Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Atlanta, Georgia 23.5.1994: Family Ghosts and Faded Tombstones

Walnut Fork church near Braselton, Georgia: I did a rubbing of Jacob Braselton, Sr.’s, tombstone. Could not get one of Jacob, Jr., and wife Mary Bryson. Their stones are flat, the faux-crypt style, and badly worn—even more so than a few years ago when I was here. Mary’s appears not to have an inscription, as her will stipulates: she asks to be brought back to Walnut Fork church (she was then living in Lumpkin County) and buried beside her husband, with a monument similar to his, but no inscription. The plot of Jacob, Mary, and their infant granddaughter Margaret has a marker saying it was restored by Leita Green Braselton and her sister Nell.

Today is the anniversary of my grandmother’s death in 1968, which was Ascension Thursday that year. Requiescat in pace.

Last night, dinner at a restaurant on Peachtree called Grand China. It was a charmed experience. The owner, a Mrs. Tse-Chih Chang, brought us to our table and stood talking for half an hour—about ghosts in her house (one is a monk), about how her grandfather became sick and needed blood, so her grandmother went into the kitchen and chopped off her finger and fed him three cups of her blood, and so forth.*

Then she ordered for us—chicken in black bean sauce, ginger shrimps, and sizzling rice soup. It was a real treat for Pentecost day.

I awoke today on this first vacation day thinking how important it is to tell my story, to write. If I’m to have any peace with the familial ghosts that entrance me, I must meet them daily in fantasy, and write about the encounter, no matter where it leads me—even to the “dread essence beyond logic,” as Nikos Kazantzakis calls that spiritual stream that rushes underneath our lives.

*And am I crazy, or has Amy Tan not written stories very much like these? Are they stories that run through a number of Chinese-American families, then?

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