Tag Archives: newbold-white house
May 21, 2012

For Mema


Eulogies always leave me feeling vaguely depressed.  When Steve Jobs passed away, newspapers, magazines, television, and the internet had nothing but wall-to-wall praise for the man.  How much nicer it would have been, I thought, if he were still alive to read it.  Why do we wait until someone dies before talking about all the good they’ve done in life?

Regret.  That was the first emotion I felt after hearing the news that my grandmother had died (a week ago today.)  My mom told me two days before that her parents had just celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary.  “Why don’t you give your Mema a call tomorrow and wish her a happy Mother’s Day?”  I could have.  I should have.  All the time zones between Australia and North Carolina aren’t excuse enough for why I didn’t.

In my sadness, I think no one could possibly understand how I feel, but that’s not exactly true, is it?  Probably most of you have felt the same sense of regret, of sadness, of loss.  If only I’d visited one last time.  If only I’d told her I loved her when last we spoke.  If only she were still here.

This pain feels so personal, so unique to my situation, but in reality, most everyone can relate to losing a grandparent.  I’m luckier than most.  I knew six of my eight great-grandparents (though their faces and personalities have faded from memory since childhood) and I almost made it to forty years of age before losing my first grandparent.  Not many can say that.


February 16, 2012

PV019: The Newbold-White House

This one is long overdue.

To kick off our round-the-world trip, Oksana and I started by driving across the U.S. in our Jeep.  Her brother and sister-in-law joined us from Russia for a good part of that road trip.  While we were in North Carolina, visiting my family, we thought it would be a great idea to show them the Newbold-White House, an historically significant home that just happened to be a part of our family history, as well.

The Newbold-White House is the oldest brick house in North Carolina. It was built in 1730 by a Quaker family.  It passed through many hands over the years until my great grandmother’s family bought it in 1903.  My grandmother, Jean Newbold Griffin – the star of the video above – was born in that house in 1924.  Almost fifty years later, in 1973, she sold the house and property to a preservation society.  Now it’s open to the public.

I got to talking with my grandfather about taking a trip out to the farm.  He set up an appointment with Glenda Maynard, the site manager at the Newbold-White House.

My plan was to sit down with my grandmother and interview her about the house.  What she remembers about it, how she felt about it being restored and put on display, what it means to her now, those sorts of things.  Unfortunately, at 85 years old, she had just been hit by a medical double-whammy. While in the hospital with a case of life-threatening pneumonia, she had also had a heart attack.  She hadn’t yet fully recovered by the time we visited and it was obvious that she had slowed down both physically and mentally.

Oksana and I took Andrey and Natasha out to the house on July 31st (2010.) There, Glenda gave us a tour of the house and land.  She was imparted a ton of historical information about the Newbold-White House, as well as details of its restoration, but unfortunately wouldn’t give me permission to record her.  I was left with a lot of audio from her lecture, but half the time Oksana was translating Russian over the top of it (and the other half of it was about things that happened a couple centuries before my grandmother’s time.)

Later, once Oksana’s relatives had returned to Russia, we bided our time and waited for “a good day” to interview my grandmother.  We didn’t get the opportunity until September 22nd.   (We set up on the back porch of our cottage in Nags Head, on the Outer Banks. Believe it or not, even with the traffic and wind noise, that was the quietest place available to us.)  We had a good talk and I heard a lot of great stories about what it was like to grow up in rural North Carolina in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.  (more…)