BRITAIN’S GOT TALENT – SUSAN BOYLE

My vote for most memorable performance on Britain’s Got Talent, 2009, is Susan Boyle singing, “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.  The judges were blown away by her awesome voice.  Overnight, she was a world sensation.    Her video performance on Youtube.com has been witnessed by over one hundred million viewers.

Susan Boyle had long, yearned for a singing career.  At age 47, looking like a frumpy, middle aged woman, she appeared on Britain’s Got Talent.  Simon Cowell, Chief Judge, was disparaging in his questions to her, especially after she told him she wanted a singing career.  But, Susan did not flinch from his insults  Then she sang, “I Dreamed a Dream”.

Does anyone doubt that her professional career was launched before she finished the song?  Here is a short autobiography on Susan Boyle, who sings like an angel.

She was born in Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland, on April 1, 1961, the youngest of nine children.  Her mother was 47 when Susan was born.  It was a difficult birth, causing oxygen deprivation from which Susan suffered mild brain injury that resulted in learning difficulties.  Understandably, her childhood was difficult.  She was mocked and bullied at school.

But that didn’t stop Susan from enjoying a musical family, or participating in the school choir and musical productions, or taking singing lessons from a voice coach, or singing in her church choir, or singing in a local karoke bar, or entering and winning local singing contests.  It didn’t stop her from having a beautiful personality to high-light her beautiful voice.

It didn’t stop her when Simon Cowell made his unkind remarks.  I’ll bet Susan has seen the video of her performance.  And I’ll bet she smiled when she saw the look on Simon’s face when she sang the opening line to “I Dreamed a Dream”.   Just the thought of Susan smiling at his surprised look makes me smile.  Sometimes, life delivers perfectly!

To Simon’s credit; he became an instant fan and supporter of Susan’s new musical career.

The youtube video of Susan Boyle’s first time on Britains Got Talent can no longer be copied  to other sites.  But, you can still see the entirety of Simon’s interviewing Susan before she sang and the gracious manner in which she responded.  Go to www.youtube.com, and type Susan Boyle, Britain’s Got Talent, episode 1 in the search bar at the top.

 

Grace is the door to the peace beyond the mind.”  ~ Rumi

“Grace is unity, oneness with ourselves, oneness with God.”     ~ Thomas Merton

“Grace waits nearby to flood the heart with light.  It is up to us to open
the heart’s windows, unlock the door, and make an altar there for the spirit…”  
~ Ingrid Goff-Maidoff

Wisdom is the art of living in rhythm with your soul, your life, and with the Divine….Wisdom is the way you learn to decipher the unknown which is our closest companion.”  ~ John O’Donohue

 

Refuge
Sara Teasdale

From my spirit’s gray defeat,
From my pulse’s flagging beat,
From my hopes that turned to sand
Sifting through my close-clenched hand,
From my own fault’s slavery,
If I can sing, I still am free.

For with my singing I can make
A refuge for my spirit’s sake,
A house of shining words, to be
My fragile immortality.

THE NIGHT OF THE SONIC BOOM

I became acquainted with James Thurber, writer of rib tickling short stories in my high school literature class.  I thought Thurber had a wonderful ability to look at and to experience life, from which to wring delightful humour.  His account of, “The Night the Bed Fell” is my favorite.  Ever so often, I reread it, and chuckle all over again….at the great consternation caused by a huge wooden  bed… falling with his father in it, in the middle of the night…..in an attic bedroom….. with a great crash heard all over the house.

Sometime after I first read the story in high school literature, I had my own night of consternation; to be ever after remembered as, “The Night of the Sonic Boom”.  It was in the dead of a summer night.  I was blissfully and peacefully, sleeping the sleep of the dead—the contented sleep of the, yet, to fly the coop, nestling.  All the house occupants were in the arms of Morpheus; the Greek god of sleep. 

Then—in the stillness of that night occurred the rudest awakening one should ever hope to have.  It was a formidable sound; loud and explosively startling—like a sonic boom!  Not from the sky, however.  It was inside the house—in the hallway—right outside my door at the top of the stairs!  It was about the loudest sound I think I’d ever heard.  Instantly awake, I was aware of two things:  my heart, thumping, and my brain, searching:  “WHAT?  WHAT?  WHAT? Fervently, I strained to know what the loud sound was, and what I might next expect.

There was brief silence.  Then, diagonally, from across the hall and through the dark, came this question from my youngest brother—every single word was emphasized: “MY GOD, WHAT WAS THAT!!?”  With five emphatic words, he had perfectly expressed the general question and consternation of all.  His words passed through my mind, electrifying the moment with humour; for, I was already hearing another sound—different from the first.  This new sound, on the heel of my brother’s words, was at that very moment solving the mystery, bringing immense relief and restoring peace and quiet to my world and to the household.  I reflected upon the humor of his words and the startling, loud sound before giving way to a fit of laughter.  

