Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Keeper of the Family - Part I

This is just a brief selection of some happenings and thoughts that have developed over the past 30 years and will continue to expand for many more years. As you notice by the title of this entry, I expect to make additions to the subject periodically. Expect - yes, happen - we'll see. And IF (you notice big if) I were ever to write a book (there have been a few topics that some feel I *should* write about) The Keeper of the Family would be its title.

So thirty or so years ago I took an interest in the family photos. You know the type, old sepias and such. With that interest came the curiosity about family history. My maternal grandparents came from England when they were in their teens. They became naturalized US citizens in 1942 and 1943. I have their Certificates of Naturalization. My paternal grandmother was from England, my paternal grandfather being "odd man out" born in Vermont, USA. We have close family connections and friends residing in all reaches of the UK.

No one else was interested in "preserving" the family history. No one wanted the photos, paperwork, letters, "memorabilia". It was all joyfully handed to me. Some may have been relieved that they then bore no responsibility for it.

I do see it as a responsibility. This responsibility grew to encompass far more than I could have imagined 30 years ago.

In some manner I have become chained to it. Do understand, I truly adore having these things to look at and ponder. I have family furniture from my dad's side so now *my* style is dictated by the heirlooms! Some things just don't mix with Victorian marble-topped tables and carved rockers. I will NOT part with them. My hall is decorated with the framed sepias. There are paintings and prints, jewelry and "treasures". I hope these things will forever be held by a family member. Some days I have my doubts.

Being the keeper has developed in to more than the caretaker of "things". I have become literally the caretaker of my little family. My daughter still lives at home. She has struggled most of her 24+ years to grow and mature. It's hard for her as everything takes so much repetition to become rote. I hope she will soon have the courage to get a driver's license. She would expand her capabilities so much more. My mom tries to lean more and more on me for the simple and mundane chores, not to mention companionship. I say tries because she is quite capable of doing for herself and my dad and really doesn't need all the help she claims. She has to have her own life with her own friends. My dad is dying of cancer. He is at home and doing well....considering. He has always been the caretaker. Now he is glad that I am near to help.

So here's a small sampling of family "things". You can click on either image to enlarge them for reading. You see the cross hanging at the front of the "South Baptist Church" in New Bedford, MA? It is a gold-leafed wooden cross that my maternal grandparents had made for the church in memory of their son, Hugh, who was killed in a training flight crash in April 1942. The photo was taken March 1943. The cross has not been hanging in the church for many years. I inquired about it. Now it hangs in my stairway. What's a person to do? It's part of my family history! I do have a new mystery to research. Behind the church photo and the funeral cards is the fringe end of a "scarf". I assume this "scarf" was across the casket of one of the family members from these funeral cards. I don't know funeral/burial protocol so really I'm just guessing. Anyway, stamped directly on the back of the scarf
Obviously the manufacturer? I'm going to do some checking.
So all this begs the question, what does one DO with it all?

AND, the prompt for all this retrospect? My mother asked me about writing an obituary for my dad.

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