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Oct 24, 2012

Catch a memory: October 25, 2012

Recently a friend suggested "The Winthrop Woman" by Anya Seton. Usually it takes me awhile to read suggested titles, but this time I was moved to check out the book promptly. Beginning with the first page, the author drew me into the life of Ellizabeth Winthrop, who was the spunky niece and daughter-in-law of Puritan John Winthrop.
 
Meanwhile, in real life time of 400 years later, I was planning a trip to Cape Cod to visit an elderly relative. I pulled out folders of my Dimmock ancestors who had founded the town of Barnstable in 1639. Imagine my amazement when I realized my ancestors probably made the sea voyage on the same ships that had carried the Winthrops and all the early Puritans. 
 
I haven't finished the book yet, but I'm excited to find out if my ancestors play roles in the enveloping story. It is odd to glide between centuries like this.

Aug 8, 2012

120 years ago today: August 8,2012

Bessie Morey Vollmer, my grandmother, was born 120 years ago today in a farmhouse in West Monroe, New York.  As a young girl, Bessie accompanied her older brother on an Erie Canal boat, which was so slow that she walked ahead to the store, made her purchase, and waited for the boat to catch up. At the turn of the 20th Century, she and her parents traveled by train, boat, and wagon to the Michigan woods to visit relatives, a trip that took several days. (They could only take such a long trip because they had sold their farm!)  In the 1930's,she loved escaping her chores to go for Sunday drives in the family's new car. During the 1950's,she and my grandfather drove from New York to  Florida for the winter, and when one of her grandsons was born, she flew to New York. She gladly talked of the "old days," but I always had the impression she didn't want to return to the towpath.

Jun 22, 2012

Family Reunion: June 22, 2012

Do you remember family reunions? In the days before Facebook, they were the virtual space for connecting to your extended family. Ours get-togethers were potluck picnics. Eating began at noon sharp - the great uncles became visibly anxious if we dallied more than a minute or two. Big bowls and pans of hot and cold casseroles were placed down the center of the oilcloth-covered tables. Everyone brought Thermoses of coffee which dotted the long table like silos. Here and there, set on the table's edge, were a gallon jugs of lemonade and water. You helped yourself to whatever bowl was closest, and then passed it to the next person. Some latecomers might still be lugging their chairs and baskets from the parking lot, but they just had to hurriedly squeeze their plates and cups at the table's end, and hope they spooned up some of Grandma's chicken fricasee before it was all gone!
 
This collage, "Family Reunion", 8 x 16, was inspired by a family picnic in1957 at my Grandma and Grandpa Vollmer's backyard. Can you find me sitting on the bench?

Feb 25, 2012

Keeping Watch: February 25, 2012

Do you have a place that anchors you, a place that you cherish even if it exists only in your memory?
 
This four square brick house in Moyers Corners, New York is one of those landmarks for me. When I was growing up, it was the home of the Brand family, with Mrs. Brand living on the first floor, and her daughter Irene's family upstairs. Irene was a hairdresser, and I had my first perm from her, just in time for Easter 1962. It was an involved three hour process back then, with smelly chemicals that ran down your neck and curlers rolled so tight they  pulled the scalp away from your head.  You had to sit under a hair dryer that blasted hot air for an hour (so it seemed) until you felt like a prune. But Irene and I chatted and laughed all afternnoon, and when my mother picked me up, I was a girl transformed with curly hair.
 
Irene died this past week, and whenever I see the old brick house - which still stands on the corner -  I'll remember her chatting and working her hair magic on me, up on the second floor.