Without having to look, I now knew that, a huge clump of plaster had fallen from the ceiling at the top of the stairs—and that following the split second of quiet and my brother’s word—pieces of  plaster were now, methodically bouncing down the stairs.

This was not an unusual event in our old house—my dad was forever, patching plaster.  On that night, for 10, maybe 20 seconds the pieces continued to bounce, through the dark, to the hall floor, below, before all was quiet, again.  My story is not to tickle the ribs as is “The Night the Bed Fell”.  However, the suspense, the impactful, loud boom, the not knowing what had happened, the humorous words of my brother, and the ultimate moment of recognition and relief; all seared a delicious memory into my conscious mind, where it has lodged, to this day, as one brief moment of my youth.  I shall always remember it as, “The Night of the Sonic Boom”.

 As was my intent, as stated in my first post,Bells and Whistles”; it was to give the extras that can so wondrously and so powerfully shape a child’s mind.  God knows that is the way in which my mother—of all her marvelous attributes, really shined.  In so doing, she gave of the treasure of her mind, which has always meant more to me than treasure from a mine.

 My personal experience of a disruptive sound in the middle of the night, found its self written into a literary counterpart, albeit, a lesser one to, “The Night the Bed Fell”.  Otherwise, it might never have been written.  It was just one tiny cog along life’s way; one tiny literary cog among countless others.  Who can say it was not inspired by James Thurber?  Expect other literary cogs from my personal memory to pop up, here, from time to time.

 By God’s grace, my earliest years were steeped in the best of man’s mind; creative nuggets that were recorded, accumulated, and preserved over thousands of years.  How fortunate for us humans!  Wisdom of the Bible, English and American Classics, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, Aesop’s fables, songs, rhymes, and more— can be woven throughout the days and years of our youths, to run continuously along side of the unrolling of our lives.  I couldn’t have asked for better; and as I said in my ending paragraph of my first post:

 “After all: it is World Literature and obedience to God that contributes largely to the character of the American soul.  The earlier both are introduced to children, the better for the mark they will make in life.  I don’t believe there is another person living who knows this any better than I.  Of course, my mom did, and up there in heaven, I’m positive she is looking down with a serene smile and an approving eye.”

 

  WHO HAS A BOOK

 Who has a book has friends at hand

And gold and gear at his command;

And rich estates, if he but look,

Are held by him, who has a book.

Who has a book has to read

And he may be a king indeed;

His kingdom is his inglenook

All this is his who has a book.

 —Author Unknown 

 

Vocabulary words:

consternation

sonic boom

Morpheus

formidable

fervent

plaster

attributes

albeit

inglenook

Suggestion:  Next to the listed vocabulary words on your refrigerator, have another list next to it, with names of all your household members.  On it, keep a record of who used which words throughout the week.

Make the activity fun, challenging, and rewarding as a way of sharing together in adding literary nuggets to young lives.  Homework offers, already, enough of what children consider to be drudgery.  Let acquiring a vocabulary be what it should be; not drudgery, at all, but effortless and appreciated; preparation for their individual life journeys; and openers of doors of opportunity. 

AN AUGUST CAT SAGA

About 4:30 on a Saturday morning—a year ago last spring—my spouse called me out of bed; “quick!  Come look out the back door!  I roused, went and saw a cat—and four little kittens.  Two of the kittens; one gray, and one gray and white, were playfully scampering around inside our privacy fence.  The other two, one entirely light yellow; the other, light yellow and white; were huddled on the bottom step looking forlorn and miserable. It was heart rendering to see that they were terribly malnourished.

We had decided, years ago, to give up having cats around the house after our last cat died.  Parting was just too painful.  Our last was our beloved Pogi: a long haired yellow and white tomcat that stole our hearts away; and in return, gave us eight years of treasured companionship and devotion.

The two yellow kittens were already at death’s door.  One died the next day, and the other, a few days later.  Each was buried next to the big old fir tree in our back yard.  By now, we had, inadvertently acquired heavy hearts, an emaciated mother cat and her remaining two kittens. Although thin, obviously, they had gotten the larger share of their mother’s milk. We started them on kitten food.  They thrived.  In good time, we were fortunate to find good owners for both.  All that was left was the mother cat.  From us, she acquired a home and her name: Matilda.

