A stone sits on a shelf in my genealogy office, just in front of an old picture of my Great Grandpa, John Johnson and his young family. The rock is small enough to fit in the hollow of my hand and cool to the touch. I could probably go outside of my home in Kansas right now and find one very similar to it in every way, but one. I found this rock in Sweden, on the very farm on which my Great Grandpa was born and raised.
My cousins had driven me to Plätt farm, in the township of Byarum in Southern Sweden, during a dream trip I took with my sister in June 2015. As I wandered around, trying to absorb my surroundings for recall when I returned to America, Christer turned to me and said, "Find a stone." "Excuse me?" I said as I turned toward him shaking off the enchantment of the last few minutes. He repeated with his Swedish accent, "You'll want to take something home with you from here. Pick up a stone." My eyes wandered over the ground in front of the cranberry red buildings with their traditional white trim. He was right. I needed something concrete with which to remember this experience. That's when I spotted it. It was covered with soil and as I dug it out of the earth I wondered how long it had been there.
Had it been there when my twice Great Grandpa had moved to Plätt farm in the early 1840's? Had Johannes stepped on it as he moved in, pushing the red stone further into the soil? Was it there when he married Inga Stina on the last day of May in 1846?
Where was it when my Great Grandpa, Johan, was born? When he was a boy, did he dig it out of the earth to throw at a tree or the side of the barn?
In my mind I see Johan and his younger brothers and sisters playing in the farmyard on cool afternoons. It could have been there when he learned to help his dad with the chores on the farm or when his youngest brother, Anders, was born.
It must have been witness to the hard work, joy, laughter, and eventually, sickness and sorrow. Did it recognize the unyielding resolve to survive, even if it meant separation that my family in Sweden had shown a hundred and fifty years ago?
This rock is silent. The pictures, the facts, the scribbles in a parish household record by an ancient hand; they speak.There is no way of knowing the answers to any of these questions but, holding the stone in my hand, I can imagine. Rocks are old.