur, and at one point even owned a few buildings in downtown Anniston, Alabama. 

The old Nixon Store with my son Will out front-May 2008

My Aunt MaryEdd has a real appreciation for the history of her home.  She actually has a huge room built onto her home she calls her "Merrelton Room."  She uses it to display items, photos, etc. from merrelton over the years.  The sign in this picture was used at the Railroad station.  The shelves were used in the Post Office for many years.  The Post Office was always located in the Nixon Store. 

My beautiful Aunt Mary Edd holding the incredible skeleton key used to get into the old Nixon Store.  I owe so much to this wonderful Aunt of mine.  She took me all over Merrelton, telling stories and showing me anything she thought was of interest.  She took me to two separate cemeteries, where many Green, Nixon, Hay and Prather family members are buried.  She unselfishly let me scan all of her old pictures.  I am so grateful to her and hope someday I can be as inspirational as she has been to me.

After tragically losing her Mother, and a few years later her father, my Grandmother was raised at Merrelton.  It was a huge part of her life, and especially her childhood memories.  It gave me a unique perspective, as she had lots of stories about my Great Great Grandfather William Dawson (Bill) Nixon, and my Great Great Grandmother Nancy Jane Green Nixon.  She would often talk about her sadness at losing her Mother, Mable Vida Nixon Hay-she died when my Grandmother, Ida Louise Hay Pentecost, was only 6 years old.  My grandmothers Mother, Vida, was the apple of her father Bills eye.  The eldest child in the family, Vida was apparently given every luxury.  Because they owned a store, she always had the newest fashion, shoes, dolls, books, and even candy from the cabinet.  Salesmen would often come through and give Bill Nixon samples of the finest for their family, and Vida benefitted greatly from his entrepeneurship.  In a time when many Southerners were still reeling from the effects of Civil War, the Nixon family never did without.  Vida was trained in voice and classical piano, and graduated from Jacksonville State University at 18 with a degree in teaching. She later graduated from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina with another degree in teaching, this one focused mainly on Music.  I didn't have a picture of Vida, and hoped for one.  Again, the Calhoun County photo database was such a blessing.  While visiting with my Aunt I showed her some of the pictures on the library website, suspecting one might be Vida.  I was amazed that one of the pictures was Vida!  I couldn't have been more surprised, and I cherish her portrait.

Mable Vida Nixon Hay, my Great Grandmother

My great grandmother Vida went on to marry William (Dub) David Hay from Carrollton, Georgia.  I don't have any pictures of my great Grandfather DW or Dub Hay.  They went on to have four children together, eventually moving from Carrollton, where they settled on what census records say was "Greens Schoolhouse'" June Bug, Calhoun, Alabama. I am not really sure where exactly "Greens Schoolhouse" was located, but it must have been either on the Nixon or Green property, as those families also appear on the same census record.  In earlier census records, William Butler Greens maternal grandparents are listed as living in the same vicinity as his family and Bill Nixons family.  Amazing to think of how wonderful it would be to so much family surrounding you, as a part of daily life.  I have many more details about the genealogy and history of Vida and her family, and I will be updating this as soon as I am able.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What is this thing they call Blogging?

I must admit, I am nothing more than an absolute newbie at this blogging stuff-but totally in love with the whole concept!!  Social websites have gone through a true metamorphosis in the last few years, and I can't believe I missed the whole blogging phenomenon.  I remember a few years back, my sister Kristen introduced me to the wonderful world of Myspace.  I instantly became addicted.  I spent hours learning how to design my page, even learned a little about HTML.  Photo albums, music players, slideshows-you could literally get lost in the wide world of Myspace.  I must admit I even spent an entire sleepness night sitting at my PC creating, creating, creating. Not long after finding Myspace, I learned all of the real fun was over at Facebook.  I created an account there, and really, my first thought was, "How Boring."  No backgrounds, no slideshows, no photobucket inspirational quotes jumping out at you.  But, it was destiny, Facebook had something Myspace didn't-simplicity.  It was extremely user friendly.  Before I knew it, I was hearing from Molly from fourth grade, my long lost friend from college, and the cousin of my friend Sally from Girl Scouts.  Everyone was on facebook, and I mean everyone.  Even people you never thought you would see again, whether you wanted to or not.  Before long, Myspace became the abandoned amusement park of the internet, and we were all exchanging status updates over at Facebook.  I still miss Myspace, but I guess its just because I love to decorate and express myself that way. From what I have seen on various blog sites, almost anything goes with blogging, as long as you use correct "blog etiquette."  I will definitely have to find out what that is all about-it seems if you don't people can become offended easily.  I am excited about learning how to blog, and I am rushing out to buy a copy of "Blogging for Dummies" ASAP!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

My First Ever Blog.....

I devote my first ever blog to my sweet little daughter Mary-Caroline.  She is three years old and oh so precious.  She has recently been suffering the loss of her constant playmate, my other daughter Maddie-Grace, who has just gone to kindergarten.  I am home with her every day, as I run a small home childcare, and she has other playmates.  But, I have seen in her eyes the longing to have her sister back with her, she truly misses her playmate. Mary-Caroline recently started Ballet Classes, and I think that has given her a big self-esteem boost.  I will do everything I can to help her make this big adjustment, and maybe she will realize that having Mommy all to yourself is a great thing!!