Matilda had plenty to eat, fresh water, a place of refuge from the elements, and once again, the caring hands of humans. I feel certain she was once somebody’s pet.  It was quite some time, however, before we could get close to her, but over time, she, somewhat, warmed up to us; but never, like the numerous cats we had owned in previous years.

One day, when I opened the back door, she was lounging on the stoop.  Not only did she hold her ground instead of jumping off; so intently did she peer inside the still open door that I mused — perhaps, she had been someone’s indoor pet.  As months passed, our greatest pleasure came from seeing the gradual transformation of her anguished face  to one of contentment.

However; whenever the broom was reached for to sweep steps and patio, she would make a fast, frantic exit from the privacy area; which told us she had experienced an unfriendly broom elsewhere.  Oh, the hardships that must fall upon hapless, homeless felines in their struggles to exist!   Under our care, she settled into a secure routine.

Last spring, Matilda had kittens beneath a shed, behind a house across the street; as told to me by our neighbor, whose house is on the lot next to the shed.  For the first three or four days, Matilda showed up for just one meal.  Then she quit going at all, across the street.  We knew that her kittens, most likely, were no longer alive; most likely killed by one of the several feral tomcats that lived and foraged for mice in the field behind the shed.

Towards the end of July, she had a new litter of kittens.  This time, she had them under our tool shed, although we did not know it at the time.  Only later, by circumstantial evidence did we reach that realization; I will explain, shortly.  For the time being, all we knew was she’d had kittens; all we could do was hope that they were safe.

About three weeks later on an August Monday I looked out the back door to our privacy area, and to my surprise, there she was with four beautiful kittens; two calicos, one yellow, and one black.  Of the calicos, one had bright colors; the other was long haired, with faded colors and a distinctively marked face.  It was the face an artist might have whimsically designed.  Different colors arranged on either side, as if a straight line had first been drawn from the middle point between its ears, to its nose, before the colors were assigned.   His was the first name given: Faded Glory.

I felt great relief, knowing the kittens were safely inside the fence, and that Matilda had brought them to us while they were still young enough for us to cultivate in them, a sense of family with spouse and me.   It was a joyous moment!  We stepped out into the yard to look them over and within minutes noticed the absence of Faded Glory.  Where had he gone?

He was nowhere to be found inside the privacy fence.  We pondered: how could so little of a critter have disappeared so fast?  We did not see him again until four or five hours later, when he suddenly reappeared.   The next few days, he continued to disappear and reappear.  It was mystifying; until we finally caught a glimpse of him stealing under the fence and under the tool shed.  Then, it was obvious; he was just skittering off to the safe, familiar place where he was born.

By that time, I had already closed the space between the bottom of the fence and the ground with left over fireplace logs, all along the left side, and along the back side as far as the tool shed, to keep the kittens from straying off.   So, then we closed the exit that Faded Glory accessed to underneath the shed.  It was obvious that he was fearful of us; and a little fearful of his siblings.  But, allowing him to continue spending big parts of his day in isolation, we knew, was not going to make him tamer.

Why he, only, fled to safety to under the tool shed ceased being mystifying as we observed that the mother cat fed him apart from the other three.  The only reason we could see for this was that the three were quiet feeders, except occasionally, when he fed with them.  In her “cat” wisdom, Matilda chose to feed him alone for peace of mind; but, in the process he was missing out on an important part of kitten-hood:

Whether sleeping or awake, he was usually alone while the others fed, slept, and good naturedly played and wrestled together.  If one of them pounced on him to wrestle, he would wiggle free and flee! With his long hair, he appeared the larger of the four, but in behavior, was the most fearful.  So, closing off his exit to the tool shed was our first step on behalf of our fearful little kitten.

 But, alas!  Before the week was finished, the cat moved them!   It was very disheartening!  We had so enjoyed watching them playing, wrestling, and chasing each other about.  In abilities and skills, the three were evenly matched and good natured.  It seemed as if they took turns at winning at wrestling and not one of the three, so got the worst of it as to be cross with the other(s), except for once in a great while.  Often, two would be wrestling and the third would jump right in to make for vigorous, but contented three-way wrestling!

The smallest of the four, was the black female.  Her reflexes, notably quicker than the others, compensated for her smallness.  As Faded Glory was fearful she was fearless.  Her legs and paws were slender and graceful.   As I watched her antics—in my mind —words formed   —“quick—ER—than a cat!  Hence, she was named Zenyatta, after the amazing filly in the video above (click on the tab–top row).  Zenyatta, the dancing racehorse, the swift racehorse, was retired after 19 straight wins and one loss.  The name of this unique horse was perfect for our unique kitten.

