Saturday, November 28, 2009

national day of listening 2009

On Thanksgiving Day my mother gave me a platter that had been passed down from her great-grandmother, who was from Nova Scotia. It was a remaining piece from a set that was passed down from her grandmother, to her mother, to her and now to me. Other pieces of the set may have been given to her other aunts.

I decided to ask my mother more about this woman, her own great-grandmother, or her grandmother. My mother didn't know anything directly about her great-grandmother, but she knows that her grandmother lived with her in their home in Jenkintown, outside of Philadelphia, on the same train line that goes to Ambler. Her mother, the eldest daughter, had brought her down from Nova Scotia to live with them when she was probably not well. My mother was 1 or 2 at the time, and her grandmother probably died within a year of living with them, maybe 1918. She was young, Mother remembers, and her mother told her that the grandmother had violet-colored eyes. Mother remembers, from photographs, that her father and mother took her grandmother on a trip to Atlantic City. The photograph shows them in style.

The other sisters included Azul, 15 years younger than my grandmother and who lived not too far from her, in Camden, New Jersey. Mother's Aunt Jac (for Jacobine) stayed in Nova Scotia, living on the ocean, north of Yarmouth. The third sister, Gene (Imogene), died in Boston very young, soon after she married, maybe from the flu, maybe from a baby. Her sister, Irene, was away at the time, traveling with her husband.

After her grandmother died, my mother's mother brought her father, Jacob, down from Nova Scotia. My mother has a very clear memory of him lying in his casket, white hair. He was a short, stocky man, and deaf. Mother said, "He lived with us, then Daddy got mad at him and threw him out because he told my mother to get divorced from my father -- so my grandfather went to live with Aunt Azul. Daddy told me this; Mother never said anything about it. The casket was at Aunt Azul's, so I must have been 3 or 4 years old."

My grandmother also had a brother, Romeo, father of Eddie, who lives in Kalamazoo and Victor, who lived in Traverse City.

I asked my mother about the names that her grandmother gave her children. She told me that her mother told her that her grandmother loved Shakespeare, could quote all of Shakespeare's plays and all of the Bible, and so named her children with names from Shakespeare.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

halo of hair

My grandmother had long hair. When I stayed at her house overnight I would watch her before she retired to bed in the evening as she took down the long braid that she pinned on top of her head every morning. She had a dish full of black hair pins. She would brush her long hair with the 100 required strokes. She sat at her dressing table and did this. I would stand at the doorway to her bedroom and watch her brush her hair. Then she would braid it, perhaps with two braids, and leave the braids down for sleeping. She told me with great pride and yet a touch of shyness how much her husband (my grandfather I never knew -- he died before I was born) loved her long hair. I don't think she ever cut it, except to trim the ends. Every morning she would braid the single braid and wrap it up on top of her head again. She had combs that she would also put in her hair to catch the fly-aways. But they were all brown or black haircombs. When her hair was all white, I found some white hair combs for her to use, instead of the brown ones, and she was so delighted, she said she didn't know that they made them anything but dark combs.