Friday, April 01, 2011

Ancestors (A/Z)

My first installment of the super-fun April A to Z Challenge. Are you as excited as I am!?!? :D

There aren't many things I love the way I love the old family photos and jottings that have found their way to me.

I am the youngest child of two youngest children, which means most of my elders were gone before I got to know them. While I was born in the Age of Aquarius, my grandfather was born in the 19th century. He died an old man when I was only in first grade. My memories of him are only tiny vignettes themselves - whisps of a waist-high view - my eyes level with the pocket of his houndstooth coat as he'd sneak me a piece of candy. The bright jewel colors of his blanket, always on his lap in his last months.

In the photos I have, he is handsome and commanding. Hair inky black instead of winter white. In one he holds a baby that looks just like me. My mother.

Another of my favorite photos is of my grandmother and her best friend. They were all of twenty years old, wearing tweed pants, vests, ties and big newsboy hats. In an age where so many photos were stiff and posed, these two were mugging it up - fat cigars clenched tight in their teeth, laughter in their eyes.

Grandma gave me her cookbook before she died. It was published in the twenties and had revolting recipes with ingredients like suet, tripe, and chicken feet. Frugal times commanded a frugal kitchen. I imagine I'd be much thinner with entrails on the table.

What I love about this book though, are her notes. Some stuck haphazardly about the pages on scraps of paper, others written in margins or inside the blank cover sheets. Reminders scrawled in her confident, jagged cursive. As identifiable as a fingerprint, and even moreso.

In some ways, having a snatch of handwriting is even more precious than a picture. My ancestors weren't just ghostly images on brittle photographic paper. They were real. Their writing left like footprints, like whispers. Like pieces I've been looking for to complete the puzzle of who I am.


Stacy said...

You just keep the good stuff coming, Clew! I loved this post. I could say nearly the same things about my grandparents and great-grandparents (though, not nearly so well). I have my grandmother's cookbooks and recipes as well and I love that she wrote so much. She learned a different style of handwriting than we did and while I am able to read her cursive, most people my age on down can't.

Coffeypot said...

I only knew my grandmother...and she died when I was 5 or 6. She scared the hell out of me because she looked like a witch. 5', stooped, walking sitck (not a caine)and hooked nose between two evil, sunken eyes. My mom was third for the bottom of 15 kids and I do not know any of my kin. Sad! But you did a great job with this and I look forward to the rest. said...

Love to see pics of the cookbook and handwriting. I agree such a collection of family memorabilia enhances the genealogy creating a rich history for all to enjoy. :O)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds like you found a lot of treasures between the pages of that cookbook!

Joy said...

This is good stuff Clew. Your written word is so colorful, things I can envision in my head. I do love you're writing more!