So, I looked out the back door one morning, and they were gone—but not for long! Matilda had moved them to just behind the privacy fence, under a huge fir tree.  For at least a week, she had them all to herself, again.  We, purposely, left them alone, fearing she would move them, further away, if we intruded.  But, one day, heavy rainfall was predicted.  I held off until the rain began; predictions don’t always mean for sure.  But, I could see, by then, a downpour was at hand.

By the time I got three kittens under cover, I was soaked—Faded Glory had lit out for under the shed as soon as he saw me lifting the lower branches.  Matilda showed up much later.  I’ll never know exactly what she thought.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t gratitude that her kids were not drenched, because the next morning, only three were inside the privacy fence.  Zenyatta was gone!  Imagine my chagrin!

I determined to keep an eye on the rest and to be alert for opportunity to, perhaps, learn the whereabouts of her new hiding place.  But, drat!  After frequent trips to the window, Faded Glory was gone!   Just after dark, the other two were huddled under daylily leaves.  When I looked again, about 15 minutes later, she had nabbed another!  Zelda, the female calico was gone.  Only Shiloh, the yellow kitten, remained.

Not to be outfoxed, again, I picked Shiloh up, and took him inside, where he spent the evening in my lap, and the night in a cardboard box.  Expecting Matilda to show up around 6:00 in the morning, I resolved to let the kitten out then, and to do better at keeping an eye out.  Still, I already knew she would give me the slip, if at all possible.

My spouse woke me at 5:45 a.m., to say the cat was at the door.  I got right up, got the kitten and food and put both out.  Then we hatched our plan and watched like hawks!  The plan was to move one car from garage to the yard, where I could wait inside to watch her come around the corner from the back.  The car was positioned; then we alternated keeping watch at the back window.

She ate, fed the kitten, washed his face and hers, and proceeded to dawdle.  She seemed, always, to have a mystical sense of knowing when my attention was diverted.  At this point of the morning, both were on the stoop right outside the back door.  I was at the window when I heard her emit a warning growl. Then, in a flash she shot off the stoop to the left after a big old yellow tomcat from across the street.  I hurried to the door for a better view.

Here’s where it got comical!  I leaned out the door and to my surprise the big yellow tomcat was on his back leaning up against the corner of fence and house with all four paws up in the air; his usual exit, now blocked;  and she was right in his face with her fur in alert mode!   Both were frozen like statues; his face looked as if he was pleading; “have mercy”!

My leaning out broke the spell and he shot to the opposite side of the fence, where there was an opening, and made a lightning swift exit.  She was right on his tracks!  Zing!  Gone!  All we could do was laugh, and laugh, and laugh some more.  Big Yeller, as we called him, got an unexpected stand of fury from our protective mother cat.  Normally, he would have strolled in, unchallenged, to gobble up anything remaining in her food dish. It was so funny! Just the memory of that “have mercy!” look, still brings us a chortle.

I wish I could see a replay of the entire episode; because from the instant mother cat shot off the stoop …… within a split second, her much startled and frightened kitten shot off in the same direction, and dropped a height of the two steps ….. to where the bewildered critter found refuge and a momentary huddle ‘twixt corner made by house and stoop.   His sole experience with the stoop thus far had been barely navigating the two steps up, and being stumped at how to navigate the two steps down.  However, that didn’t interfere with his shooting from the stoop ─ quick as lightening and smooth as silk!

After my retrieving the kitten, half concealed by daylily leaves; and reuniting the two, Matilda picked him up by nape of his neck … as I watched!  I was dumfounded. Obviously, she had scrapped the usual ploy of waiting until we were distracted, and the coast clear to vanish with the last kitten to the new hiding place.  The tom cat showing up, apparently, changed her mind.

With our cell phones in hand, my spouse assumed my watch at the window.   I went out through the garage and climbed into the car parked in the yard, which would allow me to observe her carrying the kitten without her being the wiser.  Our plan worked like a charm! In less than a minute she came around the corner with kitten in tow.  I called and told my spouse that she was in my sights, headed to the front.

As soon as she reached the garage, she turned right; went up our front walk past the stoop, turned right, again, to disappear under the bushes running all along the front of the house.  I relayed this new development to my spouse, who then went the opposite direction around the house to see if the cat came out from the other end of the bushes.  She didn’t; so now we knew, and with great relief that the kittens were close at hand and relatively secure.

After the morning’s encounter with what may well be the father of the kittens, she threw dawdling and caution to the wind; without the usual wait for us to get preoccupied.  We could only suppose the tomcat showing up gave her urgency to get back around front with the last kitten.

