Author Archives: wonderfulstoryphotos

Plans for the Summer of 2021. By Linda Claire Hess Groshans

Have you ever been on an endless hold on the telephone while listening to a horrid music tape constantly punctuated by messages that tell you to continue waiting? Have you ever been in a waiting room somewhere for much longer than you anticipated?  

My life is still on hold. I have received dose 1 of the Moderna vaccine so I am on my way to being protected but my children have not received their vaccines. I would love to plan trips to see my children but that is complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic. My daughter, son-in-law and grandson live in Bavaria, Germany. I am not sure of the exact travel restrictions that Germany currently imposes on Americans. I am not sure if I would have to quarantine for 2 weeks upon arriving in their small village. Would I pose a potential risk to the people that I love the most by visiting with them after doing international travel? Still, I yearn to see them. My son is young and lives in San Francisco, CA. He is not vaccinated and that is unlikely to happen soon. 

So, I sit in this waiting room of sorts. I am so happy that I have received my vaccine, but I really need all the people I love to receive theirs too.  

My plans for this summer of 2021 are therefore restricted. When I think of ways that I might still have fun, I do think about my close infinity with the Great Lakes. Perhaps I will rent a beach house for the week on Lake Huron.  The beach walking would do me good. It might be fun to invite a friend or two to stay with me in the cottage. The activities would include picnics, beach walking, rock collecting, photography, campfires and drives along scenic by-ways. 

At home, I adore gardening. I look forward to tending my flower garden beds. I plan to retain my title as the Zinnia queen. I already have purchased the seeds (zinnias do not re-seed). I might venture off to the plant nursery to purchase a new rose bush as my way to show an affinity to my friends in Portland, OR. Portland is well known as the city of roses. In fact, from the police cars, the city buildings, and even the  storm sewers, everything in the City is marked by a rose emblem. Oh, the roses do thrive in the beautiful climate of Portland.   

I have another summer hobby that most folks would find rather archaic. I like doing laundry and hanging it outside to dry. I didn’t always have this passion. I attended a class through Osher on the history of laundry. There was something in all of the class photos and discussions that made me become extremely interested in laundry.  I also am very conscious of environmental concerns and this is one of the ways that I give myself a lower carbon footprint. 

I will take walks. I adore festivals, concerts, theater and museums but it has always been nature walks that take my fancy. I always take along my camera. I walk around all of Ann Arbor’s parks. We have so many to be very proud of. I will spend time with friends (those who have been vaccinated) and will drink a great deal of iced tea. My doctor gave me a new medicine that works perfectly but does not give me the allowance of holding any alcoholic beverage including my beloved wine. It is ok. I think it actually helped me to lose weight and I probably end up with more energy. 

I will find a way to be with nature. I will be in a beautiful place, but it is still my waiting room. I still wait for Covid-19 to be no longer with us. I wait for everyone close and in far off locations to receive their vaccines. 

So, this summer, I still wait.  

A Great Lakes shipwreck and my family connection. Urial (Uriel) Higbee 1822-1868

My photo from 1998 when I visited the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. I did not know then that I had a family connection to a well known Great Lakes shipwreck.

In 1998, I posed for photos at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle. I looked great that summer day. My blonde hair was long and wavy. I had some rather fine sunglasses and so I kept striking a pose by various boats and nautical items in the museum. What I did not know then was that I had a connection to a Great Lakes shipwreck.

I did have some nautical connections. After all, my father had served on a heavy cruiser named the USS Oregon during WWII. But I had personally never had any nautical experiences of my own. I had never been on a ship for a voyage of any sort. My nautical experiences had been only been to travel by canoe along the river, a rowboat on a lake, or paying for a steamboat tour.

Still, I felt a deep connection to all things nautical and certainly a bond to the amazing Great Lakes. After all, I am from Michigan and as the expression goes, “4 out of the 5 Great Lakes prefer Michigan.” I loved the Great Lakes so much that most of my vacations as an adult centered around going to a cottage on the Oscoda shores of Lake Huron. Every morning while at Lake Huron, I walked to the beach with coffee in hand and watched the massive Great Lakes steamers that plowed through the water. I telepathed my sincere good wishes to the crew who worked on those massive freighters.

The Great Lakes shores have plenty of tourist shops and I would often visit them and see the sad books about Shipwrecks. It tore at my heart and although many folks are eager to purchase this type of book, it seemed much too sad for me. I would not even pick up the book to look at any possible sad illustrations or photos.

Many of us probably know the Gordon Lightfoot song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” I still feel profoundly sad to hear the song. Here are some of the lyrics that stress the dire historical moment.

