Friday, February 24, 2017

ELIZABETH RICHARDSON GOULD...

I’ve always loved this painting.
It was in my grandfather’s house; my father remembered it hanging in his bedroom when he was growing up. At some point, my father inherited it from his parents, and I from him.
It’s on the west wall of my guest bedroom; the light yellow walls pick up the soft greens and yellows and browns of the grasses and fall leaves; the mountains rise high in the background—strong gray and blue under a pale sky.
I’m pretty sure it’s someplace in New Hampshire—the mountains look right to me (for those of you who don’t know, the mountains in New Hampshire have a particular shape and heft, a sense of self that’s unmistakable).

Elizabeth Della Richardson was born in (English) Canada in 1887; by 1910, she was a naturalized citizen, married to my great-great uncle Melvin W. Gould, Jr. living in Manchester, NH, first in a rented house, but soon in a house they owned on Maple Street. Elizabeth’s mother, a widow, lived with them.
Melvin was a foreman in a shoe factory—a good job for a man who had only one year of high school education; Elizabeth, a college graduate, was “at home.”
And while “at home,” she painted.

Beautifully.




Saturday, February 11, 2017

SHELLS...

Found this photo the other day; it took me by surprise!
          It also took me back fifty years…

Look at all those shells!

It must have been the 1960s – in my hippie days, when Vietnam was raging, the civil rights movement was on the rise, and I was idealistic enough to believe that my generation could put an end to all that horrific injustice and inequality by embracing values of love and peace, of inclusiveness and acceptance.

Just look at it!
A peace sign (for those of you not old enough to remember that symbol).
I had a pair of Peace earrings that I wore occasionally – they were too heavy to wear every day; I gave an old boyfriend a silver Peace medallion – he wore it around his neck on a silver chain; when I was living on the farm, we had a Jersey cow so sweet and gentle that we riveted a leather Peace sign to her collar – when she died, we nailed it (collar and all) to a maple in the eastern tree line where she used to stand in the shade on hot summer days.

As I said, I was idealistic then.
         
But not any more.
          I’m older now, a shade wiser, and I understand that everything I have fought for in the last fifty years is on very shaky ground.
I am struggling to maintain my balance in a country I cannot recognize as my own, a country where the ideals of equality, justice, and working for the common good have been abandoned to sustain the financial and personal gain of the very few.

It’s an empty place, an empty shell.


Resist.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

ON STAIRS....

There are bookcases in my living room—an upper level of five shelves that go up to the ceiling stacked over a lower level of countertop with shelves underneath. The bottom section has matching latticed doors that I keep shuttered at all times because it’s always incredibly messy in there.
         
Every so often, I open the doors and clean things up. I sort through photos, jigsaw puzzles, board games, old packs of cards, books that are too big to stack on the upper shelves, old records, etc. I pack things to donate to charity, shove others in trash bags to hit the curb on collection day; I also end up putting things back into the cupboards—things I’m just not ready to part with yet.

I stumbled across my 1966 college yearbook the other day.
I poured a cup of coffee and thumbed through: page after page of young women who looked remarkably alike…page boy hairstyles, knee-high socks, plaid skirts, wool sweaters, Peter Pan collars and the occasional turtleneck.
We weren’t quite “Barbies,” but it was mighty close!

I digress.
         
Anyway, as I was looking through the photos, I noticed that the school photographer had taken all our class group photos on stairways—page after page of sequences of young women posed (alphabetically, by surname; we’re of so little importance that we don’t even have first names) on stairways, one after the other, all lined up like little Stepford Wives, hands on the railing.
We are all the same.

The caption reads: D. Gould, W. Gillingham, E. Grant, L. Goldey, D. Gannet, N. Glesmann, K. Gardner, C. Givens.

And there I am, at twenty years old, standing on the bottom step.


 I am so young that it makes me ache...

Saturday, January 28, 2017

THE VOICE....

The Voice.
         
My father adored her.

He joined the Navy in 1940 with dreams of becoming a pilot; he had his flight training in Jacksonville, Florida.
After successfully completing flight school, he flew transport planes for the US Navy during the war, hopping between Miami and Rio every few days.
          Before he married my mother, he lived in a small house in Miami with three other US Navy pilots and a chimpanzee named Violet (she’s a whole different story), a charismatic group of flyboys who spent their evenings in the bars and nightclubs of Miami, slamming down drinks, appreciating the women and listening to jazz and swing bands that toured the area…Basie, Goodman, Dorsey, etc.
         
