This week’s challenge from Amy Johnson Crow is the theme of “Invite To Dinner”. As soon as I read this prompt, I knew who was coming to dinner: my maternal 2nd great grandparents. Amos Howell Boultinghouse and Maria Magdalina Kramer were born worlds apart…one a member of a patriotic Illinois plains family, and the other from the Alsace region of France. One was educated at home and taught how to hunt and survive; the other was educated in a convent school in the art of fine embroidery work. How they would meet and marry is written in the beginning chapters of their life stories.
Graciously inviting them to dinner, my aim is not the setting of the table and the presentation of a special dinner. Conversation loaded with thinking questions directed at each of them would be the menu. Welcoming them and embracing them for the first time would bring instant tears of joy. I have never found pictures of them, and I would be most anxious to glaze into their eyes and whisper “Grandpapa … Grandmere”.
Amos came from a family that had migrated from western Pennsylvania, settled for a time in Ohio, and made a home in White County, Illinois. His father passed away when Amos was five years old. “What impact did your father’s death at your early age have on you? How did your mother compensate for this loss? How did your stepbrothers take you under their wings?” Amos came from a patriotic family whose grandfather served in the American Revolution and his father in the War of 1812. I would ask, “What steered you toward enlisting in the the Army in 1837 (age 19) and again with the Illinois Infantry during the Civil War (age 43)? What were your lessons of war? What did you regret?” Finally, when he was 53 years old, he took advantage of the Homestead Act to move his family to Osborne County, Kansas. “Describe moving your family and going by wagon train to your new home. What challenges presented themselves to you and your family? What did you tell yourself so you could succeed in Kansas? What was the measure of that success? Surrounded by your children and grandchildren, share your memories of the later years of your life.”
Maria was born in a part of France near the German border. Her surname is of German derivation. Even her first and middle names are in the German naming pattern. At times, this land switched hands between the two countries. “Who are your parents as I have found nothing about them? Why did you immigrate to America? Do you speak French, German, or both? Tell about your convent school education.” Maria, who would go by Mary, married Amos when she was 15 years old, and he was 25. “How did you meet Amos? On your marriage license, you stated that you were 22 years old…you were only 15…what prompted you to falsify your age? What prepared you to move from the bustling streets of Manhattan to the plains of Illinois? What prior knowledge did you have about being a farmer’s wife? What skills?” As the years advanced, Mary moved with her family to Kansas. Some of her children were married adults who did not join them. She was with her 10th child. “Describe the trip by covered wagon. Did you fear giving birth along the journey? What did you tell yourself so that you would remain positive, strong, and resilient? Surrounded by your children and grandchildren, share the memories of the final chapters of your life.”
It would be a great blessing if this dream dinner would come to pass. As a spiritual person, I know that one day we will dine at the banquet table of the Lord…all these questions will be answered.