“And later that night when the ship’s bell rang
Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too
T’was the witch of November come stealin'”

It was in 2006 that I became fascinated with researching genealogy. My beloved mother had passed away that year and I was anxious to find all the family stories that I forgot to ask her about. During my searches on genealogy web sites, I had a bone chilling moment when I realized my family had a strong connection to the Great Lakes ship wreck of the Hippocampus. My 2nd great grandmother, Mary Ann Higbee Hess, was the big sister of Urial Higbee. It was Urial (my 2nd great granduncle) that perished and was lost in this well known shipwreck.

I started to read the very type of story that I had spent years avoiding in those gift stores. As I read, I looked at a pen drawing of the Hippocampus. The artist had pictured it in the angry swell Lake Michigan’s waters. Seeing the illustration wrought me with profound sadness. The same lakes that have always fascinated me with their majesty also could cause unspeakable loss.

Here are articles from the Saint Joseph Herald newspaper from 12 Sep 1868. This was one of the first articles that I found and it was very unnerving to see what may have caused the disaster. A story that literally hinges on a tired ship captain taking a day off and a load of too many peaches being placed on the ship.

There was another article that I found which gives greater context to the type of storm. This article appeared in the Herald-Palladium (St. Jospeh, MI) on 30 Nov 1981.

Herald-Palladium (St. Jospeh, MI) on 30 Nov 1981)

A full accounting may be found at the website Maritime History of the Great Lakes https://images.maritimehistoryofthegreatlakes.ca/53039/data

Urial (often Uriel) died at the young age of 42. He had been born in 1822 and had clearly lived in the North during the Civil War before his death in 1868. As I mentioned earlier, Urial was a brother to my 2nd great grandmother Mary Ann Higbee Hess. Mary Ann lived from 1813-1874. She was 54 years old when her brother Urial drowned. (Mary Ann Higbee is #LZ2G-HRP on Family Search. org.) You can read my blog about Mary Ann Higbee Hess at https://tellinglifestories.org/2017/12/17/mary-ann-higbee-hess-1813-1874-my-2nd-great-grandmother-a-story-of-a-michigan-pioneer-woman-and-mother-of-12/(opens in a new tab)

When Uriel Urial Higbee was born on April 4, 1826, in Sandusky, Ohio, his father, James, was 46 and his mother, Mary, was 43. He married Sarah Louise Dodge in 1844. They had five children during their marriage.

My favorite things by Linda Claire Groshans

Favorite things- people, places, experiences described by the feeling they evoke.

Children/Grandchildren: Pride, Joy, Purpose, Love, Hope for their future, Protective, Fun, Calming, Life with more Meaning

Family: Unconditional Love, Pride, Joy, Truly Me, Gentleness, Tender Feelings, Belonging

Jamaica: Freedom, Happiness, Fun

Zoos: Exploration, Fascination, Happiness

Flowers & Botanical Gardens: Uplifting, Sense of beauty and awe, Inspiring, Breath taking, Joy.

Computer: Proud of myself, What I understand, I feel smart

Writing: Pride, Joy, Purposeful, Intense, Memorable, Memory keeper in Preservation efforts

Woods: Content, Peaceful, Wonder, Imagination

Movies: Sad, Happy, Entertained, Excited

Friends: Loved, Mad, Silly, Happy, Feminine, Needed, Open, Glad to have a place to share

Great Lakes: Awe, Motivated, Peaceful, Fun

Vacations: Happy, Childlike, Highlighted

Phone Calls: Closeness, Purpose, Thought Provoking, Talking with Khaki every morning is completely Joyful

Books and Magazines: Dreams

Falling in Love- a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

My sister Mary Ann came to me with an idea just before my 18th birthday. My birthday gift from her would be a completely arranged blind date. All I had to do was be willing. My sister and her boyfriend would arrange for this blind date to be a double date to the circus that was playing in the Metro area. According to their plan, I would not meet my date until he arrived at my home on my eighteenth birthday.  

I am now embarrassed to admit that my questions about my blind date were about as shallow as a could be. You see these questions were purely based on his physical appearance and had little to do with his intellect or nature. 

“What does he look like?” I wanted to know. 

“He is tall and very good looking.” my sister explained. 

Now this sounded promising to me. I had just purchased a pair of 3 suede high heels with a metal stud décor, and I was relived to find out he was a tall guy so I could easily wear my new shoes without towering over my date’s head. Looking back at this philosophy and qualifying a date by his height or my shoes seems ridiculous to me now, but at that time it was paramount. 

“How tall?” I asked her. 

She surprised me when she said that he was 6’5” tall. Yep, this could be good because I could easily wear those new high heels. And this was important because I also had a new wool vest and hot pants combination outfit. The hotpants were wool plaid and they matched to my new high heeled shoes.  I am so sorry that no photograph seems to exist of me in this smoking hot outfit.  

Funny the things we choose to remember through the decades, but those hot pants and those shoes were one of my finest “drop the mic” looks. My polished look had also been achieved by wearing curlers to bed the night before so that my long blond hair would wave with body and shine.  

