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Mom’s History Book

Weathers,Margie dec 1941

Mom at around age 16

On this date–April 13–in 1923, my mother was born, number 9 in a family of 10 children and 1.5 adults. The .5 would have been Poppy, her father, whom wasn’t around all that much. When I think about my mother’s 83 year lifespan, it seems like something I read in a history book. Both of my parents lived through one of the most rapidly changing eras of modern times. She lived on a quasi-farm, without indoor plumbing. I don’t even know if they had electricity. Her grandfather, Joseph Newdigger (Neidecker) was an Austrian stowaway at age 13, who arrived in the U.S. around 1850. He settled, at first, in Arkansas, where he met Mary Elizabeth Hooper. They married in 1868 and settled in Newton County, Missouri. They had 3 children, but by 1878 Joseph had moved on and married Louisa Rebecca McDonnel, a Native American, with whom he had 13 more children over a 17 year period. One was my grandmother, Mary Catherine.

Newdigger-in process

My great-grandparents, Joseph & Rebecca Newdigger

My mother never knew her grandparents, and I don’t think she knew her father very well, either. Her mother succumbed to cancer when Mom was only 13, and Poppy was long gone by then, off to father two more kids with someone else. My mom and her younger sister were passed around amongst the older siblings until they could be married off. Both of these young sisters faced unwanted relationships early in their lives, stories they lived, but weren’t inclined, to tell.

Think about population in America’s rapidly growing years. Joseph Newdigger fathered 16 children, and one, just ONE of these children had 13 more children. Consider that most, if not all, of those original 16 kids had an average of 10 more. That’s 160 lives. My grandmother, Mary Catherine, had some 28 grandkids and and least 32 great-grandchildren. The figures are mind-boggling when you consider it all.

Newdigger Weathers, Mary Catherine-new

Mary Catherine Newdigger-Weathers, one of 16 little Newdiggers

So I meant to write about Mom today, and got all tangled up in stats. These large families certainly had an effect on her life–but what kind of effect? Competition for attention, even life’s necessities? Once any of those aunts, uncles and even older sibs moved out of the line of sight, they were virtually lost to her. No telephones, no “change of address” cards. Hear-say, maybe… the neighbor that lives over near the church “heard” that the oldest sister, Mamie, moved to Texas with that guy that comes around selling egg-gathering baskets… it was easy to lose touch. Today, I can spent a few minutes on Facebook or Ancestry and locate many of my long-lost or unknown descendents. Strange, huh?

Mom has been gone for 10 years now. I wonder what she’d think of Facebook and all the myriad ways the Internet ties people together? With her background of riding an old nag to school, using an outhouse, killing her own chickens for dinner and leaving school at 13, how could she have even a basis for understanding today’s world? I barely understand it myself.

Nonetheless, she made a good life for Dad, my two brothers, my sister and me. She didn’t need to look up on YouTube about how to make a pie crust or reupholster the couch. She loved us all with a devotion and passion she was denied as a child. She was socially shy, however, and I have to smile thinking about how tramatized she’d be by Facebook’s friending/ unfriending and “like” systems. Best that she was spared that nonsense!

Happy Birthday, Mama. Love and miss you.

 

 

Field Trip: Forest Lawn Glendale Museum

beatlesongs

By William Stout (see below)

For the last few years, my family (specifically my brother, his wife, my husband and I) have been taking once-a-year field trips around Los Angeles to take in some iconic and/or historic sights. So many of us grew up here, smack dab in the middle of a rich, cultural stew, and have never seen so much of it. We’ve toured places like Griffith Observatory, the Getty Museum, Angel’s Flight, the Bradbury Building, etc. We augment our little trips with out-of-the-way eateries and unexpected side forays. For our Downtown venture, we boarded the lite rail and took it to Pershing Square. We took time to admire a stories-high, vintage painting of Anthony Quinn as Zorba the Greek on the side of a brick building.