And then along came Ella Fitzgerald.
         
The first time he heard her sing, my father was transported.
He spent an entire night at a little table in a nightclub, smoking Chesterfields, sipping Manhattans and listening to a voice that left him speechless.
When she took a break between sets, my father (emboldened, I’m sure, by the alcohol), approached her, asked if he could buy her a drink.
She said yes.

He never could remember what she had to drink; he remembered her eyes and her laugh and her voice.


The Voice.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

ROXANNA ADAMS WILDER SABIN...


I’m fascinated by seeing photographs of people as they grow, as they mature; there’s something magical about this aging process.

Here’s two photographs of my great-great grandmother, Roxanna Adams Wilder Sabin, 1832-1926.

The first shot is Roxanna at 1850 or so, just before her marriage; the second was taken at Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts, shortly before she died in 1926.

Here’s the story:
When Roxanna’s mother died, she and her siblings were taken in by relatives (a common practice back in the early 1800s). Roxanna was placed with childless aunt who was, unfortunately, married to a man who wasn’t particularly fond of children; he eventually tired of the situation and took her to the Poor Farm and left her there.
          The entire community was outraged.
A man named Prescott Wilder rescued her from the Poor Farm, took her home; he and his wife raised her. She grew up as Roxanna Wilder, even though Prescott Wilder never officially adopted her.


Roxanna married Lucius Sabin in 1851. They lived in Ashburnham and Gardner, Massachusetts; they had four children: Lucius (Lute) Wilder Sabin, Frances Taylor Sabin (my paternal great-grandmother), Edwin Alonzo Sabin and Ethel Wheeler Sabin.
One of the things I love about these two photographs is the pose -- hand to the cheek, etc. I wonder if it was intentional?


To see what other people have found to match this young/old theme, visit Sepia Saturday, a blog that calls for others "to share their history through the medium of photographs."

To see what others have posted, visit
http://www.sepiasaturday.blogspot.com



Saturday, December 17, 2016

CHRISTMAS GLASSWARE...

Christmas dinner in Boston was a mighty affair!
Grandparents, aunts and uncles, a bunch of cousins—even a few great-uncles (one in particular who was a lawyer; he was slightly on the shady side and smoked little cigarettes—my grandmother ran around after him holding a tiny silver tray just in case he wavered, spilled his ash).

I remember dressing up: little white socks with scalloped top edges and what we used to call Mary Jane shoes—black patent leather with a strap over the instep – dreadful things, but fancy enough for small children (they were named for Buster Brown’s sweetheart in the old comic series!).
          I had a crinoline and a taffeta dress, too – it itched like fury, but it was gorgeous – it changed color whenever the fabric moved. I was fascinated by that color-changing bit.
          I had a matching ribbon for a headband.

The dining room had two big windows along the outside wall; on the inside wall, opposite the windows, there were two doors into the hallway. There was a pantry, too, off one end—a magical space full of various sets of china; dinner plates and luncheon plates and butter and dessert plates; cups and bowls; drawers of silver (all wrapped in maroon or gray flannel protectors); all manner and kind of table accessories!
          The table itself?
          A centerpiece, of course; candles and place settings: Two forks (salad fork, dinner fork), two knives (salad and meat) and a couple of spoons (teaspoon, soup spoon). (“Work from the outside in,” my mother coached us.)
Sometimes a desert fork and spoon placed horizontally above the dinner plate, one pointing left, one pointing right.
Little bread plate to the left, with a bread knife across; silver salts with blue glass insides and tiny little spoons—oh, how I loved those tiny silver spoons; I imagined little people scooping salt from them.
And the biggest napkins I’d ever seen – blazing white, with my grandmother’s initials in the corner (VMH); not a stain on them, although I can’t imagine how that happened—probably due to Annie Sagan’s hard work in the laundry room downstairs.


And the glassware!
Crystal wine glasses with a tapered rim, a shaped stem and full bowl, with cut starburst and ivy pattern…after dinner my father would set all the glasses in a row, wet his finger and run it around the rims of the bowls, make the glassware sing!


It was magic to me back then; it is magic to me now.