My parents were there to get the door when the doorbell rang on the evening of our date. My sister and her date greeted him into our home. All I had to do was walk down the stairs and meet him in the foyer. Now, as I imagined myself to be somewhat of a super model in the ultimate outfit, I tried to make my descent down the stairs a picture-perfect moment. I wanted to put all my theater and drama training into good use. Everyone was waiting for me at the bottom of the staircase. That also means that everyone was there to see me trip on the last step and make a small falling motion. I did not fall down completely because my blind date caught me as he broke my fall with his arms outstretched. 

When I looked at him, he was smiling down at me. He looked like a Greek god. He was handsome beyond my wildest dreams. He had perfect dark hair and the brownest of eyes. His physique was athletic and trim. And he was certainly tall. Even in my suede heels I only came to his shoulder height. He released me from his arms and warmly joked, “Wow, I guess you really fell for me.”  

The date was perfect. We enjoyed the circus and all the fun things that could accompany such a date including vendor snack foods. I don’t even remember if we did much talking. I had literally fallen in love with him at first sight. I was giddy with joy. Could this possibly be real? 

There were more dates in our future and getting to know him only secured my belief that I was truly in love with the perfect person. 

We were young. I still had college ahead of me and he would join the Air Force. We made it through those years writing long love letters and saving money for long distance calls. Our love flourished. He professed his love for me, and I was absolutely gone on him. I traveled to Andrews Air Force Base and he traveled to my college for visits as often as we could arrange it.  

About 5 years after we met, we planned our wedding. Jack became my husband. We had a magical honeymoon to Stratford, Ontario. We ate in fancy restaurants and attended the Shakespeare theater there. We held hands, kissed, and walked through parks and the city. I was charmed. For years after that honeymoon, we would recall moments of joyfulness that we shared.  

The years progressed and our first child arrived nearly nine years after we had first met.  Our daughter arrived and we became a family of our own. We were such good friends and parents.  

As our daughter grew, I also found a dream job working in management for a large Ann Arbor hotel. My career was going strong and so it seemed a good time for Jack to go to school on the GI bill and complete college too. 

We started to argue. We argued a lot. I don’t even know exactly what those fights were about anymore. We were not perfect, he was not perfect, and I was not perfect.  

19 years after we first met, we had a second child, our son. All of what I wanted was in my happy orbit. My beautiful children, my handsome husband, and a lovely house. I would make sure that the arguing stopped. I made it my career to try and be pleasing and lighthearted when we were together. I tried not to engage when he criticized me. I was sure it would all be fine.   

But it came undone. I just had not noticed that he had become increasingly unhappy. When he told me that the marriage was over it was a complete shock. I was sucker punched, the rug was pulled out from me, I hit a brick wall and the idea of divorce was a surprise to me. How could this have happened to us?  

Later, I would learn that love is not always enough to keep a marriage together. My love was not enough.  

I was terrified about becoming a single mother to a toddler and a teenager. I begged him. I cried and pleaded. And he left me. He left the family home with our children. We divorced.  Before long at all I heard that he had married his co-worker.  

I still loved him. He was married to someone else.  

Years have gone by. There were some new love affairs after my marriage, but I never remarried. When I think of him, I still recall that deep love we once shared so easily and my heart is sad that we did not make it.  I wish him well. I am ok. This February of 2021, I will turn 67 years old. It was 49 years ago that I fell for him. I do not regret that love story. I also no longer regret that he left because I have had a full vibrant life. I just wish that I could still wear those smokin’ hotpants and I do regret having no photo of that youthful woman I once was as my eyes looked up with adoration to that man who stole my heart.  

The Queen Ant a fable by Linda Claire Groshans, December 1973

The queen ant leaned forward in her throne, balancing her head between her two upper legs. An idea was racing madly through her elegant brain, but it was the kind of an idea which one can never put a finger on, especially an ant. Disappointment spread over the face of the beautiful queen, as she crossly pushed away the blank sheet of paper in front of her. The pen, which she had picked up with her second leg set, dropped with a ping to the small tile floor. One of the many work ants, which surrounded the throne room, made a move toward the fallen pen. While, at the same time, two other handsomely dressed ants raced to re-fluff the cushions and dampen cloths for the forehead of the queen. The queen, who appeared to be quite out of sorts, looked sadly into the solemn eyes of the young ant who was holding the cloth on her forehead. The young ant, in return, moved his eyes toward the floor, as he had been conditioned to do in such a case. 

“Dear young ant,” spoke the queen in a very gentle voice, “I am very anxious to help you and your fellow ants. I realize how hard it must be to live as a common working ant.” 

