Warning: This post is long and rambling (yes, even more than usual) and occasionally sentimental. And no doubt really dull for most of you. But I’ll get back to movie reviewing soon, I promise!
As planned, I spent a good deal of my time with the Beiges looking at (and scanning for posterity) old family photos. This is the oldest one I found, a daguerreotype of my great-great grandparents with my infant great-grandmother (my father’s father’s mother). It was taken in 1862 and is still in its original case, which is gorgeous.
This is the outside of the case (it’s hinged and opens up to reveal the daguerreotype—the front and back are carved exactly the same):
Mom’s comment about it: “They really knew how to make things back then.”
This is another set of great-great-grandparents, on their 40th wedding anniversary in November of 1897 with their twelve children—it says on the back that it’s the first photo with all of their children present at the same time.
The man with the big mouche in the center back above is my great-grandfather; he married the baby girl in the first photograph (after she grew up, I assume). Here they are on their 50th wedding anniversary, with their children, one of whom (far right) was my father’s father:
Grandpa served in Europe during World War I. My dad looks just like him!
There is a whole packet of photos from Grandpa’s tour of duty during the War, but that’s a post for another day.
I really wanted to find pictures of my Dad as a child, since I didn’t have any. I scored big time! Here he is in December 1928, at the age of 3 months. All this picture really needs is a bearskin rug.
I’m guessing I got my babyhood bonelessness from him:
I was wowed by this photo of him, as Dad has never been the athletic type.
My astonishment was fleeting, though. On the back it says:
Jack. 3 yrs. 1st horseback ride before falling off.
Dad said: “Oh yes, I fell off immediately.”
Here he is with his mother:
She died when I was just a baby, and I don’t remember her at all. But my grandfather always missed her terribly, and told us the same story every time we saw him about how she was the first May Queen in college, where they met. I think this is a picture of her at the May Queen ceremony:
On the back is scribbled:
Returning from the throne
She was considered quite a beauty, I guess, and eventually chose Grandpa out of her many suitors when he followed her all the way to graduate school. I’m not sure what year she was born, but here she is as a little girl:
And again, probably a teenager:
Her parents are in this photo from 1921, with her aunt Nora in the front (basically obscuring her mother, who was Nora’s sister).
I found more old photos from my mother’s side of the family too.
My mother’s great-great-grandparents had 17 children between the years 1851 and 1879. One son died on the same day he was born, and two others died at the ages of 3 and 6. Still: my great-great-great-grandmother must have been a tough old bird!
Their third son George married this woman, whom I have privately dubbed the Battle Axe:
I love her real name though too: Tacy Stackhouse. It’s a full-on Roller Derby name!
She died in 1905 at the age of 48—my age now—although she looks much older (I hope). Life was hard back then! They had five children, one of whom was my grandmother’s father, Clarence. After Tacy died, George married a woman named Caroline Phillips—Clarence had married Caroline’s daughter Maud Phillips in 1900.
That made George both Maud’s father-in-law and her stepfather. Can you say “trailer park”?
Here is Maud four years before she got married, at the age of 16 in 1896 (the photo is quite damaged):
And here she is with my grandmother (they are in the middle, I have no clue who the other two older women are).
I’ve gotta say: I’m glad I don’t have to wear those clothes! Maud died pretty young too, from overwork (according to my mother, via my grandmother).
I do remember my maternal grandmother very well. I adored her. She taught me how to embroider, and how to knit, and made gorgeous quilts for all of us on birthdays and holidays. She died the week before I graduated from high school.
She was quite a beauty as well. She was born in 1901, and here she is in 1918:
She was married once before she married my mother’s father. They had a son. When she divorced him she took him to court for child support (in the 1920s that was highly unusual, bless her).
Then she married my granddad, who adopted my Uncle Howard. Granddad had been married before as well, but lost his young wife to cancer.
At some point in time, he also had a bad case of smallpox, and his doctor took this picture of him.
He was lucky to survive, but he was a very strong man! He had terrible widespread cancer for the last few years of his life and doctors kept saying that he would die any minute. But he told my grandmother that he refused to die until he saw my mother and his grandchildren again (we were living in Africa at the time). We came back at Christmas in 1973 and spent it with them; he died two weeks later in January of 1974. Most of my memories of him involve the TV show “Bowling For Dollars” which he loved and which aired at the same time as a show that I loved called “The Big Valley” (“Nick, Heath, Jarrod, the barn’s on fire!”). He always got to watch his show, because I was scared of him (plus it was his television). Now I realize that he was a big gooey marshmallow inside, but back then I took his teasing very seriously.
Granddad came from a big family too, and here are some of them (he’s the youngest, third from the right). His mother (seated on the right in front) came from Ireland just before she got married.
He had twelve siblings, one of whom died as a baby.
He and my grandmother had another daughter after my mother, named Eileen, who died at four months. I found a note about her written by my grandmother that just made me howl (I’m reproducing it exactly as she wrote it below, except for a few sentences).
On a Sunday morning Dec. 13-1931 a little seven pound girl came to us. How delighted Howard and Gloria Jean [my mother] were…She had dark hair and dark blue eyes and the loveliest expression about her mouth and chin that I have ever seen on a tiny babe. She was rather Irish looking and we decided her name should be Eileen Joan. She had a hard row to hoe from the beginning as she got a cold right away and mother didn’t have enough nurse for her but after a few weeks on Eagle Brand [condensed milk] she picked up and got so nice and plump. But she had eczema to torment & itch her next so on the doctors advice she was bathed and rubbed with Cuticura which did away with that trouble. She became so sweet & grew to be a very pretty baby with a lovely pink complexion, her dark blue eyes and her hair becoming auburn. She had lots of hair which I cut at seven weeks as it seemed to tickle her ears…She seemed so bright & held up her head much sooner than the others & laughed aloud when we talked to her so heartily you couldn’t tell her laugh from Gloria Jean’s in the next room. She had a nose just like daddy’s and sister’s. How she loved her daddy too, would look around the room for him in the evenings…[They] would play “whoopie.” He would say do you want to play “whoopie” and she’d laugh so spontaneously & happily. He sometimes called her Jo. The night she took ill they played their little game on the way to bed. She became feverish in the night (early Thursday morning) and didn’t drink much from then on & seemed so sore on Friday when we handled her, then Saturday afternoon April 23-1932 she left us, a victim of mucous colitis and oh the loneliness she left behind. Her cheeks looked like a half opened rose bud so satiny smooth & delicate [what] a beautiful shaped head she had and and such a pleasant disposition.
Mom said: “If she’d lived, I would have been even more of an ugly duckling!” (I’m fairly sure that she was mostly kidding). There were never any photos taken of Eileen, sadly, but here’s the Ugly Duckling with my Uncle Howard.
Anyway, all these people marrying each other and having a gazillion kids eventually produced two people very important to me, my mother:
They met in the mid-fifties in graduate school, and dated for a year. Then my mother went back to teaching English in Japan, and climbed Mt. Fuji, and wrote on the back of this handsome fellow’s photograph:
I was a little afraid to ask, but it turns out that his name (which I forget) translated into English as “under the bamboo.” That’s her story anyway, and she’s sticking to it.
My dad returned to Angola where he taught music, and they wrote to each other for five years. In 1960 they got engaged. My mother had her wedding dress made in Japan and flew to Angola a week before the wedding.
The rest, as they say, is history.