My hunch that she would move them no more, proved right.  In less than two weeks, she moved them back to inside the privacy fence, and from then on seemed perfectly content to let us share their affections. ~

Especially, for home schooling, today’s post is followed by:

a bit of prose about cats, written by an unknown person (anonymous) in the style of William Shakespeare.  The prose is written as if being spoken by a cat; and is a parody of the lines spoken by Prince Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.  The speaker is lamenting the unpleasant things of life.

quotes about cats that just might make you and your children smile or laugh out loud.  We certainly know that both smiles and laughter are good for the soul!

vocabulary words: again, a long list.  Select and use as you wish.  Help your children understand the value of learning and using new words to add interest, meaning, and impact to what they say and write.  Make sure a dictionary is always handy, and encourage your children to develop the highly important habit of looking up new words.  Learning to be adept with words is best started, early as possible.

HAMLET’S CAT

To go outside, and there perchance to stay

Or to remain within: that is the question.

Whether ‘tis better for a cat to suffer

The cuffs and buffets of inclement weather

That nature rains on those who roam abroad,

Or take a nap upon a scrap of carpet,

And so by dozing melt the solid hours

That clog the clock’s bright gears with sullen time

And stall the dinner bell.

To sit, to stare outdoors, and by a stare to seem to state

A wish to venture forth without delay,

Then when the portal’s opened up, to stand

as if transfixed by doubt. To prowl; to sleep;

To choose not knowing when we may once more

Our re-admittance gain: aye, there’s the hairball;

For if a paw were shaped to turn a knob,

Or work a lock or slip a window-catch

And going out and coming in were made

As simple as the breaking of a bowl.

What cat would bear the household’s petty plagues,

The cook’s well-practiced kicks, the butler’s broom,

The infant’s careless pokes, the tickled ears,

The trampled tail, and all the daily shocks

That fur is heir to, when of his own free will,

He might his exodus or entrance make with a mere mitten?

Who would spaniel fear,

Or strays trespassing from a neighbor’s yard,

But that the dread of our unheeded cries

And scratches at a barricaded door

No claw can open up, dispels our nerve

And makes us rather bear our humans’ faults

Than run away to us-guessed miseries?

Thus caution doth make house cats of us all;

And thus the bristling hair of resolution

Is softened up with the pale brush of thought

And since our choices hinge on weighty things,

We pause upon the threshold of decision.

~Author Unknown

Quotes:

“Cats have it all – admiration, an endless sleep, and company only when they want it.” ~ Rod McKuen

“Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier ‘n puttin’ it back in!” ~ Will Rogers

“If only cats grew into kittens.”  ~ R. D. Stern

“My husband said it was him or the cat.  I miss him sometimes.”  ~ Anonymous

“A cat will assume the shape of its container.”  ~ Author Unknown

“It’s very hard to be polite if you’re a cat.  ~ Anonymous

“If cats could talk, they wouldn’t.”  ~ Nan Porter

“A cat in grass is a tiger in the jungle.”  ~ English proverb

“The cat is mighty dignified, until the dog comes by.”  ~ American proverb

“The cat has nine lives – three for playing – three for straying, and three for staying.”  ~ English Proverb

I had to let my husband go.  The cat was allergic.  ~ Author Unknown

Buy a dog a toy, and he’ll play with it forever.  Buy a cat a present, and it will play with the wrapper for ten minutes.”  ~ Author Unknown

“The cat is there when you call her – if she doesn’t have something better to do.”  ~Bill Alder

“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.”  “What? You have food?  No food?”  Not now:  I need to check out these curtains.” ~ Author Unknown

Vocabulary Words:

bewildered

calico

chagrin

chortle

cultivate

dawdle

elements

emaciated

feral

forage

forlorn

intrude

muse

nape

peer

refuge

stoop

thrive

tow

whimsical

Suggested lessons:

Assign your children/child to write a short poem or prose about cats.  For help in starting a poem, give them pairs of rhyming words such as cat/hat; funny/sunny; fight/night light/kite; lap/nap; ball/call; jump/bump, fish/dish, hall/tall/; small/fall.

Or:  have them draw a picture of Matilda and Old Yeller in the corner; with Matilda’s fur reflecting her protective mode, and Old Yeller’s face that seems to be saying, “Have mercy”!

(If you haven’t read the vocabulary instructions at the end of all previous four posts; I encourage taking a few minutes to do so that you may better apply today’s lesson.)

Each week, display the selected words on the refrigerator, and encourage their use during discussions and conversations –by every household member.  Explain, or remind them, that the Dictionary words may have more than one meaning.  The assignment is to look them up in the Dictionary, and find the meaning that fits the context of the sentence or paragraph.

As the week draws to an end, consider rereading to the children, An August Cat Saga and ask them if learning and using the new words has added more enjoyment in hearing the story a second time.