Read more about Anthony as Zorba

Better known as “The Pope of Broadway,” the 70-foot mural painted in 1985 by artist Eloy Torrez, was inspired by the actor’s 1964 role in “Zorba the Greek.” – See more at: http://hollywood.greekreporter.com/2014/10/29/restoration-ahead-for-anthony-quinn-zorba-the-greek-inspired-mural/#sthash.mPqN0CZU.dpuf

This year, we decided we go in search of stars’ graves. Funky, perhaps juvenile, I know; but it caught my fancy so off we went to Glendale. After first partaking of a delightful lunch at the Los Feliz Cafe, we headed on over to the one of the most beautiful cemeteries ever. Forest Lawn in Glendale is also unbelievably huge. Over 300 acres, with over 300,000 gravesites. It is the single largest final resting place for movie stars–over a thousand individuals of some level of show business notariety. My brother and I are both film buffs and truly appreciate many of the legendary stars of the Revolutions-Home-Page-Toutpast, so we looked forward to seeing how they…ended up. But you won’t find any “Maps to Stars’ Graves!” at Forest Lawn. Quite the contrary. The young man at the gate was polite and quietly explained where we might find James Stewart and Liz Taylor, but beyond that, we were on our own. According to Seeing-Stars.com, the establishment can be downright hostile about sightseers.

While touring the park, we came upon the Museum, which is currently hosting “Revolution 2:  The Art of Music.” Can you imagine my delight? Here was a treasure trove of original album cover art, rock star portraits, magazine covers, and a special section showcasing the art of William Stout. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed, but above [Beatlesongs!] is a sample of Stout’s work. You may also know him from Firesign Theater and Life of Brian.

A video was playing, and we sat a while to watch Live Aid 1985, the portion offering Elton John, Kenny Loggins, and George Michael. Talk about being in hog heaven.GNP.EASTER.4.040110.RR

Afterward, we entered the Hall of the Crucifixion-Resurrection for a telling about the painting and refurbishment of Jan Styka’s “The Crucifixion” – a canvas that is 195 feet wide by 45 feet high. The video accompanying the display was very entertaining and informative.

Stewart smallFinally, we got back into the car and went in search of Jimmy. We found him, right where the gate attendant had said he’d be, beside his wife Gloria. We were humbled by the simplicity of this wonderful man’s grave.

First Look: Secrets and Lies

MV5BMTUxNTE2NzY5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjk5NTU2NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_This is a new drama/miniseries (ten episodes) on ABC.

From IMDB:  A family man finds the body of a young boy while jogging and becomes the prime suspect. He has no choice but to try to find the real killer as his marriage, his kids, his reputation, and his sanity are all at stake.

I watched the first two hours (season premiere) and by the end, I felt exhausted. I told my husband, “there should always be some periodic relief for the viewer. This show has none.” It literally doesn’t let up on the tension. First of all, it breaks the rule about showing dead children onscreen. Little Tom Murphy has been murdered, and there is a brief showing of blood on the hand of the man who finds him.

That man is the belabored protagonist Ben Garner (well-played by Ryan Phillippe), whose drunken memory-lapse casts the only minute shadow of doubt over his innocence. The cop doggedly harassing him really has nothing to go on, yet she is so annoying in her pursuit I almost just turned off the show. Juliette Lewis’ portrayal of Detective Andrea Cornell might be considered great because we hate her so much.

Reviewers have used the words “catchy, perfectly flowing” but also “boring,” “annoying,” and “irritating.” I understand, people! Apparently, it is a remake of an Australian effort that was (again, apparently) much better.

Will I tune in next week and give it a third hour of my life? I kinda want to just skip to the end to see Detective Cornell eat crow, which she undoubtedly will. We’ll see.

Second Chance Review: The Butler

Another film I missed first time around (which pretty much describes all films these days).

From IMDB “As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man’s life, family, and American society.”

