Today, my husband and I were doing our usually monthly grocery shopping. One thing I had on my list was lotion. When we got to the lotion aisle, my husband said “What brand?”. “Jergens”, I said, “original scent”. He laughed and said “That’s because it reminds you of your grandmother!” So true…
My maternal grandmother, Letha Rae Stewart Stephens (1908-1994), always had a milk glass bottle of Jergen’s lotion on her dresser. She used it every day. I love the smell of that lotion. Now whenever I smell the original scent I think of her and the many summers my siblings and I spent with my grandfather and her in Mountainair, New Mexico. I think of the daily trips to the post office to check the mail…going out to the farm…fishing in the Manzano Mountains…the numerous fruit trees in the backyard…climbing around all the Indian ruins…looking for arrowheads and picking bing cherries. And most of all, the smell of my grandmother as she hugged and kissed us each night before we went to bed.
“Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.” ~ Valdimir Nabokov
No big surprises in Bill’s ancestry. From working on his genealogy it appears most of his ancestors can be traced back to immigrating from Ireland. I do have one major brick wall on his side. His paternal grandfather, William H. O’Neill. Most of the first-born son’s on that side of the family were named William. No one talks much about him…all I have heard was he was a ne’er-do-well. From census records he and his wife were living separately after their 3 children were born. I did find his death certificate…apparently he was found with broken ribs along the side of a highway-cause unknown. My husband’s father is the one who identified him…but both parents were listed as unknown. This was even a surprise to my husband…said his Dad never told him much about his grandfather. And my father-in-law passed away over 20 years ago. Am hoping this DNA analysis will result in being able to break down that brick wall!
Finally bit the bullet and had my DNA analysis done through Ancestry.com. Two things I found interesting…one, that there is no Native American blood, as was often mentioned on my father’s side. And two, I wasn’t expecting that much Irish in me! But with a married name of O’Neill – I guess that’s a good thing. Have over 600 possible matches from others in the database, ranging from 4th cousins and closer. Closest being 2nd cousin. I have already connected with a 2nd cousin 1 x removed from my Grandpa Pyatt’s brother’s family! Will take some time to sort through them. My hopes with submitting my DNA is to see if I can break thru a brick wall with my 2nd great-grandfather, Needham Stephens, on my mother’s side. Will keep you up to date on any findings!
Below is a portion of a transcript written by my maternal grandmother, Letha Rae Stewart Stephens on her memories of summer life in Mountainair, New Mexico.
“In summer large crowds attended Chautauqua meetings in town. There were big Fourth of July celebrations with a bandstand set up in the center of Broadway, which played lively music all day and evening. County Fairs at Willard were well attended. Many times after bean crops were laid by there would be a week of camping for us. It took a long day to make the trip by wagon to Red Canyon campground with lunch at Manzano Springs.”
“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.” Teaching children values and giving them the opportunity to excel is essential to good parenting. However, I feel I must also provide my children (and myself) insight into the ones who came before us: our ancestors whose lives and stories have shaped us into who we are. This is my journey; these are their stories…