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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Remember Me, But Forget My Fate!

Farm Girl, Public Domain
Farm Girl, Public Domain

“The only kin that you have is your sister, Sarah, who resides in Fall River, Massachusetts. Is this true?” He dipped his quill into the inkwell and scratched loud, dramatic loops on the paper. My breathin’ quickened at the mention of her name. “Yes, that is true.” “She shall be notified.” He continued with his agitated scribbles and nodded at Mr. Nichols. “John?”

“I don’t have anything to add.” He wove his bony fingers through his wiry, white hair. “Such a shame, your folks were good people.”

They talked amongst themselves while I watched the golden pendulum swing and listened to the deafenin’ tick, tick, tickin’ of the enormous grandfather clock. The snow didn’t let up. My thoughts returned to the days when Sarah and I would celebrate the first real snowstorm by runnin’ outside and makin’ snow angels.

“Miss Hodgdon?” Mr. Nichols interrupted the clock. “Yes?” “Please sign this, and then you can go.” He slid a paper to the edge of the table. The chair creaked when I stood, and I felt that quickenin’ like before – the slight twinge, pokin’ from the inside out. Mr. Nichols pointed to the line where I was to sign. I looked at the words but could see nothin’ but a black blur against the white page. I took the quill pen from him, dipped it in the inkwell, and signed my name in thick, shaky letters.

Mr. Nichols snatched the quill pen and nodded. “Good day, Miss Hodgdon.”

“Good day.” I think I said aloud.

Moses was in the doorway with his back to me. One wouldn’t have known of my presence by the way the men chatted after my dismissal. I was forgotten before the ink dried; there would be no wastin’ of tears. I pulled on my cold, soggy gloves, fetched my treasure chest, and followed Moses out into the blizzard, where our previous footprints had all but disappeared. ~Abigail Hodgdon, November 25, 1872~ County Farm Commissioners' Meeting Excerpt: Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series - Book One ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A little over a year after the release of Etched in Granite, I sat in a hallway outside the county commissioners’ meeting room. This was the same governmental body in the same location as the setting of the novel. Instead of waiting to be committed and certified as an inmate of the County Farm, I sought approval to place a monument at the Paupers' Cemetery. It seemed straightforward. However, it took well over a year, several emails, meetings, and enduring a long winter before I could move ahead with the project.

The initial response, aligned with the other meetings and inquires, was met with resistance. However, by the time the ceremony took place, the shame and fear, carefully wired within many that I had worked with, dissolved. In fact, we shared a mutual understanding of the importance of acknowledging (not judging) the site and those buried there. They suggested using a large piece of granite, once a part of the original poor farm foundation, for the monument. They are strewn about on the property. How meaningful! I was grateful for that contribution and shifting of perception. Before the first meeting, as I sat in that long hallway, I was not sure if my imagination conjured a ticking of a clock or if one actually existed. All I could think of was the scene, as written above, when Abigail was legally sentenced to the poor farm. I did not expect to be waiting to go before them myself. I would present my case and undergo a series of questions. Standing before the board of commissioners and others was daunting. The initial atmosphere was a definite clearing of the air. Old belief systems are not always easy to navigate. With patience and endurance, we made it. In mind, heart, and spirit, it was a gift to be able to stand in Abigail's shoes. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As a musician, I will share that I am quite fond of Henry Purcell. One of my favorite pieces is Dido's Lament, the aria "When I am laid in Earth," from the opera Dido and Aeneas.

It is a theme song (to me) of Abigail and the others buried anonymously in paupers' graves.

Dido's Lament

Thy hand, Belinda... darkness shades me; on thy bosom let me rest; more I would, but Death invades me: death is now a welcome guest! When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create no trouble, no trouble in thy breast; remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate. Remember me, but ah! forget my fate. Please enjoy the video.


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