The young ant, who was a little uncertain about how to handle such a touchy moment, reached back into his mind for some words he might have been taught at the Conditioning School for Young Male Ants, but he could not remember learning any such words. Frustrated with himself, the young ant boldly replied, “Dear queen, I am not fit for thy service.  Please may I be excused, so that I might be executed in a manner which befits such a stupid ant as I.” 

“No” the queen answered boldly, as a smile broke across her face. “No, I command you to remain in my service!” 

The poor young ant, whose antennae had already fallen, began to cry desperately, “Dear queen, I couldn’t…I am just a stupid, oh dear.” 

The other work ants had frozen in their places and were witnessing the whole scene with dumb-struck faces and tear-filled eyes. The queen jumped up boldly on her throne. She looked over her court with happy eyes, and screamed very loudly, “I love you all, and I want to give a present to each one of you to show my love!” 

The female ants swayed in their shoes, and several of the male ants began to develop symptoms of a nervous breakdown. This seemed to make no difference to the queen, for she only smiled wider, and giggled louder. 

“I will give you freedom. I will give you free will, free choice, free speech, free education…Oh my dear ants, all your years have been spent in serving me, now you shall be your own masters. You have freedom.”  

“But what is freedom?” one of the boldest ants in the group finally managed to blurt out. 

“Why my dear friends, it simply means that you are now as I am, and you can choose to do things, just as I always have done.” The queen answered patiently.  

There was a moment full of silence amount the ants, as they each gave themselves a pinch. There was another moment full of realization as the work ants began to understand what the queen had said. A few of the young ants began to giggle nervously, but the older ants began tearing at their clothes and shedding huge ant tears.  

Finally, an old ant stepped close to the queen and whispered in a cracked voice. “You have apparently experienced this ‘freedom’. Perhaps you could explain to us older ants, what we must do in order to appreciate freedom.” 

“But” blurted out the queen, who had been taken a little off guard, “Well, you see, um…. To experience well it is quite simple, you just, all you do is, oh dear…I don’t know.” The queen fell back down into her throne. 

“Your Highness, if I might suggest something?”  

The queen, who was really a bit upset cried out, “Well, yes, go right ahead.” 

The old ant leaned forward and began to speak in a thoughtful, determined way, “Well, freedom seems to be a state in which all ants would have the opportunity to decide what is best for themselves.” 

All the ants seemed to agree that this was a reasonable conclusion. And the queen motioned him to continue.  

“Aren’t we then implying that we all know what is best for ourselves?” 

“Well yes” cried the queen, “that is exactly the point.” 

“Well,” the old ant proceeded “What would happen if we all decided to would be best to stop working?” 

The queen who was a bit confused, answered truthfully, “we should all die.” 

“Exactly, and what would happen if each ant decided it would be best to tell all the other ants what they should do?” 

“There would be no order!” said the queen. 

“Quite right, you see dear queen, all ants do not want to be work ants. They would rather have the privilege of freedom.  But, if all ants had the privileges that you do, there would be no ‘common’ cause to do the work which must be done. For this reason, we have set up conditioning schools for your young ants. And even you, dear queen can never have freedom, because you are bound to be our ruler, and the mother of all new-born ants.” 

“Stop” cried the queen. Her big eyes looked out at the court. “You don’t have to worry. I know now that I was only talking about a dream, but it was a very colorful dream and I’ve never had one quite like it before. “Now I order you back to work.” 

Some of the ants grumbled, but others knew the old ant had just saved their lives. 

George Waltour Hess 1811-1899 my 2nd great grandfather

George W. Hess was my 2nd great grandfather.

When George Waltour Hess was born on December 10, 1811, in Crawford, Pennsylvania, his father, William, was 33 and his mother, Mary, was 36. He married Mary Ann Higbee on April 21, 1836. They had 12 children in 20 years. He died on February 26, 1899, in Berrien, Michigan, having lived a long life of 87 years, and was buried in Berrien, Michigan.

Here is a timeline of his life:

