July 30, 2007

Land of the Belfords

Yesterday I mentioned my great-grandfather, "Big Pop Pop." I thought he deserved a special showing on my blog. People born in the 1800's should be posted online, don't you think? Wouldn't it just blown his mind, if my grandfather saw his picture on a computer screen? Or if he saw a computer screen?

He died in 1985, the day of Live Aid. I remember, because I went to Live Aid and when I came home, as I dragged my exhausted body up the back steps, my parents met me there and told me that Big Pop Pop had died. I was sad for one moment, then I was overjoyed with the great life he had. We all were. He was a farmer, his dad died of typhoid when he was around 4th grade, so he quit school and helped his mother. He built his house and farm buildings and that is where we stayed in the summers, after he moved out and went to live with my grandfather. Oh, the stories he told (and told and told and told). He was a "piece of work" as they say. He had the mischievousness and my great-grandmother had the determination to keep him on the straight and narrow. So she thought.

This picture was taken by my Uncle Jimmy, who was a photographer and the father of the two boys. I must name everyone in this picture for you because, well, you won't believe it. Of course I'm Jennie, Jennifer, the most popular girls' name of that time. And I'm in ponytails, dirty and probably just pulled in from running wild in the fields. Michael, another big name, is standing in the shorts that are cut in zig-zags, and Joanna is in my great grandmother's arms. These are my cousins. My great-grandmother's name was Artie. My grandfather, her son, likes to tell us that the word arti in Greek, or Hebrew or some Bible language, means "right now." He likes that because that describes our Artie. She was a workhorse. She was a "get it done" kinda person. She was a person who mowed over her foot, cut off two toes and kept-a-goin. The story goes that Big Pop Pop went back out in the yard to look for the toes, came back in and said in his farm language, "Can't find 'em Artie - I think a chicken ett 'em!"

Which brings me to the Belfords. The cousin next to me, who was born 8 days after me, had the honor of being named after the man with whom he stands: Belford. Yes, Belford. Belford. Not only that, but my great-grandfather's middle name was Stathem. Belford Stathem. My Uncle Joe's middle name was also Belford. He was a preacher and in every church he served, he made it a game to see who could guess his middle name. No one ever did.

There's a story here too. My oldest son was born on the morning that Belford, my cousin died. He dropped dead of heart failure one hour before Seth was born, three days before his own 27th birthday, five days after mine. He had grown to be a very tall, very large man. We don't really know what happened to his heart. Stan knew about Belford's death, but they didn't tell me till later. Stan likes to make light of the situation by saying that he forbid anyone to tell me about Belford's death before Seth's first and middle names were officially and safely recorded....just in case. I loved my Big Pop Pop and my cousin very much, but I wouldn't even have dreamt of continuing that particular family name, even in a postpartum delirium. All of the Belfords have died now and our memories of them are precious.


kristen said...

jennie - what a wonderful picture! i LOVE that you named everyone for us and told us about the people in the picture.

I am wondering - could it be that your cousin had Marfan syndrome? Did he grow to be as tall as big pop pop? my cousin had it and died quite young as well. she was quite tall and had the long fingers as well. she didn't have many of the things that are on wikipedia - her arms weren't abnormally long. she did need glasses. anyway, just an idea i had.

rosemary said...

I sure hope you are downloading your blog to a memory stick or something in case blogger goes belly up or poof....so your kids will have these memories too. They are priceless.

Michele said...

What a wonderful picture and your "Big Pop Pop" was very loved - I can tell by your memories of him.

I love this post. Thank you for sharing.

Question: Were you and I not born in the same year? Because, I do not recall Jennifer being the most popular name in 1977?

Jennie said...

Oh yes Michele - you are right again! Silly me, I keep forgetting.