Thursday, January 16, 2014

We Are Family

A personal post…brought on by hours and hours and hours of looking at family pictures, certificates, and letters going back three generations. (Before that it's a bit of a fuggly Scottish blur—with stories of barfights and men killed, and moms dragging tots onto ocean liners heading to Canada; leaving drunken-sot husbands behind.) There are tailors, radio show producers, musicians, cooks, furniture designers, department store managers, actors, a writer, a ballet dancer and a Christian Scientist. 
Bunty, Lucy, Pookie, Chrysanthemum, Marigold, Butterscotch, Bob, Patches and Mac were some of the names bestowed upon their pets. Fortunes were earned and then frittered away. My paternal grandfather said, when asked about his background, "don't go looking into your family history…they may turn out to be sheep stealers".
He died young, very young—felled at 53 by heart attack out sailing his sloop, The Marina, keeling over into the waters of the Bay of Fundy . 
One aunt was a prototype Mary Tyler Moore, a career-woman with a meticulous manner and talent in many areas. One of my favorite letters of hers describes the purchase of her first car, an Austin, 1951, I think. She describes excitedly how the car dealer just let her take it home with no down payment, details to be ironed out later. She never married, and there are dim recollections of stories of a married man and unrequited love being quashed by her mother. My grandmother was by all accounts not someone to be messed with, a little lady with steel. This knowledge contradicts the many photos of her, swathed in lambswool and mohair, sweet velvet bow or pretty ribbon in her hair.
Another aunt, a ballet dancer-turned-wife, married a Hollywood writer. He had a bad back which landed him in hospital. She walked into his room one day and found him in a compromising situation with a nurse.  My aunt, telling me this, turned to me with a very wounded look on her face and said dramatically "well I knew he needed therapy but I didn't think it would be that kind of therapy". Ditching him—she married an actor, and lived in La Jolla, California. 

My father's older brother, pictured just above that very strong signature. The letters only make vague references to financial troubles brought on by a failing construction firm… and then—he disappeared.

When my father's dementia started to become apparent a few years back… my sister and I moved  multiple cartons of photos, letters and slides to a storage unit. An old unwound mantel clock needing repair got jostled, and chimed four times. Once for each of those four siblings, I thought. It tolls for thee. 


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story about your family. So many talented and fascinating people Thanks for posting, Diana.

Anonymous said...

In the bw photo of the large group of people, is that you sitting in AR's lap, perched right above your mom's head?

bc said...

yup. and the lady with the curly hair is Amy, the scottish homegirl housemaid who didn't find out her real last name until she was in her 40s!

Anonymous said...

You look so happy. What a sweetie, with your short buster brown bangs. I had them too, but they didn't suit me nearly as well. Didn't realize how much Linda and Nancy looked alike.

Hazel Terry said...

Such beautiful, lively family photographs, just beautiful.

bc said...

Thanks you guys, you made my day with your nice comments.