Thursday, October 25, 2012

Countdown to Departure

"Jan 4, 1921: I did not go to school today for I was sick."
Antique ankle weights.
Eighteen days from now I'll leave Vermont for New York, thence to France. (Pardon the archaic language; I've been living in the nineteenth century for the past week.) Meanwhile, I'm saying my good-byes. Last week it was the Tuesday group at the Senior Center, which will meet without me through the winter. The group has acquired some new members, including Bob Soule, who used to tune John Jackson's piano; they would have enjoyed hearing each other's stories. Yesterday I spent the afternoon with Cynthia Jackson and we had a fine time comparing family memorabilia—she definitely has me beat in the antique serving-spoon department. I didn't even know such things as tomato servers existed until she pulled one from a drawer yesterday. Fascinating. Then there was an odd-shaped thing that we guessed was made for serving asparagus, and an elegant trident that the Jacksons refer to as "the toad stabber." We talked about John and Idora a little (they died less than two months apart), but mostly we joked around and had fun. It was a warm, sunny day and we sat on the porch until we got too hot (!) and had to go inside. That's when Cynthia pulled out a box of old letters. I'm talking old-old—we even found her grandmother Lily Hazwell's handwritten guide to the flag signals young Lily and her next-door neighbor devised in the late 1800s. The red, black, and white flags hung in the windows of their respective houses, in various combinations, transmitting such messages as "Can you come for tea this afternoon?" and "We've got extra butter if you want it." The photographs here are relics from my own family's past. The little diary, above, was kept by my aunt at age eleven. It tells a sad story. The first entry, on October 18, 1920, reads "This is a beautiful day. My birthday is today. I got 2 books from Mama, a dairy, and a bottle of perfume from Marion a tabet (sic) from Ransom and a hair ribbon from Grandma and twenty five cents from Aunt Manda and a dollar from Auntie and a banner note book from Grandpa." On Christmas Eve, Madeline listed her presents, which included two handkerchiefs and a bottle of "perfumery." On January 4 and 5, she noted that she didn't go to school because she was sick. The next two weeks' entries record a visit from her sister Marion, who was attending school in Waitsfield, a visit from the doctor, and her father's purchase of a milk separator. The last entry was made on January 19, 1921. It records her grandfather's trip to Waitsfield, where he "saw Marion." Fourteen days later, on February 2, 1921, eleven-year-old Madeline died of rheumatic fever. My grandmother kept the diary, which was given to my aunt Marion, then to my mother. The ankle weights are of a newer vintage—mid-twentieth century, made by Elmer's of Lubbock, Texas. How they found their way into my mother's attic I have no idea. I am drowning in memorabilia! Maybe it's time to open an Etsy account.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

France and the Attic

South-facing window, overlooking Highland. Spool bed in foreground.
Today is my last day at the Randolph Senior Center until next spring. Soon, I'll be leaving for France, to spend the winter in Fontainbleau, in the lovely apartment of my mother-in-law, who is now in a nursing home. In preparation for leaving, I've been straightening up my mother's house, where I've lived for the past five years (and where she lived for 67 years, until her death in July). Last week, I ventured into the attic. Wow. Lots of dusty old boxes filled with treasure (and some junk). Among the finds: photographs of my father's family dating back to the 19th century, a letter that my mother wrote at age eight (saved by her aunt), a 100-year-old button collection, lace made by Grandma Tucker, and 1960s costume jewelry (remember mood rings?). The rescued boxes are piled in the front hall, awaiting their photo shoot. Note: Grandma Tucker (née Lamb) wrote names on the backs of every one of the hundreds of ancestral portraits, bless her. More pictures on my Facebook page (click here).
College text books: Anthropology, philosophy, art history.

Soccer shoe, mateless mittens, cap gun, 1970s best seller.
Button collection started by Grandma Tucker a century ago.

Contents of the Dingo boot box.

19th-century graphic novels!
Wartime letters from my father to his mother.