Sued51's Blog











{February 15, 2016}   A Story of a Life through Jewelry

I inherited my grandmother’s jewelry, and there was quite a bit. My grandmother was not a rich woman, so it was mostly costume jewelry. But I love vintage jewelry so I have been wearing some of the pieces I particularly like. I have also been trying to sort through things that need repair, and the things I should just toss.

She had a lot of pins, which I have put in a beading box. One of those pins was a sword with a fake-looking “jewel” on it. To be honest, I didn’t think it was very attractive and it was clearly not expensive, so I was considering getting rid of it. Then I noticed that on the back it said, “Broadcast, NY.” I decided to do a search on Google, and it came right up! People are selling them on Etsy.

vintage brooch

WWII Victory Sword

It is called a World War II Victory Sword, and it was made in the 1940s, produced to celebrate the end of World War II. Suddenly it no longer looked so ugly to me…it had meaning. Especially because my father, her only child, was stationed overseas in WWII. I decided to keep it.

My grandmother also had many tiny lapel pins from the different community groups to which she belonged. Amongst them, and still in the box, I found a tiny Telephone Pioneers pin. My grandmother worked as an operator for many years. I left me her small pension, so this is meaningful as well.

Vintage pins

Telephone Pioneers pin

It made me think: what would someone learn from my jewelry? Hmmm…that I liked cats? Now I know why people collect Alex and Ani bracelets and Pandora charm bracelets!

Cat Jewelry

Cat Jewelry



{November 29, 2014}   Using Genealogy to Find Yourself

My Grandfather with his Sisters

My Grandfather with his Sisters

I love when the pieces fit. I started this post weeks ago but life got in the way and I was too busy to finish it. Then last week the writing prompt was “Digging for Roots,” and I said, well, that’s a sign I need to finish the genealogy post. The final piece was put in place as I was reading “The Law of Happiness” by Dr. Henry Cloud and he discussed the “mathematics of happiness.” I knew I had to finish this blog post.

The last few years I have been on a journey to find myself. This journey has required a lot of “textbooks”: Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, just to name a couple of my favorites. But the farther along in the journey I go, the more I am finding genealogy an essential piece of the puzzle.

This was confirmed for me as I read Dr. Cloud’s book. In the section on “The Mathematical Makeup of Happiness,” he breaks down the origins of happiness into percentages:

…at any given moment, circumstances may be contributing about 10 percent or so to your happiness….The next factor comes from your internal makeup, which is probably composed of genetic, temperament, and constitutional factors. This seems to account for about 50 percent of your happiness level….the rest of what goes into your happiness comes from things that are directly under your control: your behaviors, thoughts, and intentional practices in your life.

(In case you are interested, Dr. Cloud cites Sonja Lyubomirsky’s paper and book on “The How of Happiness.”) Of course, both Dr. Cloud and Ms. Lyubomirsky are focusing on the 40% under our control and looking at it as a positive finding. Of course, me being me — someone whose genetic makeup is to be a “glass-half-empty” person (or as my friends used to say, “every silver lining has a cloud” person) — I jump right on the statement that there is only 40% (or less than half) under my control. Also, I jump back to the 50% genetics…so my instincts in wanting to learn about my genetics seems to be on the mark.

I can blame some of my nature on genetics; there is mental illness and depression in my blood. But I also feel there is a “karma” of sorts flowing there. Like a story that hasn’t ended and needs to be played out. This is the thought process behind this first draft poem I wrote:

 

My relatives clamor for acknowledgment; 

my blood teems with their unmet dreams,

but I am a dead end.

The buck stops here.

 

My grandfather, who died at thirty-six,

wrote of the first World War

in tiny notebooks of concise script.

He filled letters with sketches, inspired by Paris,

he dreamed of art school, but never got there;

Perhaps it is from him I got the eyes squinting for beauty

that none of my siblings have,

covered by the glasses they don’t need.

 

My seemingly self-reliant, resilient grandmother,

Who married over and over, looking for the care

no one knew she needed, or the cure for the loneliness

no knew she had; she can no longer tell me

if after 102 years, and four husbands

she ever found it, but I suspect not.

 

My other grandmother did:

on her second try she found a kind man

who thought her as beautiful as her own father did;

she had the hats to prove it.

How she loved style and fashion,

but she lived with him in a little house set back from the road

in a tiny town, where she hermited herself after he died.

 

My grandmother’s first husband,

my blood grandfather, I know nothing of him.