Finally:

Use the prose in Hamlet’s Cat to help them experience empathy for animals that rely on humans for protection and substance.

From time to time, or year to year, have them reread Hamlet’s Cat.  As they get older, they will better comprehend what they are reading.  It may, also, help them acquire a real appreciation of Shakespeare.

KILLED A KING; KILLED BY A KING

The picture is an artist’s portrayal of the unexpected death of William II, King of England, on August 2, 1100.  Yes, it is true.  William II, favored son of England’s Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings, 1066, was killed while hunting in New Forest, the king’s preserve. 

At mid-day, William II, also known as King Rufus and hunting companion Walter Tyrrell had ridden off together plunging deep into the forest; Walter with two and Rufus with four of the king’s “special arrows”.  Elsewhere in the forest was the rest of the king’s hunting party, including his younger brother, Henry.

At nightfall, a charcoal burner came across the deserted body of King Rufus, who, because he was not a good king wasn’t liked much by anyone.   He had been killed by an arrow.  His body was dumped by the charcoal burner into his peasant’s cart and delivered to the Cathedral at Winchester.

There was speculation on how Rufus met his fate.  Could his death have been by the hands of his younger brother Henry, next in line to be king?   Or by those of his older brother Robert, whose quarrel with the Conqueror had gotten him exiled across the English Channel to Normandy? 

All three of the ambitious brothers had experienced tumultuous relationships with each other.   Both, Robert and Henry stood to gain by the king’s death.  Although Robert was out of the country, either of the two brothers could have had Rufus killed by the hands of another; and Henry was in the forest on the king’s fateful day. But, the king had many enemies; as well, so the list of suspects was more than just several.

Walter Tyrrell, whether it was an arrow shot by him, by intent or not, was nowhere to be seen.  He knew he would be blamed, regardless.  If he did kill the king, I prefer to think it was by accident.  I prefer to think that is the way it was because Wat Tyrrell is one of my ancestors.  

Two stories exist of Wat’s whereabouts from that time on.  One is he sped from England and never returned.  In the other, he did return, eventually.  In The Conquerors, a 1946 historical novel by English historian William B. Costain, the author included this brief description of William, II: “There is only one good thing to be said about the reign of William II, called Rufus.  It was brief.”

My mother, a high school teacher of Latin and English, could, I’m sure, have just as much enjoyed teaching European and America History.  It is probable that her interest in history increased over the more than fifty years that she researched family genealogy.

My keen interest in history − both American and European, stems from both of my parents; through my dad, by the many family stories of past generations, told him by his grandfather.  But I especially recall my mother saying, when telling interesting stories from history − especially of English kings and queens − that historical truth was often stranger than fiction.  Indeed, I did and still, agree.

I have a great regret that appears fixed for the remainder of my earthly time.  My mother could never get any of her six children to take time to share in her genealogical passion.  Although I wanted to, as did others of us, including several grandchildren; there never seemed time enough to get involved beyond listening to the latest “finds”. 

Her family chart had evolved over 50 years of sending letters across the country and waiting for the desired response.  Sometimes, years later, the mail would bring return of one of her neatly penned, self stamped, self addressed envelopes.  More often than not, new information lay inside along with a joyous moment of hoped for success. 

Only, after my spouse and I became caretakers for Mom, at age 95, did I realize how wondrously the web had opened up to genealogists.  I knew that therein lay a fantastic time of sharing in her great journey through the past; and it was a right time, at last.  But, first at hand, was the task of surmounting my mother’s reluctance to learn operating basics of a computer.

We started with simple emails to family members who had acquired computers.  “Just a few lines, Mother”, I said, for the first session.  After a brief introduction to a keyboard stranger to her than the old manual typewriters, I left the room so she could learn on her own and take time to attune to so different an experience.  In a little while, I looked in.  She had dozed off …… with the little finger of her left hand on the “Z” key.  On the screen were rows and rows and rows of “Zs”!  

I could only smile.  Because she had a wonderful sense of humor, and a charming ability to laugh at her self, I could not resist waking her to share in this unexpected moment to laugh, together; and certainly that is what we did. 

Next, she learned to play solitaire; first Free Cell, before advancing to Spider Solitaire.  I treasure the moments of passing her room and glimpsing her sitting, serenely and poker straight in her chair, enjoying this new way of playing cards.

But, her old excitement for genealogy just wasn’t there.  Not until we had our first session, and swiftly found an ancestor who had long evaded her efforts.  She saw, then, how researching by computer went lickety-split.  Alas!  Before nine days had passed, my dear angel of a mother had passed from this earth − felled suddenly by pneumonia − shortly after our first session. 

