Sunday, August 5, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy - Week 32

Week 32: Family Memories. Records are the backbone of genealogy, but memories are the glue that hold our history together. For which memory of a loved one are you most thankful? Describe that moment in time, answering the who/what/when/where in the details. How did this memory impact your life and the way you approach family,

This is the hardest prompt so far.  Memories, oh my!  I was married 45 years before my husband passed away and his family was as dear to me as my own.  Many of our relatives lived well into their 80's, some into their 90's.  To isolate a single memory among so many seems impossible, but I do have a memory of my great grandmother that perhaps lit the flame of my desire to know much more about my family.

I used to go visit a great aunt and uncle for a week every summer.  She was my maternal grandmother's sister and he was my maternal grandfather's brother - they never had children of their own but were extra grandparents to my family.  They still lived in the town near where they were born and where his mother still lived with a widowed daughter.   I would always have a day to spend with Grandma and Aunt Maude at the old home, but mostly the time was spent with Grandma.

When I arrived, Grandma, then in her mid 80's, would be sitting at the kitchen table sipping her coffee from the saucer, not the cup.  This is an old country habit - a quick way to cool the coffee - pour it into the saucer and then drink  from the saucer.   She was the only person I ever saw actually do that and it was very fascinating to a 10-year-old whose own Mom would probably slap her away from the table if she dared drink from a saucer!

Now by age 10, I was already taller than my tiny great-grandmother who probably never weighed as much as 95 pounds.  Yet she had delivered eleven babies without benefit of hospitals - that was fascinating, too.

After Grandma finished her coffee, she would always take me back into the living room which was furnished in bits and pieces of furniture reminiscent of horse-hair Victorian and always very dark to keep out the Southern heat. She would take me to a picture on the wall.  It was a picture of her family about the time her first two grandchildren had been born and included her long dead husband, nine of her children, the spouses of the older children and the babies.  I was to tell her who each person in the picture was and how they were related.  As the majority of the people in the picture were still living and were still in that small town, or they trekked back home every April for Grandma's annual birthday party, this was easy to do.  I have a copy of that picture now and of course, none of them are living now. Honestly - it doesn't seem that was 60 years ago and counting.

Then Grandma would be ready for the rocking chair in the corner of her bedroom where she spent most of her days and tell me stories about her family.  Hanging on the wall across from her rocker where she could look at it often, was a portrait of her lovely daughter Lelia, who had died at age thirteen.  Other than her first newborn that lived only five days, that was her only deceased child.  Her first story was always to tell me about Lelia and how a mother could never recover from such a loss.

Grandma lived to be almost 97, although both her frail body and her mind failed her in the last years.  Maude lovingly cared for her there in her bedroom until she drew her last breath.  I think as a link to such a long-ago past along with the deep feeling of love and pride in her family, Grandma provided me with that burning desire to know more about all those who had gone before.