He is the mystery ingredient,

the wild card, a scapegoat for the intangibles.

My father thought him dead for most of his life,

believing my grandmother’s well-intentioned lie —

her wave of a pair of scissors over photos made him disappear —

He died at mid-life with a new wife,

and no contact or acknowledgement by his only child,

or grandchildren.

Which leads to me, some combination,

unable to pass the buck to another generation.

They want resolution here and now, from me:

I feel all their pain,

but I am a dead end.

But now I am determined to learn more: understand the why’s of who I am on the road to the how’s of finding out how to be the best version of me. I may not be able to extend the dead-end with asphalt, but I can cut a path through the forest and build myself a cabin in the woods.




Last October I wrote a post about the search for the elusive comic book: the one my father didn’t sell that we could sell now and solve everyone’s money woes.

Nine months later we continue to sort through old boxes, sorting out the family heirlooms or things we could sell at a yard sale, our own version of the lottery. Recently we found some approximately one-hundred-year old sheet music in pretty good shape. Once I got over the initial (false) excitement of thinking they might be financially worthwhile, my heart beat more normally and I became  interested in the history. I had taken a class in college on nationalism in children’s literature and found it very interesting. Now firsthand I was witnessing nationalism in another form: sheet music.

Many of the ones we found were copyrighted at the time of  WWI, and thus, this was their subject matter. You can’t get much more nationalistic than this one!

General Pershing song

WWI Nationalistic Sheet Music

How about this one?

 

Vintage Sheet Music

More Nationalistic WWI Sheet Music

According to Antique Roadshow, these are representative of the “golden age” of sheet music between 1890-1920, when people gathered in living rooms and played music for entertainment.

Because my grandfather was in Paris during WWI, I am interested in this time in U.S. history. This is one of my favorite photos of him.

My Grandfather in Paris during WWI

My Grandfather in Paris during WWI

 

I have been considering creating my own “display” in my home with my grandfather’s photo and some “doughboy” toy soldiers. Finding this sheet music may just give me the impetus to do it. I’m thinking now I will frame one of these treasures to add to my display. Since according to Antique Roadshow, they are affordable collectibles, we probably won’t sell them.

But I’m torn. The nationalistic ones are interesting from a historical perspective, but I fell in love with the artwork on some of the others — their colors and style.

sheet music

Vintage Sheet Music

 

vintage sheet music

Colorful Vintage Sheet Music

 

Certainly I can’t be greedy, I’m sure my brothers and sister-in-laws may be interested…and I certainly don’t have the room for more than two. It will be hard to choose, don’t you think?

In the meantime, I’m learning about history and antiques, and the search for the elusive comic book goes on.



{June 25, 2014}   Gotta Love Grandmothers

Clippings

Clippings

The other day my mother and I were going over more boxes. (They are endless!) My paternal grandmother died years ago, but there are still boxes of stuff hanging around that were cleaned out of her house. My father never got a chance to sort through them before he passed away. My mother is determined to dig into the sheds and get through them during the summer months. (It’s easier emotionally than going through my father’s stuff or her own…besides, this stuff is OLD and smelly and she can do it outside.)

My grandmother was a clipper, especially as her memory started to go and she stayed inside all the time. She clipped out recipes, she clipped out poems, she clipped out news stories. There are many boxes just full of yellowed newspaper clippings. Why don’t we just toss them you might ask? Well, here’s a perfect example of why we don’t.

In one box my mother found an old Reader’s Digest envelope labeled in my grandmother’s neat writing: All Susan’s Clippings.

My grandmother had cut out the articles published in the local newspaper for every time I made the honor roll or appeared in the school play. They were tucked into my high school graduation program. Her efforts were touching enough, but I found a treasure in there.

I mentioned in previous posts that the first poem I ever had published was in the editorial section of The Boston Globe. I had just turned 16 at the time, so even though it is a “silly” poem, I’m still proud of it. But I didn’t have a copy. I’m sure I kept one at the time, but it was easily misplaced over the course of many moves and 40 years. Bless my grandmother…there was a copy in her little envelope! Nobody but a diehard Red Sox fan would probably understand it, but here it is…

Red Sox Poem

My First Published Poem




How would I know, you might ask? Observation? Imagination?

I have mentioned before that I have six brothers and NO sisters. The older I get, the more I feel this as an empty hole in my life. You know how things come in threes? Easter Sunday three things made me consider the value of sisters.