The following Monday, she had wakened early, having trouble breathing.  Within a few hours she was in the hospital, and for the first several days, was miserable.  By Friday, she was recovering, but not quite her old self. 

I went to the hospital in the evenings, sometimes with spouse along; always, taking a fresh salad of green lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar that she so enjoyed.    On Saturday morning I was there with a fresh cut up pear; pleased to have it sweeter than normally found in grocery stores.  We had a brief conversation before a nurse came in to draw a sample of blood.

My mother’s veins were “roll over” veins − BIG TIME!  I always pitied a lesser experienced nurse; but, I pitied my mother more to see the vein, as usual, continue to evade the needle.  So it was that morning, and seeing more than usual distress of my mother, I offered to the nurse: “don’t feel bad; usually, a nurse more experience with roll over veins takes over.  Can you have one come in?”  Unless I misread the reaction of the nurse, she was glad to be relieved.  In a few minutes in came an older nurse, and in her expert hands the needle quickly found a vein.

At the same moment; however, my mother sneezed and the needle came out.  First, a pause; then quietly and pleasantly, the nurse said, “my, but that was an ill timed sneeze”. Surmising my mother had had quite enough, she said, ‘I’ll try again, later”, and left. I couldn’t believe the timing, and grimaced to think the unpleasant process had yet to be completed.

With her eyes closed, my mother began saying, “no, no, no, no, no, no”.   Clearly, she had had enough of seemingly endless poking and invasive needles chasing her “roll over” veins.  She continued to protest, “no no, no, no….”

Distressed, I wrapped my arms around her and I said, “I love you, Mother.  Please stop saying, no.  I’m sure it will go better when this nurse tries again”.  Then, I kissed her forehead.  I didn’t know what else to do or say.   It just wasn’t her nature to pity herself or to make big bones of life’s unpleasant moments; for me, it was uncharted territory and terribly wrenching.

I yearned for her mood to lighten, but was unable to connect with her.  Her mind seemed fixed elsewhere.  So, telling her I would return late afternoon, I left and drove home; my heart was heavy.  Still, with the positive outlook I inherited or acquired from her, I fixed in my mind returning later, to see her old cheerful spirit returned.

That evening, when I walked into her room, she was sleeping peacefully. I had not the heart to wake her after seeing her so troubled earlier.  I hunted up her nurse to have the salad put into a refrigerator, and was assured my mother would have it when she awoke.   I drove home; this time, disappointed to not have spoken with her; yet, gratified to have seen her sleeping so peacefully.

The phone rang, just after midnight.  I didn’t hear it because my sleep was sound; a life time habit whenever I experience mind troubling and body exhausting times. My spouse spoke my name to wake me; “the hospital just called ….. your mother died!”  It was a moment unlike any I had ever faced, and surreal. 

We dressed.  As we drove to the hospital all I could think was, my mother is dead; died with not one family member present, and I never got to see her smile again or hear the optimism she so readily conveyed. Closure, I was convinced, would forever evade me.  Today, still, I know closure will not come until I walk through heaven’s pearly gate; oh, joy, joy!

For many months that followed her death, I had many sleepless nights; found comfort in my computer and continued research I’d thought to share with her.  I felt gypped that she was gone before we could have had a satisfying pursuit of ancestors, together.  But, at the same time, while searching the web, I strongly felt her presence, strongly felt her delight at my “finds”; which was powerfully comforting.  In the many months ahead, lickity-split accumulation of four big notebooks of ancestors wondrously soothed my aching spirit.

So it was.  My discovering our connection to Walter Tyrrell was not to be physically shared with Mom.  Nor, was finding the − killed by a king ancestor − on my dad’s side, which would have thrilled him.  But, in my heart, I’m sure she already knew.  I believed then, and still believe, that she was having the time of her spiritual life ….. exploring the universe!  Maybe that’s how it is, and maybe it isn’t. But, that’s what I choose to believe; it keeps me content.

Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, 22nd August 1485; Richard is on a white horse with blue trappings

The man killed by a king was my 14th great grandfather, William Brandon.  The king was Richard III.  The challenging Lancastrian army was led by Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, who on that day became England’s next king. The picture, by Welsh artist, Mark Churms was completed in 1993.

William Brandon was the standard-bearer for Henry Tudor.  Thomas Costain, in his historical novel, The Last Plantagenets, aptly describes the last moments of, both,  standard-bearer Brandon and King Richard III:

“Followed by a small mounted group of his most faithful men, the young king (he was only thirty-two years old) charged headlong into the enemy lines.  Swinging his (battle) ax, he bore down and killed Brandon, Henry’s standard-bearer.  Before him now loomed the gigantic figure of Sir John Cheney.  A single blow unhorsed that powerful knight.  On his left arm, he bore his heavy shield and with it also he controlled the wild course of his maddened steed.”

