Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NAMING NAMES

Sis is here---she’s showering, after a breakfast of brought-in pastries and donut holes, with a little pink smoked porkchop apiece, sizzled in a dry skillet for just long enough to make them warm and soft. Their salty porkiness was perfect with the sweet yeasty pastries.

There’s a slow Summer rain, it’s just us ladies for the day, and our BabyGirl is mesmerized with Elmo’s great agility in counting-to-ten. She’s confident, herself, up to one-two-three-four-five, then falters a little and mouths the rest along with the bright red tutor-of-all-things-toddler.

We’re just cocooning for today, looking through musty old boxes of famiy pictures. Sis did the genealogy several years ago, and thus, by her hard work and dedication (she spent a week in Salt Lake City, in those archives which seem to keep track of every single person ever to be born or come settle on American soil)---I have a lot of names to go with the family tales and memories handed down by the older women of the family, especially our Mammaw.

And we’re determined to write some NAMES on the backs of these pictures. There were so few photographed moments in the lives of all these forebear faces captured in black-and-white, some whispering away in places like dissolving smoke, and quite a few faded into sepia. It makes me sad that looking through the dusty boxes leaves me with puzzlement and a gentle pang of regret that so many faces are now unnameable and forgotten.

Perhaps we can link Second Cousin Thelma’s resemblance to her Mama’s face, and name Aunt Laverne by the eyebrows of “The Murdock Side.” I wish, I wish for the foresight to have done this when those who knew them and loved them and grew up as sisters and cousins with them were still able to pick up a photo, give a little whuff of vapor onto bifocals, wipe the lenses on a skirt-hem, and smile a smile of recognition of a face long lost to time.

But we’ve missed that. The window has closed, as have all the eyes which would have brightened in the remembering. With them went the connection of names and faces, and those of us who know them only by family lore and the spidery scribing in the withered Bible---we look at the women who were young and slim and full of life, and wish we’d known them. And more, we wish we knew them now---who they are, and how we're related to them.

So we’re visiting with a lot of people, both kin and friend, with a scatter of funeral flowers, my mother in her cap and gown, the small square tin likeness, framed in frivolous green vines and bearing the grim visage of Great-Grand Roma---her skimpy skinned-back bun and her downturned mouth reflecting the fashion of the times for old-lady garb and demeanor. And I’ll bet she was WAY on the young side of Fifty.

Sis just jubilantly commented that this is the picture that finally persuaded Mother to let her get her ears pierced, at sixteen. Sis had long wanted to take that next step, as had all her friends, but not until she unearthed the stiff little tintype with the unlikely garnish of little gold hoops flanking the solemn face, and went running to Mother saying “OOOO!! OOOO!! See thissss!” did Mother relent and take her to get the earrings installed.

No history being made today, but a lot remembered and savored, from this far remove in time and recognition. We’ll put names to the ones we can and look regretfully at the rest, and that will have to be enough.

6 comments:

Keetha said...

On Father's Day we were eating a piece of chocolate pie (homemade and warm from the oven) and I was asking my dad a few questions about his grandparents, who died before I came along. It was funny - he told a couple of anecdotes that none of us, not even my mother - had ever heard. I'm so glad I asked.

I need to ask my grandmother - my dad's mother - how she and Gran Gran met. I don't think I've ever heard that story. I have a photograph of them on a picnic. They are young and it's such a great picture. I feel lucky to have it.

Anonymous said...

The Treasures brought out several large boxes of old pictures during our last visit, and guess what? Every one of them has the person's full name and age on the back of the photo. How wonderful! Jerry was so excited and pled with them to allow him to bring a large box home for him to scan in. They reluctantly allowed him to bring them home on a promise that he would return them on our next visit just two weeks away. Oh my, he still hasn't scanned them and we are leaving this Saturday. He has a large job awaiting him tomorrow night.

We were so excited to see all those names, ages, and description of where they were and what they were doing. Apparently, Jerry's family was much more meticulous than mine. We don't have a clue who most of those folk were.

Tell Nail to scan me in some pictures of Mawmaw if she has time. I have not one picture. Also, I have no pictures of you, precious one.

This is my week-end in Canton to learn rug hooking. Am excited about learning this old craft.

Hug each other for me.

Love you both to the moon and back
Maggie

Anonymous said...

Oh, by the way, did you say there was some way I could keep from always being Anonymous.

Love
Maggie

Alice said...

After my in-laws passed away we found a large box - never opened in the 25 years I knew them - with hundreds of photos of 'unknown' relatives/friends. Many of them are studio photos and would be close to 100 years old. On looking through them I at first felt a great sense of sadness that we would never know who these people were and if we were related to them. My sadness than gave way to deep anger to think of all the years in which we could have come to 'know' these family members but we were never given this opportunity. It is now TOO LATE....... two very frustrating words when associated with family history.

Have a wonderful day reliving your family's past.

Kat said...

My Mom and Aunt and I did this a few years ago. So nice, but also sad at times. So glad we did.

Hugs!
Kat

kittrellphoto said...

Hey, Rachel,
I can't find an email address for you on your site, but it is OK for you to use the photo you requested. It's OK with me for you to grab any of my photos for your use whenever you want!
Marty
P.S. You've been writing some great stuff!