  • 1811 Age 0 Birth  •10 December 1811Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 1813 Age 1 Death of Parent drowned while traveling in a canoe on the Kiskimenitas River William Hess 1779–1813 • LWYR-MC7​​
  • 1836 Age 24 Marriage 21 Apr 1836 Crawford, Ohio, United States Mary Ann Higbee 1813–1874 • LZ2G-HRP​​
  • 1837 Age 25 Birth of Child 26 March 1837 Crawford, Ohio, United States Mary Jane Hess1837–1908 • KPQR-QF4​​
  • came to Michigan in 1837 according to the History of Berrien County , page 993 – they came because his wife’s parents had already moved to Michigan and wanted them to come. They came thru Chicago and then in a covered wagon to St. Joseph, MI.
  • In W. Emerson Babcock’s genealogy compilation, it is recounted that this young married couple “pressed the frontier” and made their way to Berrien County, Michigan.  The book (see page 22) then continues to describe the obstacles on their pioneer journey including the need for them to abandon their wagon when they were mid-stream in the St. Joseph River.  They mounted themselves on the horses and continued on their way through the forest trails of the Native Americans until they find Mary Ann’ parents who had gone before them to establish a dwelling. Mary Ann and George’s westward journey had taken them through Chicago towards St. Joseph, MI. They were literally traveling through marsh lands.  See here the documentation in A twentieth century history of Berrien County, MI Chapter XXVI. HagarCounty. https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/16860/dvm_LocHist004592-00674-1?pid=1084&backurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.com%2f%2fcgi-bin%2fsse.dll%3findiv%3d1%26db%3dGenealogy-glh19225593%26h%3d1084&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true#?imageId=dvm_LocHist004592-00674-1
  • 1838 Age 26 Birth of Child 11Mar1838Benton Twp, Berren, Mich Eliza J. Hess 1838–1905 • KHY2-6KG​​
  • 1839 Age 27 Birth of Child 6 June 1839Millburg, Berrien, Michigan, United States William James Hess1839–1915 • K8FF-YSJ​​
  • 1840 Age 28 Residence • Residence St Joseph, Berrien, Michigan, United States
  • 1840 Age 28 Birth of Child 29 JAN 1840 Clarissa Hess1840–1854 • KCCY-6F4​​
  • 1842 Age 30 Birth of Child1842,, Ohio Mary E. Hess1842–Deceased • MGZL-NZC​​
  • 1842 Age 30Birth of Child 30 MAR 1842Milburg,Berrien,MichiganAmarantha F Hess1842–1903 • KPQR-363​​
  • 1843 Age 31 Birth of Child 09 OCT 1843 Milburg,Berrien,Michigan Sophronia Hess1843–1919 • LCV3-LGQ​​
  • 1844 Age 32 Birth of Child1844,, Ohio George Hess1844–Deceased • MJDT-N71​​
  • 1846 Age 34 Birth of Child 22 February 1846Millburg, Berrien, Michigan, United States Ionia E. Hess1846–1913 • KZRL-YWF​​
  • 1848 Age 36 Birth of Child 21 APR 1848Milburg,,Michigan Lewellyn Hess1848–1905 • LHJH-NN8​​
  • 1850 Age 38 Residence • Berrien county, Berrien, Michigan, United States
  • 1850 Age 38 Birth of Child 12 May 1850Millburg, Berrien, Michigan, United States Juan James Hess1850–1929 • LWY5-1KN​​
  • 1853 Age 41Birth of Child19 June 1853 Millburg, Berrien, Michigan, United States Alta Vene Hess1853–1940 • KPQR-34W​​
  • 1854 Age 42 Death of Child1854 Clarissa Hess1840–1854 • KCCY-6F4​​
  • 1856 Age 44 Birth of Child 30 SEP 1856 Eugene Hess1856–1922 • L48M-PR5​​
  • 1857 Age 45 Birth of Child18 OCT 1857 Benton, Berrien, Michigan, USA Anabel Hess1857–1943 • KLQK-B3L​​
  • 1860 Age 48 Residence • Benton Township, Berrien, Michigan, United States
  • 1864 Age 52 Death of Parent 29 March 1864 Perryville, Hamilton, Ohio, United States Mary Judith Waltour1779–1864 • L782-D4Q​​
  • 1870 Age 58 Residence • Benton Charter Township, Berrien, Michigan, United States
  • 1874 Age 62 Death of Spouse 24 March 1874Millburg, Berrien, Michigan, United States Mary Ann Higbee1813–1874 • LZ2G-HRP​​
  • 1880 Age 68 Residence • Millburg, Berrien, Michigan, United States
  • 1899 Age 87 Death  •  1 Source  • 26 February 1899 Millburg, Berrien, Michigan, United States
  • 1899 Age 87 Burial  •  1 Source  • Burial 28 FEB 1899 Millburg Cemetery, Benton, Berrien, Michigan, USA

He served as the justice of the peace for several years. He was fluent in German.

George was by nature a carpenter and also being of German descent, was able to speak and interpret German.  He served as a justice of the peace in the area and was “an old school Democrat.”  He provided legal services to the German settlement. He was elected to office on a Democratic ticket in a Republican township- showing his popularity.

In historical accounts it is mentioned that George was “neat in appearance” and was able to do logging without getting his clothing “dirty.” Wow- a super great life skill! All kidding aside, it does seem that he was considered a respectable and kind man and community leader. I never heard stories from my family about Mary Ann or George, so all of my knowledge has come from searching Ancestry and the web and of course the entire Hess-Higbee compilation by Babcock.