Sisters

Sisters

In the morning I was going through yet another box of old photos at my mother’s house. The photos in the box I was going through belonged to my grandmother and great aunt. I had never seen many of them before, and they showed my grandmother and her sisters when they were in their twenties: on vacation, joking around and dressing up for Halloween (they are a bit older in this photo). There were smiles all around. Very different from the elderly women I remember with the weight of years on them. Looking at the photos, the closeness and the camaraderie came through. The photos made me smile and made me miss my great-aunts. Well…the great-aunts that I never got to know.

After dinner with my family, I went to the home of a friend that I call my “pseudo-sister.” We have known each other for 37 years, since we were 18 years old. When I walked in, her mother and her mother’s sisters, all in their 70’s, were singing together and recording it on someone’s iphone. They were laughing and, admittedly a little tipsy. It really made me smile. One of them had come up with an old photo from when they were girls, copied it, and gifted it to the others in a little Easter basket. They were all clearly enjoying the day despite whatever health problems they have.

After they left, when my friend and I were alone, we talked about our youth. Somehow the conversation turned to Julianne Phillips, the ex-wife of Bruce Springsteen. I mentioned the show she starred in: “Sisters.” It turned out my friend had never seen it! (We’re always learning new things about each other.) I told her how I used to watch it faithfully. I thought about that as I drove home. Did I watch the show to see what having sisters was like because I felt I missed it?

I think the real-life I observed in my grandmother’s photos, the moments between my friend’s Mom and her sisters were probably more realistic than the TV show, but perhaps not? Sisters steal each others’ clothes, and boyfriends too in a not-so-perfect world. And they snitch on you and tease you just like brothers…(though not in this clip)

The Daily Post had a topic the other day: what’s on your bucket list? I couldn’t write about it, because I haven’t made one. I don’t allow myself to want trips or things that I’ll never have the money to buy. What I want to experience before I leave this earth are not places to see or things to do — they are feelings that I want to feel. I can’t change the fact that I don’t have blood sisters. But I am grateful to have my pseudo-sister. And I can continue to cultivate new relationships and continue to search for soul-sisters…

Now that’s what’s on my bucket list.




old portrait

My Great Aunt Edie

My mother has a treasure trove of family portraits. Many were passed down by my grandmother (my father’s mother) who labeled as many as she could before her memory was completely gone. I have met with my father’s cousin a couple of times, and we have shared some photos and information. She has been working on a genealogy of my grandmother’s Swedish family for many years. I also have a first-cousin who is doing her best with my mother’s side of the family. I think every family needs an archivist, and I hope to be the one who performs that service for my generation. I sincerely love the old photos; to me they have a special beauty, especially the sepia ones.

This particular photo is of my great aunt. She died when I was still a child, but I do have some memories of her. We used to have family cookouts on Sundays at my grandmother’s house. My aunt Edie lived two doors down so she was also in attendance. Until I found some of the photos I have found, I thought of her as an old lady who DID NOT want her picture taken. I have a copy of some family movies that my brother had transferred to a VHS tape, where she appears ever so briefly before hiding her face.

To me this photo is beautiful. I don’t know the year, but she is wearing her wedding ring so I don’t think she is what I would term “young” in the photo, but certainly a lot younger than my childhood memories (when she was in her 80s). As I look at it I wonder what the occasion might have been for the taking of the photo. Unfortunately my grandmother is not around to ask and she did not write down a year, simply “Sister Edith.”

It makes me think about the generations after me looking at the photos we have taken now. Most are digital and informal. We tend to document children’s lives at least annually (even if it is just school pictures), but beyond college, other than wedding photos, it definitely tails off.

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but I don’t have many pictures of myself as I have aged. The older I get, the more I become like the Aunt Edie I remember…”don’t take my picture!” But on the other hand…it is only going to get worse…I should get a picture taken while I am still youngish…

Looking at these old photos makes me ALMOST want to go out and get one taken for posterity. But of course I would then have to get my hair done, buy and put on some makeup, find a flattering outfit…hmmm.

Maybe not…:-D

 



{March 20, 2014}   The Pit Man

The Pit Man with his TruckThe Pit Man

The rumbling truck sound

sent us running on little girl legs,

between gushing giggles:

“The Pit Man’s Here!”

Funny how things turn up when the time is right.

I’ve been thinking about writing about the man I called, “The Pit Man” for years. I had started a poem that was never finished (see above). Then, over the weekend, my brother and I were back to sorting through boxes of old stuff at my mother’s. My brother found this solitary picture in a box of random stuff. He pulled it out and said, “Hey, is this the Pit Man?” I snatched it out of his hand excitedly and showed it to my mother. “Yes,” said my mother, “That’s him!”

