This week has been blessed with an offering of fascinating, moving speakers. All of whom reminded the listeners of the gifts and sacrifices these individuals had given a nation.
Monday evening the Elijah Iles House Volunteer Appreciation Dinner wrapped up with a performance by Ms. Kathryn Harris as Harriet Tubman. Ms. Harris was enthralling, and educational, as she gave a overview of Harriet Tubman's life. I had known that Mrs. Tubman was a remarkable woman, but I had not realized to what extent. It was hard to conceive of several 3 months to 6 month journeys, mostly on foot, as she led her "passengers" from Maryland to either Pennsylvania or Canada. Or that she was the only woman to lead a Union ambush, and free several hundred slaves. Or that she went on to work for the Federal government, and later ran a "old folks home" - all without the ability to read or write. And that she lived till her 90's.
Then, last night, I attended the Sangamon County Historical Society's (SCHS) Pre-Veteran Day Salute, which was held out at U of I - Springfield's Brooken Auditorium.
I came in a little late, but was able to hear most of Mr. Mark DePue, Director of the Oral History program at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, interview of Mr. Kenneth "Tuck" Belton (WWII veteran), and all of Mr. Bernie Goulet's (Korean War) interview.
As I listened to these two men it was obvious that the experiences in these two wars had not dimmed in their memories. For the listeners it was like hearing of a dire movie come to life - hard to imagine anyone living through such circumstances.
How could you not be moved as you listened to these two men?
Such as when Mr. Belton, who fought with the Resistance in Holland, recounted having to stand by and watch 10 Dutch men being gunned down on the street. The only thing keeping him from reacting was the touch of a young woman's hand - warning him to hold back.
To imagine what it would be like to have to portray a deaf/mute, and refrain from any response when the enemy tested you with a loud sound.
Or when he told how he had to hide in a patch of woods in January. He said that a furry dog came by - that he wished that dog could be with him now - as the dog saved his life. He bundled the dog into his coat, and the two slept beneath those trees, in the snow, that night.
It would have to been a hard heart not to feel the grief as Mr. Goulet told of the company cooks crying when they realized their men would not come back.
Or when the officer who was Mr. Goulet's mentor, was gunned down only a few feet ahead of him.
Later there was a little reception, and I took the opportunity to thank Mr. Belton for his service. I wish I could have spoken with Mr. Goulet too, but he was busy.
And it was hard not to cry - not just at their stories - but at the fact I knew that these men were soon to be woven into the tapestry of history. Bright threads that is true, but soon all we would have is their stories.
I always look forward to performing storytelling at the Elijah Iles House's Clara Irwin Strawberry Party. This year I had a little more time to help out, both before and after, the event.
Wednesday afternoon was the day for festivity preparations, and many of the volunteers were on hand to get everything ready. My occupation was to help "stem" the strawberries so that they could be later washed, cut up, and sugared. Someone had gotten creative, and came up with the idea of using plastic straws to push the stems out. It really helped to make short work of the many pounds of berries - though the table and the people were both sticky and berry colored.
The next evening was perfect - still clear, but with mild temperatures, and it stayed that way from the beginning of the party till its end.
It was as if the weather was trying to make up for many so incredibly hot and grouchy last year!
The Clara Irwin Strawberry Party ended about an hour before the city's fireworks were to go off. This time was filled with clean up, and afterwards, a few volunteers settled on the front porch to watch.
To me this was a perfect way to spend the last of Independence Day. What better way than watching fireworks on the steps of one of the oldest houses in Springfield?
Even more poignant was that one of our volunteers was an exchange student from China. And I couldn't help but wonder if there was any better way to show off our city by offering both a gentle, but fun, part of our history, and a evening of companionship to end the day?
Somehow it all made me feel as if we had been woven into a tiny part of the house's long history.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.