I spent last week digging. It was both exhausting and exhilarating.
Saturday I finally removed this lovely chunk of tree from my flower beds. I never planted it. It was one of those intruders that grows from a runner and takes on a life of its own. My son called it Audrey II. You know, the plant from Little Shoppe of Horrors. That’s pretty much what it’s been like over the years as I’ve trimmed, cut, hacked, dug at in the attempt to kill or at least maim the thing into submission. I scraped my fingers, caused them to bleed and it just grew back stronger.
Part of the reason it stayed is because I couldn’t get to its root. I didn’t want to trample the iris growing around it or the rose bush it was crowding so I played nice and worked around it. This year I finally had enough of the darn thing. Writers often talk about killing off their little darlings – favorite phrases or scenes – in order to make a story better. I decided a few iris and a rose bush could be sacrificed in order to get this tree out once and for all. Audrey II was coming out.
I dug, pushed and pulled to loosen the stump. At one point I took a hack saw to a large runner. It started raining but I didn’t stop. Eventually I was able to reach in and actually feel the space beneath the tap root, still 12 inches down into the hole, but there was a bottom! After snipping its last few runners I got the shovel, leaned my full weight onto the handle again and pushed. The whole digging took several hours, my arms and back ached that night but it was so worth it.
Friday my digging wasn’t quite as physically strenuous – though my bottom and my eyes were sore by the end of it – but the payoff was tremendous. As some of you remember from an earlier post, one of my current writing projects is compiling my parish’s history for its centennial next year.
The documented story about our origins is simple. Two people of Syrian extraction died from the 1917-1918 influenza outbreak and Fr. Tobin from Columbia, SC traveled to Rock Hill to administer last rites and conduct the funerals. He became aware of the small community of Catholics [20 of them] who did not have a parish, and he appealed to the Bishop of Charleston to establish one for the area. Interesting beginnings but not really much of a story. So I started digging.
Remember these? For the past several weeks I’ve spent one full day a week scrolling through old Evening Heralds, one of Rock Hill’s daily newspapers – hence the sore bottom and the sore eyes. Friday I found the obituaries for those two men who succumbed to the flu in 1919. I now have their names. I know what part of Syria they came from and when. I know who their families were and what they did for a living.
I actually teared up because these two men, our parish ancestors, were now real flesh and blood. I had their story. As I compile the rest of the parish history I hope to remember this isn’t about dates and events, but about the people and their stories.
Wow! Kim, that is really digging in for a story! I like the way you linked the garden work to your research into your parish’s history! Great job!
Thank you, Martha. The digging into the parish history has been so much fun and so interesting. But it definitely feels like digging! I get this one scrap of information and I know there has to be more and I can’t let it go until I find it. The discovery of those obits was more than I expected. A true treasure. And finally getting that darn tree out – YAH!!!
Wow – is right, Martha!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of Audrey II, and your parish research update. The pictures were the visuals that brought it all together for me. All your hard work is paying off – on both fronts. LOL.
And our good friend Pat, who was part of the parish research project, is looking down and smiling on you!!
Thank you, Claire. I can hear Pat saying ‘Oh what a great story! What else is there?’ and so I keep looking for those little kernels buried like those darn roots. And my little rose bush actually became two! Both of them were replanted and doing well. I hope it’s a sign all this other digging will grow into an interesting book. Time will tell!