(Cheney was a well-known jousting champion, also, another ancestor.)

Then, Richard was unhorsed.  He plunged ahead:

“It was a magnificent effort and almost brought the two leaders face to face.  But the king’s handful had thinned behind him.  He stood alone at the last and fought singlehanded against the Lancastrians who now swarmed about him.  His armor broken, his ax limp with his weariness, he went down under the blows of his enemies” 

“Richard’s crown, retrieved from a clump of bushes, it is said, was placed on Henry’s head before he rode out to direct the pursuit of the royal army.  The Wars of the Roses had come to an end and a new family of kings and queens would succeed the Plantagenets”

The Last Plantagenets by Thomas B. Costain (pub. 1962)

Long after Henry VII was dead, his son Henry VIII hired Italian historian, Polydore Vergil (or Virgil), to document the lives of himself and his father.   Vergil’s account includes the betrayal of Richard by the Stanley brothers, Sir William and Thomas, 2nd Baron Stanley, who watched from the sidelines with their own private army before switching allegiance to Henry of Richmond and entering the battle.

The following quote from Vergil captures the betrayal:

 “Characteristically leading from the front King Richard slays many a knight, including William Brandon (Henry’s standard-bearer) in his vain attempt to kill his rival. At this crucial moment Lord Stanley decides to join Henry’s cause, attacks the choice force and drives it from the field. In the brutal hand to hand fighting the king is unhorsed and though surrounded, fights to the end.  King Richard alone was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies – his courage was high and fierce and failed him not even at the death which when his men forsook him, he preferred to take by the sword, rather than by foul flight to prolong his life”

As my mother said, historical truth is often stranger than fiction.  I must add; and more fun when it includes one or more ancestors.

Today’s post ends with a bit of Shakespeare and an ancient Ballad with three vocabulary words, for the most part, obsolete.

First:  From Richard III, Act 5, Scene IV, comes one of Shakespeare’s best known lines; spoken by Richard III.  In this scene,  one of Richard’s principal councilors, Sir William Catesby, speaks first.  

Fighting alongside of Richard at Bosworth Field, Catesby was captured, and three days later was executed.  Not until I googled Sir William Catesby to find out more about him, did I discover, he, too, is an ancestor.  In working back to royalty, or to ancestors that hobnobbed with royalty, one is likely to turn up lots of ancestors.

Seeing Richard unhorsed, Catesby speaks with urgency to Norfolk (John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk).  A loyal supporter of and good friend to Richard,  Norfolk,  would die on Bosworth Field; but, not before Catesby says to him:

Rescue, my Lord of Norfolk, rescue, rescue!
The king enacts more wonders than a man,
Daring an opposite to every danger:
His horse is slain, and all on foot he fights,
Seeking for Richmond in the throat of death.
Rescue, fair lord, or else the day is lost!

KING RICHARD III:

A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!

CATESBY:

Withdraw, my lord; I’ll help you to a horse.

The Ballad of Bosworth Field

Amongst all other Knights, remember

Which were hardy, and therto *wight;

Sir William Brandon was one of those,

King Henry’s Standard he kept on height,

                      −stanza 155

And *vanted it with manhood and might

Until with *dints he was driven down

And died like an ancient Knight,

with Henry of England that wears the crown.

                      −stanza 156

 − Anonymous

 

*wight²:  (Saxon) strong, brisk, active, brave, swift, nimble

*vaunt-courier: (Saxon) 1. a soldier sent out in advance of an army;  2. a forerunner; precursor

*dints: (French) 1. a blow; a stroke; 2. Force; violence; power exerted; as to win by dint of arms, by dint of war, by dint of argument or importunity; 3. The mark made by a blow; a cavity or impression made by a heavy blow or by pressure on a substance

Wight and vaunt are pretty much obsolete, but still found in Webster’s New World Dictionary; 3rd College Edition.  For dints, I had to go to my great grandfather’s 1830’s Dictionary.

The following is the unedited Ballad of Bosworth Field:

amongst all other Knights, remember
which were hardy, & therto wight;
Sir william Brandon was one of those,
King Heneryes Standard he kept on height,

& vanted itt with manhood & might
vntill with dints hee was dr(i)uen downe,
& dyed like an ancyent Knight,
with HENERY of England that ware the crowne.
—Bosworth Ffeilde, anonymous author

If you managed to get this far …. not all are interested in English history ….. won’t you agree with me that English History, indeed, is fascinating?