Monday, May 20, 2013

* Family Plots

The Sleeping Giant in Mt. Carmel, Connecticut

Family plots have been on my mind lately, as you can imagine.

The Mount Carmel Burying Ground is a snoozy little place about three blocks from my parents’ home next to the Sleeping Giant Golf Course where my mother would sometimes go nine rounds. 

No one ever goes there.

 I kidded her that when she died I’d put a golf ball and tee on her grave, and indeed, after performing her burial service, I told that anecdote, and then took a golf ball and tee out of my pocket and kept my promise.

My mother was pleased that a swing-set from a neighbor’s yard abutted her plot. She loved children.

Some of the graves there go back to the  early 1700’s with late 1600’s birthdates.  A couple of the flat older stones have literally been absorbed by the trunk of a tree near them.

The writer Thornton Wilder is buried there. I was privileged to  take care of his grave for my friend, his sister, Miss Wilder, when she was in her 80’s. We had the old overgrown shrubs removed and dwarf shrubs installed. 

I have a funny story to tell about that. 

Miss Wilder would have me put a potted plant on the  grave once a year. I bought it at the flower shop diagonally across the street from the golf course.  It was a geranium, I believe.  Anyway, the beetles ate all the bloom.  I asked the owner of the flower shop how to prevent that and he said, dig a little hole in front of the potted plant and put a plastic cup in it and fill it with beer. The beetles will choose the beer and die. 

So I did.  

And they did.

I wanted to buy a “Beck's”  beer because I once had dinner with Thornton Wilder at The Olde Heidelberg in New Haven, and he drank Beck's beer. But no store nearby sold beer by the single bottle and I was too impecunious to be able to afford a full six pack. So I bought a six pack of Ballantine---the cheapest. I only needed  one can, and the other five went to waste because I do not indulge since my grandmother's death in 1981.

Anyway, it was a bright sunny afternoon and I went over to the cemetery with my six-pack of Ballantine and a little trowel to dig the hole and a plastic cup.  I had to get on my knees to dig the hole and pour the beer, and just as I was pouring it, visitors to the cemetery walked by. (As I said, no one EVER visits this cemetery.)  

I was aghast.

I was young enough then to still look like a college student .  I’m sure they thought that, on my knees,  I was performing some kind of sacred  fraternity ritual on Thornton Wilder’s grave, consecrated with beer!

Oh well.

My great grandparents, Charlie and Christina Nugent,  owned the largest turkey farm in Connecticut  in the 1930's and 40's which (tough old Yankees) they ran by themselves.  Nugent’s Turkey Farm in Guilford barely scraped out a living. 

Nobody made much of a living in the Depression.  

They have their family plot not in Connecticut, but in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where they were married.

Charlie and Christina Nugent, 
50th Wedding Anniversary photo

Their daughter, my mother’s aunt, Bertha Nugent Logan, would drive her 1951 green  88-Oldsmobile  up to Fitchburg on Decoration Day a hundred miles just to put flowers on the plot, from her farm in Killingworth, Connecticut (another name-dropping story: It had belonged to jazz band leader Paul Whiteman).

'Auntie B' as I called her was a stout woman, and her 
own aunt, Josiah, was buried there too. 

Aunt Bertha and her niece,
 my mother's sister, on  the Killingworth Farm 

on Iron Works Road, off Roast Meat Hill.
 Auntie B, as I said, was stout.

 She went over to pay her respects to Aunt Josie,  and the grave suddenly gave-way ( 1800’s wooden caskets rotted after a while) and she fell half-way in.  

Because she was stout, she had difficulty getting out, and shouted “Aunt Josie!  Let Go !!! "

Bertha Nugent Logan
as a young woman

Yes,  family plots have been on my mind lately. 

Seems they're scattered, like families this century have become.

Mine isn't in Connecticut.

It's in Vermont.

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