When I was a child, my grandfather owned 18+ acres of land next to where we lived. He had owned the land our house was built on also, but gifted/sold it to my parents to start their family. The rest of the land was next to and behind our house and was leased out to a sand and gravel company. My parents ended up building their “retirement” home where the driveway to the gravel pit was. fifty years later the remnants of the chain are incorporated into the tree, and the rusty old cable is still coiled on the ground.

Chain incorporated into tree

Nature Devouring History

rusty cable

History’s Remnants

The arrival of “The Pit Man” was akin to a trip to the zoo for two five-year-old girls looking for something to relieve the boredom. He didn’t come every day, only when somebody ordered gravel, so his arrival was unpredictable and exciting. He would have to stop the truck in driveway to unlock the chain that protected it from unauthorized visitors. That gave us time to run over and greet him. He would always smile and spend a couple of minutes talking to us before proceeding with his work.

My memory is of a “James Dean” character: handsome, trim and tanned. The man shown in this picture resembles my memory that way Barrack Obama resembles Denzel Washington…NOT! I remember him in the heat of summer in a t-shirt: I remember staring at the tattoo on his sweaty arm while he smoked during a cigarette break…exotic! He didn’t speak like us. He spoke slowly; he said his “R’s”!  A  child’s first crush on an adult is a memorable life event. Funny how different our memories can be from reality, isn’t it?

Nowadays a mother would have to be wary of her daughter being around such a man; there seem to be so many brazenly bad people ready to hurt children. But back then, it was a different world. It was a small town; my parents knew him. (Funny that they even had a picture of him!) Finding it gave my mother the opportunity to tell me what she knew. His name was Lloyd; he was originally from the Ozarks in Arkansas. She doesn’t remember why he ended up in New England — that would have been a big move back then when people were less likely to move so far from where they grew up, but it was likely economics or because of a marriage. She said he would often speak of his birthplace with affection and wistfulness, and he hoped to get back there someday. He never did; he died quietly in our small town. But he is remembered fondly…

Maybe I am meant to finish the poem…my tribute to what he meant to a small-town five-year-old girl.




Though ABANDONED  was the topic of the Weekly PHOTO Challenge, I thought it was a good topic for my writing blog.

When I was a child, we never had to buy pets; they just showed up. Strays and abandoned cats and dogs seemed to see an invisible sign on our door that said, “welcome.”  Some stayed with us, some were found homes elsewhere, and some unfortunately did not survive the crazy busy street we lived on. I have written previously about my cat, Breeze, who just showed up one cold November morning and after some manipulation on the part of my brother and I, in cahoots with my father, became part of the family.

But today I wanted to write about a couple of abandoned dogs that were found: Trash and Freebie. I think their names tell you how they were acquired. 🙂

boy with puppy

Trash

Please excuse the quality of this scanned photo; it’s quite old and the only photo I could find of a dog who didn’t live with us for very long.  The little boy in the picture is my youngest brother.

My father worked at the town dump and recycling center for a time between jobs. One day he noticed that one of the trash bags dropped off seemed to be moving and making a noise. With further investigation, he found an adorable puppy. The puppy came home with him that night, and my father dubbed her, “Trash.” Not a particularly flattering name, but believe me, my father had a heart of gold and wasn’t trying to give the puppy psychological problems. Unfortunately at the time we already two dogs and a cat, too many children and not a lot of money. My mother said Trash couldn’t stay. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for my father to find “Trash” a home with someone down the street. I never knew what her new name became or saw her again, but I was happy that she was saved and had a home.

Years later my father found another puppy that he dubbed with an unequally unflattering name who ended up living with our family and becoming a beloved pet. Freebie’s story began this way: my father was working temporarily out in California; my mother and younger brothers were living out there with him. One day my father came across a German Shepherd-mix puppy tied to a pole on a street in California. The dog was thin, but friendly. My father checked around; no one knew who she belonged to or where she came from. As my parents and brother were due to drive back home to Massachusetts within a week and they couldn’t find her owner, they decided to take the puppy with them. My father’s thinking was that someone who would leave her tied to a pole on a hot day in the city didn’t deserve her.

puppy,

And so she was dubbed “Freebie” and traveled across the country from California to Massachusetts. She initially was my brother’s dog, but as he was in his late teens, he soon moved out, unable to take Freebie with him. But he still paid for her food and visited with her. Freebie contracted heartworm when she was only 3 years old, but my brother, managed to scrape up a few hundred dollars to save her life.