This is a link to the Find a Grave website: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/95816607/george-walthour-hess

And that is when she heard a noise…a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

Linda was 40 years old and had 2 children. The recent divorce meant that Linda was the only adult living in the household. This was a new situation for her to find herself in. Up until this time, she had lived with her parents or her husband. The adjustment to single parenting was going fairly well for Linda. But the evenings loomed with loneliness and her fears.

Every evening, as Linda climbed into her bed, she would hear sounds. Until she lived as the sole adult, she had simply given no thought to the simple noises a house could make. Her parents and then her husband had been charged with the responsibility to keep everyone safe. Now, as Linda lay in her bed alone, the radiators banged in such a way that one could easily interpret the noise as a person trying to pry open a door!  Creak, tap, tap. The tree that needed trimming sometimes banged against the windowpanes sounded like a villain pounding against the door demanding entry. Pound, thump, pound.

Linda supposed that her fears were normal for an adult who needed to secure the safety of herself and her 2 children. She was just not used to being at such a level of responsibility. She loved her children and prayed for their safety and she felt that she needed to stay vigilant here in these dark hours before slumber set in.

Her neighbor friend Bill was a Federal Marshall. Bill had given her a defense plan after her divorce. He advised her to keep a pair of large men’s boots near the front door. This would supposedly fake out a burglar who upon seeing the boots would believe that she was not single and vulnerable. The work boots would suggest a rugged, tough guy lived in this house. Linda had purchased the perfect boots at the local thrift store and placed them on the front doormat.  Bill also suggested that a can of wasp spray would be a good defense tool. In the event of an intruder, Linda could kneel beside her bed and spray a good distance and with great accuracy towards the eyes of the intruder.

So, Linda went to sleep with her cell phone handy and a can of wasp spray always nearby.

Over a period of months, Linda began to calm herself. The radiator and the tree taps were simply background noises. Linda also began to have confidence in her handling of life as a single Mom and even laughed at her early fears and trepidations of nighttime dangers.

It was a frosty February evening when she heard a noise that caused her adrenaline to spike. Linda reached for her wasp spray and her phone. The noise had definitely been the sound of breaking glass. Linda analyzed where the noise had originated. It had clearly been the room just below her bedroom. It had come from the family room. This was also the only room in the house with a large glass door wall.

It was odd that at this serious threat she never thought of calling 9-1-1. It was probably because every other noise had always been a false alert. This was different. Someone had broken the glass downstairs. As Linda crept down the upstairs hallway, she could see that the children were snug in their beds and sound asleep. Linda knew her floor well, she knew where to avoid the creaking boards. Her bare feet traveled noiselessly along the hallway to the staircase.

There, at the top of the stairs, she paused waiting to see if she could hear anyone walking around downstairs. Instead, she heard again the noise of breaking glass. She could hear it and could envision the tiny pieces of glass that surely now covered her family room floor.  Still, she heard no footsteps. Linda creeped with great stealth down the stairs with the wasp spray at the ready.

Ever so carefully Linda came closer to the scene of the crime. If only she had left some boots by that back entry to her home.

In one dramatic gesture Linda reached the light wall switch. She flipped it on with fearless determination. She would face down her aggressor. The wasp spray was uncapped, and her finger was ready to press down the aerosol spray button.

That is when she heard the noise again and saw the source. Pumpkin, the new orange kitten, was walking the treble cleft part of the piano keyboard.  Ping, ping, ting, ting, ping. The same sound as Linda had heard before. A piano song that sounded just like breaking glass.

Linda nearly collapsed with relief. She lowered her wasp spray weapon.

Wilhelmina “Minnie” Ponto 1827-1898 by Linda Claire Groshans

Minnie Ponto was my 2nd great grandmother.

Here is how she relates to my family:

Minnie was born on 9 January 1827 in the Posen Province, of Prussia. At the time of her birth, her father, Martin Ponto, was 34, and her mother, Rosalia Schäffler, was also 34.

Minnie married Johann Christoph Krüger. He later changed his name to John Grayer. Minnie’s husband, John Grayer, was my 2nd great grandfather. I know about the name change from Krüger to Grayer. My mother told me that there had been some type of family division and some of the Krüger family members adopted a new name of Grayer.

Minnie was not the 1st wife of John Grayer. He had been married originally to Johanne Friedrike Berndt. John and this first wife Johanne had 6 children together. 4 of those children died as infants/toddlers. Sadly, Johanne would die on 28 March 1845 right after the birth of her son Gottlieb.

John Grayer did not waste time finding Minnie as his second wife. His first wife died in March of 1845, and he married Minnie on 12 May 1845. When Minnie married John she was a mere 18 years old. He was 38 years old.

Minnie and John had 9 children. 8 of those children were born in Prussia and the 9th child was born in the United States.

When Minnie and John left to emigrate to America they brought the 8 children who had been born in Prussia and they also brought along John’s son, Gottlieb, from his previous marriage.

