Tuesday, April 22, 2008
PICTURES AND REMINISCENCE
Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to have no one left to ask?
I do love to reminisce about the old days - good or bad. (Had you noticed?) But I am the last of the older generation of my family. If I am vague or confused about details, there is no one left for me to ask.
When I was a child and came down with measles, mumps, chicken pox - whatever - and had to stay in bed, one of the first things I asked for (after toast with jelly, and Junket Rennet Custard) was the picture box. In later years my mother put photos into albums, but back then she had a large dress box full of pictures. There was everything from tin types and some formal portaits from studios on heavy cardboard, printed in sepiatone, down to snapshots from a Brownie camera. Pictures from both families, several generations, all mixed together. I would ask her who the people in the funny clothes were.
Mother loved to tell about them. But her stories were often short on detail, sometimes contradictory, and I am sure, not terribly accurate. Since she had been raised by foster parents, I was never quite sure if we were talking about blood relations or foster ones. This is Mother with her foster father.
So many pictures! I remember them all very clearly. A good thing that I do, since most are now in the hands of a niece who won't share them even long enough to have copies made.
Two of my mother's favorite stories involved the reasons why she was so terrified of lightning storms. The first was of her whole family (the foster family) sitting in their big kitchen during a storm. A ball of lightning entered a window and rolled the entire length of the room, burning a path in the linoleum covered floor. The second was of herself and her mother during a stay at a resort in the Pocono Mountains. They were on a horse and buggy ride on a wooded trail when a storm came up. A bolt of lightning felled a tree in front of them, the horse bolted, and they were taken on a wild ride.
My father could not tolerate the fact that she showed fear in a storm in front of the children. Whenever a lightning storm came along, he would take me out onto the front porch to watch it. I loved it. Still do. That is one of the few things I am grateful for that my father did for me.
My father was not given to reminiscing. I don't recall him ever speaking of his parents, nor of growing up with three sisters and five brothers. Mother told me a little about his family. I may have mentioned Great Aunt Becky in a previous post. I do repeat myself sometimes, but Becky is worthy of a second mention. I'm not sure how, or even if she was related. I met her a couple of times, when she would come to our house for Thanksgiving. She was never shy about speaking her mind. Mother often quoted her, talking about Father's family, saying, "I don't know why that family is so uppity. They aren't even lace curtain Irish. They're nothing but shanty Irish."
His family was, indeed, "uppity". They didn't like my mother at all. She was "only a common shop girl" when Dad married her, having no education past grammar school and working in a department store. This is a picture of the two of them in the twenties. I may have posted it once before.
Mother's favorite story about them concerned my Aunt Frances. Frances was the oldest of the nine children. Their mother died very young, leaving Frances to raise her siblings. Once she considered that job done, Frances decided she wanted a life of her own. She settled on a nursing career. Apparently in those days, "nice" girls were not nurses. They could teach or become librarians, but definitely not nurses, and the family turned their backs on her. Once she completed her training, and being a good Episcopalian girl, she then became a missionary, and was sent to Alaska to work among the Inuit people. Now the family took her back into the fold, because she was associated with the church. However, while working in Alaska, Frances fell in love, and she married - an Inuit. Uh-oh. Disowned again. But the story continues. Being the feisty young thing she was, Frances decided to bring her husband home to meet the family anyway. On the way, the boat hit an iceberg, and all aboard drowned. Sad. But now the family felt that Frances was a martyr in the service of the Lord, so they could talk about her again.
I do wish that I had known my Aunt Frances.
I wish that I had known my grandparents. All had died before I was born - all six of them, including my mother's foster parents. Is it any wonder that photographs are so important to me? They are the only way I can know anything about these people.
These are my father's parents.
These are my mother's parents.