Sunday, June 6, 2010

Grandparents Great and Small

My great-great-grandfather, 
Henry Boardman Cooley, circa 1860.
I am fascinated by the few faint memories of great-grandparents that have surfaced in our group. Often these are spectral figures dressed in quaint clothing—old-fashioned lace caps; long, rustling skirts; shirts with high, stiff collars; lots of buttons. Wheelchairs (especially interesting from a child's point of view) and beds so high they require footstools also have a tendency to crop up. These ghostly characters say little if anything in the dreamlike memories they've implanted; D'Ann Fago's memory of her maternal great-grandmother (below) is a rare exception. The story about the knife in the pie may be apocryphal, or maybe not, but D'Ann's memory of the woman who told it is quite clear. She also remembers that her great-grandmother "left her room to come down to meals, but she could barely walk and she couldn’t hear. She was very patrician—didn’t miss a thing. She had been the copy editor at her husband’s small-town newspaper. She was a very definite little woman with strong ideas about everything."

The photograph above is a print made from a daguerrotype that was unearthed in my grandfather Cooley's old farmhouse; it shows his grandfather, Henry Boardman Cooley, in the 1860s. Handsome man. Unfortunately, I know nothing about him. Henry's great granddaughter Ruth has this memory of the Smalls, a set of great-grandparents on her mother's side:

"I remember, dimly, a couple who seemed ancient to me. They may have been close to the age I am now! I think they were wearing black clothing, my great-grandmother in a long dress that came to the floor. That is my entire and only memory of meeting my great-grandparents. I have since learned that Great-Grandpa Small fought in the Civil War with his four brothers and his brother-in-law and that all survived. Great-Grandpa was at Appomattox." —Ruth Demarest-Godfrey

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