They sailed to American on a masted ship called the Reinhard. They were in 2nd class. This was still above the class called steerage. My cousin, Linda S., wrote a great history of our family and speaks to the fact that in 2nd class they may have had beds/bunks whereas the families in steerage where in abysmal conditions.

The trip to America took 7 weeks. They arrived in NYC on 29 November 1864. This was horrific timing. America was in the Civil War and just a few days before their arrival there had been a Southern plot to burn down buildings and hotels in NYC.

After arriving in America, they made their way to Illinois. Later, the family moved to Washtenaw County in Michigan.

Minnie’s husband, John Grayer, died at the age of 69 in 1875. Because of the age difference between them, this would have made Minnie 48 years old at the time of his death. In the same year that John passed away, Minnie remarried. Her second husband was Christian Schmidt. She did not have children with this second husband. This second husband only lived 4 days after the death of Minnie in 1898. They had been living at 703 N. 5th Ave., Ann Arbor, MI.

Ann Arbor Democrat, Fri. April 29, 1898 Ann Arbor, Page 5

death certificate for Wilhelmina “Minnie” Ponto.

Minnie’s family ID # on Family Search is KCC5-DPY

Birthday on the beach a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

Oscoda, MI on Lake Huron photo by Linda Claire

Gloria opened the photo album from last summer. Her birthday party had been on the beach front of her small cottage situated on Lake Huron. Right now, she was especially grateful for the photo book because there would not be a family gathering this year for her birthday during the Corona Virus pandemic. This year, she would have a quiet birthday by herself. It was considered too dangerous for her family to make the trip. She had assured them that she would be fine and would look forward to their phone calls. “Don’t send presents this year.” She said. “We will all have a big party when this is over.”

The photos from her birthday party last year showed her family in a circle of chairs outside on the sandy beach. Gloria’s chair was resplendent with ribbons and a birthday banner. Gloria was pictured with a funny cone shaped birthday hat and a big smile filling her face. The sound of the gentle water lapping against the shore and the laughter of her family gave a better music than any stereo system. They had all commented about what a perfect day it was. That August 19th, 2019. Later that day, they would have a bonfire, but first they would have birthday cake on the beach, and she would open her gifts.

Gloria laughed when she looked at the photos of her gifts. Her sons and her daughters-in-law had purchased her a large George Forman grill for her. What a hoot! Gloria had the tiniest cottage and absolutely no counter or pantry space at all. Still, they seemed so proud of themselves. Gloria clapped her hands in a feigned delight and told them, “It is perfect, I can’t wait to use it and I will have you all over for some b-b-q.”

The next photo showed Gloria holding up a pastel green polar fleece shirt in front of her body. Her daughter,who had given it to her, had remarked, “Mom, now you won’t have to keep your old flannel shirt. This should be lovely on you. I thought you would like the color.” In fact, green was Gloria’s favorite color but her favorite shirt would still be the over sized flannel shirt that had been her husband’s. She felt comforted when she was wrapped inside the soft cotton of that shirt now worn through in some spots. It was her memory shirt.

“I do love the color.” Gloria said as she touched the new polar fleece garment. “Thank you everyone for these beautiful gifts, I sure am lucky to have this wonderful family.”

The next 3 photos in the album were so precious to Gloria she smiled from the memory of having received a perfectly selected gift from her grandson Dennis.

She noticed that these three photos were in the right viewing order and almost made a video of the moment. In the first photo, Dennis faced his grandmother with his little hands held behind his back. His smile was broad and excited. In the second photo of this series, Gloria is reaching her hands out to Dennis to receive the gift from him and her smile was just as broad and her excitement just as much as his. In the third photo, Gloria is caught clutching her hands to her heart with tear rimmed eyes as she looked at this perfect gift she had just received from her grandson.

Gloria had taught Dennis a love of nature from rock talk. Gloria’s grandson had lived in Gloria’s cottage home with his parents when he was very little. “Rock talk,” Gloria had said was “from rocking Dennis every night whilst she told him story after story about the wonders to be found along the sandy shores. Treasures await us everywhere,” she had whispered to him every bedtime. “We will find a treasure tomorrow,” she would promise as his eyes closed in slumber.

As a toddler, Dennis had held his grandmother’s hand while they beach combed. Her garden had some of the spoils of these adventures. Among those were gnarled pieces of drift wood, a feather tied to a string and hanging from a tree branch, some old abandoned sand shovels stuck into sand piles, and even an old row boat dragged into the garden that had now rusted and became their special place to play that they were pirates.

Last summer, when Dennis had visited, Gloria simply had spent her time sitting in a beach chair watching his adventures as he ran into the waves, or along the shores by himself. He always promised to stay in her view.

She put the photo album to the side. She would look through the rest of the photos later. Right now, she wanted to hold that gift again. She walked to her kitchen windowsill and picked it up. Such a precious gift. It fit perfectly into the palm of her aged hand. It felt right there.