Meanwhile she had become very attached to my father. My father would go for walks on the acres of land that he owned at the time and be gone for a while, but my mother knew how to get my father to come home. She would say, “Freebie, where’s Earl?” Then she would let Freebie out to go and find my father. Whenever she showed up, he knew it was time to go home.



{February 3, 2014}   Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

My mother just gave me this “object” full of objects. 🙂

Egg Carton

Okay, you say…it’s an egg carton.

We opened it and this is what we saw.

Old Jewelry

The egg box was used as a way to keep my grandmother’s jewelry together and fairly organized. Newspaper was stuffed in the top to protect it. My grandmother died in 2001, across the country; my mother must have packed it up this way for the drive back to MA (she doesn’t like to fly).

When we found it, she didn’t comment on it or tell me a story; she saw it as a bunch of junk jewelry. To me it’s vintage, to her it is dated. As I was supposed to get my grandmother’s jewelry, she gave it to me.

I examined them all. Some I can’t picture wearing, but there were a couple of pairs of earrings I thought were pretty (in an old fashioned way) and a couple of interesting pins. (I don’t have a macro len so it was very difficult to try to take the small things clearly so forgive me for the blurriness.)

I wore the little bowling pin the other day because I thought it was neat. My friend sent me the name and web site of a local woman who takes old jewelry and creates new pieces out it. I’m thinking that’s what I’ll do with most of the rest.

It’s fun to wear a piece of the past. People make art out of such things. A woman I know makes jewelry out of old china: you can check out her work here.



{January 18, 2014}   Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

I don’t usually participate in the photo challenges on this blog, I usually reserve that for my Last Train to Qville blog. But I thought the topic was great prompt to tell a family story recently told to me by my mother.

I never knew my grandfather (my mother’s father) because he died when she was 6 years old, but I have been fascinated by him, especially lately, for a number of reasons. My mother has been showing me some of the few mementos and photos of him that she treasures, including his service diary when he was in World War I. He was stationed in Paris, and his love of beauty and art is reflected in the observations he chose to record in his concise and neat penmanship and the souvenirs he saved. His letters to my grandmother were full of little sketches; my mother said he wanted to go to art school someday, but he never had the chance.

My Coffee Table -- My Mother's Childhood Toy Box

My Coffee Table — My Mother’s Childhood Toy Box

My mother has some terrific pictures of him, including one of him in his uniform in front of the Arche de Triumph. I’m privileged to have the toy box he made for my mother as my coffee table. Nothing fancy, but he made it so I treasure it. She won’t let the pictures leave the house, even for me to scan, so unfortunately I can’t show you a picture of him here, but I can try to give you a picture of who he was through words. My mother recently shared a poignant story that I thought I’d share with you about the last time she saw him.

My grandfather died of pneumonia in 1932, when he was not even 35 years old. He had a wife, a son and a daughter. My uncle, who was six years older than my mother, was able to relate the story of my grandfather leaving his childhood home in Indiana and driving his family to Florida for a job prospect during the Depression. Cars were not very rugged back then. Highways were a dream to come in the future; most of  the roads were still dirt. My uncle said that often they had to stop the car to roll rocks and boulders out of the way to get through. When they arrived, my grandfather landed a good job at a lumber yard where the owners were pleased with his ability to accurately estimate the amount of lumber needed to translate design plans into finished homes. (I assume that is where he got the wood to build the toy box I have in my living room.) The family had a small home down there with a small yard, so his risk paid off; they were doing well for the time period.

But their prosperity did not last. My grandfather got sick. He was in quarantine in a backyard shed, trying to recover and delirious with fever (I don’t know why no hospital, but perhaps that was only for the rich back then). In 1932, the big news story of the day was the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. My father adored his little girl, and in his delirium, he became convinced someone had kidnapped her.

My Mother as a Child

My Mother as a Child

(I’m not sure how old my mother was in the picture below, but I think she was a pretty child. She let me have this picture because she hates it…she hates the BIG bow!)

My mother was not allowed to go into the shed where he was, but she remembers being told to wave to him through a window so that he could see that she was safe; the thinking was that it would calm him down so he could concentrate on fighting his illness. It gave him relief, but didn’t save him. The last time my mother saw him was through a window, but thanks to her grandmother (his mother) telling her the background to the story years later, she has felt loved and special to him for most of her life. I was happy she shared the story with me.



et cetera
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