Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wearing Hattie’s Wedding Shawl

I have this wedding portrait of my 2x Great-grandparents Royal Levant Eaton and Hattie Eva Smith. In it, Hattie is wearing a lace wedding shawl, a piece of our family history I have recently held in my hands. With the exception of one small spot of water damage or rust, it is in perfect condition. There is no wearing of the lace, no pulling of the design. It’s exquisite.
Items we use become imbued with our energy. It’s why antiques are such a draw for people. They’re full of history and memory. I believe our pull to certain items comes not from its aesthetic beauty, but from how it makes us feel, whether or not its energy resonates with ours.
I draped the shawl over my shoulders to better catch a photo of it. I wondered how many people had worn it. What was its history? I knew that my great-great-grandma wore it on her wedding day. Was she the only one? Was it new to her? Was it a gift passed down from another family member?
Closing my eyes, I thought back to August 5, 1903, the day she wore it one hundred and eleven years ago. My great-great grandparents married in Eagle Harbor, Orleans County, NY, a small village along the Erie Canal. How did she feel when the wedding shawl clasp closed?
Her young life was shadowed with death. Her mother died a month after she was born, from anemia, a complication due to childbirth. Hattie Eva Smith was named for her mother, Hattie Eva Dutcher. Then when she was fourteen, her father died. Hattie and her older sister Sophia (a spitting image of their mother, by the way) went to live with their grandparents Reuben Feagles Dutcher and Eliza Marsh Bird.
Hattie on the left, Sophia on the right
By all accounts, the elderly couple doted on their granddaughters. I have a letter from Reuben’s sister Elizabeth to their brother Merritt, where she talks about the girls visiting- that Sophia was a teacher two miles away and Hattie was away at school in Albion. “It seems to me there never was a more faithful man to the good of his family than Reuben has been. His children and his childrens children are so much to him. The two little grandchildren are certainly beautiful in looks and manner.”
I also knew what Hattie Eva couldn’t know that day in Eagle Harbor. I knew that five years later her beloved grandfather would die, and only twenty-three years after that, her husband would succumb to wounds he sustained in a prison riot, due to his occupation as a guard.

All of these thoughts swirled in my head as I stood in my childhood home, wearing her shawl. Whether I could feel it or not, an echo of her was attached to the lacework. I know this is true. Due to my ancestral meditations, I was able to reach back in time and share in a moment I couldn’t otherwise know.

1 comment:

  1. Context is everything in making family connections I can remember... A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called "My Great Aunts and Uncles" about my 3x Great-Aunt Libby Dutcher, the watercolor artist. She is the same Elizabeth who wrote the letter I reference in this post.


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