Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
My Blog

Alive though Not

Yesterday, May 31, 2017, I spent 3.5 hours poring over Hempstead Village births and deaths records, 1890-1910. Afterward, I returned home so hungry that I could barely expend the effort to heat food, and once I ate, I fell asleep for two hours.
     Why the intensity? To my amazement, entering the records caused me to enter a living dream, wherein these people from more than 100 years past came alive. Their children got born, while their mothers' ages and the number of living siblings revealed the wild joy and heartrending trauma surrounding a growing family, and the fathers' occupations -- laborer, farmer, butcher, reporter, banker -- shaped the home in which the family constructed daily life.
     Not only that, but people of races or colors "other than the white" were noted with a C for Colored, B for Black, and African if they actually came from Africa.
    A note ab out Charles H. Ludlum, forty years involved with the school board, mostly as superintendent: I had read (but have not yet independently confirmed) that he separated colored from white children in schools, and had a separate colored school in the village. However, his name was on all the nonwhite births as attending physician. From looking at the births, I would have inferred that he had an especially caring relationship toward nonwhites in Hempstead. I have to examine this more closely.
    Reading of births was Part I. Reading of deaths was Part II, for more than once, a child whose birth I had seen showed up much too early in the deaths record. The emotional intensity of life surged through me in fires and floods. Photos of some of the people had appeared in my research of images, so now I could sense them standing around me. Their arms clasped each other and their children; they wept with both joy and grief. I walk with new fellow villagers in the ether of my life.

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