081513_ent_butler_640The Butler boasts a star-studded cast of great actors, too many to list here (and actually so many it’s distracting) but must give a nod to Forest Whitaker in the starring role.

This film tries to keep focus on the modern history of civil rights in America, as viewed through the eyes of the main character(s), but while enjoyable in parts, I found the storytelling uneven and the timeline off-balance. I realize in the interest of time, some periods were depicted in great detail and others merely skimmed over, but this pacing was disconcerting to me. There is some historic value – recreations of actual events bring familiarity; however, it’s difficult, perhaps, to recreate historical events for viewers old enough to have experienced them first hand (and who know better). Scenes involving the various presidents are cliched and uninspired. The sub-plot surrounding Gaines’ wife’s (Oprah Winfrey) addiction and pursuit by their friend/neighbor feels forced, although the acting was first rate by all.

The inclusive of so many stars takes away from the story. I found myself marveling at the big names rather than experiencing their roles. (“Gee, why did they pick John Cusack to play Nixon? Hey, is that really Alan Rickman?”) Despite the irony, however, I did love Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan.

This was supposed to be a true story yet I understand a great deal of poetic license was taken. But what else is new? Most film adaptations do.

All in all, not as good a film as I’d expected. Grade:  C.

My Role at Downton Abbey

Today’s writing prompt asked:  “If you had lived hundreds of years ago, what kind of work do you think you would have done? What job would you have wanted to do?”

isobelcrawleyMy first response was to question whether or not I would be restricted what what were probably rules & laws that didn’t favor women in traditionally male roles. This led me to think about the women of Downton Abbey, so I modified my prompt to ask what role I’d play there.

When I think about the females at Downton, I realize that they are clearly divided:  the workers and the ladies. If given the choice, I’d step into the role of Isobel Crawley. She’s a little more independent, a little less Victorian. Interested in science and philanthropy. Unafraid to express her opinion. Friends with the Dowager but rarely snooty. According to Downton’s wikisite, Isobel is “well-educated for someone of her social standing and breeding, and trained as a nurse. She comes from a middle-class background and values family, charity, and education.” Except for the nurse part (which I haven’t done but could) the description fits. But would I marry Lord Merton? Probably not.

“Have you changed your pills?” – Isobel to Violet over Lady Edith’s interest in becoming a journalist.

Were I to find myself working downstairs, I’d likely be Anna or Mrs. Hughes. Anna for her gentle strength, her tolerance and devotion; but I’d have trouble dealing with Lady Mary. Mrs. Hughes for her no-nonsense reason, compassion and Scottish spirit; she reminds me of my late mother-in-law. Plus, she’s the only one who can stand up to Carson and get away with it!

Note:  Isobel is played by the lovely and talented Penelope Wilton, OBE. (The “OBE” stands for Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, a designation she acquired in 2004 for her service to Dramatic Arts.)

 

Second Chance Review: Philomena

PhilomenaPhilomena is a lovely film. When I first saw the trailers for this true story about a mature Irish woman in search of the child was forced to give up while living in a convent as a young girl, I knew I would love the BBC drama. Judi Dench portrays Philomena, a remarkable, if frustrating, protagonist whose sad tale inspires tears more than once throughout the film. In the course of her search, she partners with the recently unemployed journalist Martin Sixsmith, competently played by the film’s writer, Steve Coogan. From a historical aspect, Philomena brings to light some — dare I say sordid? — practices of an Irish Catholic convent during the mid-20th century. I can’t say too much without crossing the “spoiler” line, but the story weaves an intriguing journey through the past as Philomena uncovers clues to her son’s identity and life. A strong, underlying subplot draws attention to the role faith plays in how people respond to life’s unexpected adversities.

While mothers will find Philomena’s tale most poignant and emotional, all viewers will likely marvel at the unusual turn of events that leads to a surprising and bittersweet revelation.

I enjoyed the entire production. The cinematography, music, landscapes, and the talent all combine to make this a worthwhile watch. Grade:  A-