It was a small smooth rock. No one else would ever know or experience the joy of that stone. How lucky she was that she had received a gift so perfect for her.

Gloria clutched it against her old flannel shirt. “Happy Birthday to me.” Gloria said and she really meant it. And that was August 19th, 2020. It was the year Gloria turned 70 during a global pandemic. It was also the year that she learned there was more than one way to define “rock talk.” For certainly the rock was talking to her sense of love. Her spirits were rising. Her love was lifting her up. She was content. Tomorrow, she would walk on the sand and look for treasure.

A sunset date a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

photo by Linda Claire

Randy was on his 4th date with Carey. He really liked her, and he hoped she would like his choices for the evening he had planned for them. After all, he had listened carefully to Carey on their previous date and he had made mental notes about her preferences for dining choices and types of activities.

And so, it was, that on a Friday night Randy arrived at Carey’s apartment to pick her up and drive her to begin the date at a deli with vegan options. When they finished dining, he drove straight over to the County Park and the hiking trails there.

Randy was clever enough to make the date romantic by announcing that he would leave his cell phone in the car. He told her that he wanted to give her his full attention. Randy had never been at this park and was not generally known for his sense of direction. Still, he figured how hard could it be to hike around a park.

Randy enjoyed Carey’s brilliant conversations and found it easy to be relaxed and be himself with her. His normal shyness was simply gone, and he felt an easy joy and comfort in her presence. Carey pointed out mushrooms, birds, and warned him of low branches. Randy had never had much outdoor nature experience, but it was quickly becoming his favorite activity and he wanted to learn everything from this attractive date.

And so, the time passed. And so more time passed. Randy simply paid no attention to the dimming light until Carey brought it to mind when she said, “Randy, this should be fun, we should be able to see the sunset together.”

Good grief, Randy was startled. He had no idea where they would see the sunset as he had no idea as to where they were and no idea which direction was west. In fact, he started to realize that he was lost. He was hopelessly lost in the County Park, but he did not want to alarm Carey.

Randy realized that this lost persons emergency might cause them to have to end up in the park in the complete dark of night. He began to worry about how a person spent a night in the outdoors. If only he had gone to Boy Scouts. Was there wildlife in this wooded park? He wondered. Perhaps there were coyotes. And Randy then began to think about any knowledge he might have on coyotes and how to fend them off. “Bears!” he thought to himself. “Oh my God, there could be bears!”

If only he knew where his Jeep was!

“Randy?” Carey asked, “Are you o.k.? You look worried.”

Randy had to punt. He quickly replied with a false bravado, “I’m fine, just wondering if you know the best place to watch the sunset.”

Carey pointed to the ridge ahead and then spoke, “Yes, I know this area. There is a good spot just up this path. We can sit right there and enjoy the whole view.” And as she said this the sky began to change to a beautiful shade of pink. Carey looked so happy. Was it his imagination or was she glowing?

Randy was grateful that they had spent some quality time together but, he was also aware that this would surely be the very last date invitation she would accept from a loser like him. If only he had just taken her out bowling.

The ridge appeared and it was complete with a fallen tree limb to lean against. Randy sat next to Carey hoping to make the next of the few precious moments that were left before he had to admit their plight. He promised himself not to cause her fear by telling her about lurking wild creatures that might stalk them soon.

Randy finally lifted his eyes off his hands clenched in his lap to the sky unfolding just over the ridge. Then, the miracle appeared. For Randy, the sky was parting, the angels were singing, the world was explosive with joy because just at the bottom of the ridge was the parking lot and Randy’s Jeep was parked right there! “Hallelujah,” Randy thought and held up a quite prayer of joy. By agreeing to watch a sunset, he had redeemed himself. Now, there was a possibility of getting that 5th date with Carey and next time he would take her bowling.

Randy put his arm around Carey and settled into watching his first sunset. Well, he had seen hundreds of sunsets, but he had never really seen one. This sunset was absurdly beautiful. He had no camera, but he took to memory the quickly changing shades of illumination being drawn across the sky. It was glorious. He glanced back at Carey and much to his amazement, she was looking right at him and then she planted a kiss on his lips.

“Wow,” Randy said. “I really like you Carey, and that amazing kiss!”

Carey smiled at him and said, “I have never been with any man so excited about a sunset. When you looked over the ridge, your expression was so joyous. Your magnificent reaction was contagious.”  

Randy decided right then that some secrets are worth keeping. He never would reveal that his glory moment was at discovering the parking lot and seeing his Jeep. Randy also decided right then and there to always bring his phone and to make sure it was loaded with a compass app and an app for hiking trails. It was all going to be o.k. After all, bowling should be a safe bet for that next date with his splendid new friend Carey.