I've been working on family history for a couple of weeks, trying to apply the same semi-disciplined approach that I use for my artwork projects to actually get this project done too
(Ok, I know that family history is never really DONE, but I want to organize it, get it recorded on CDs that I can share and get rid of anything that I don't actually NEED to keep)
In the mornings, when I'm at desk top my computer, I've been scanning old photos and using my photoshop software to clean them up and save in several formats so I can share them. Working with these old photos makes me think of the people in them, some of whom I never met, and some of whom I remember well.
This is my grandmother.
My mother's mother.
This picture was taken in 1921 -- the year she married my grandfather.
From the time I can first remember, I called her Mammy. I have a couple of letters she wrote to me when I was in junior high school where she actually signed them "Your Mammy".
I remember her best, of course, through a child's eyes. I actually have earlier memories of her than I do of my own mother (who was a working woman in the 1950's).
Mammy taught me a lot of the things that are the foundation of the art I do today.
She taught me to sew -- first by hand, then (very carefully) on the old sewing machine (not a treddle, she had an electric one). I learned how to make clothing first from her, and how to be very frugal with the fabric. (I actually know how to turn a collar and a cuff on a dress shirt, something that nobody does any more) When a dress or skirt or shirt was considered at last to be beyond wearing, we removed the zippers and buttons and snaps and saved them to be reused -- something that was useful to me again recently when my daughter needed zippers replaced in a skirt and a summer dress, and I had something right on hand that would work.
She taught me to knit -- my grandfather brought home all of the string from the post office (back in those days they still tied packages with string), that we tied together, rolled into balls and used for "yarn". My first knitting was to make dish clothes out of that cotton string -- all those knots made extra texture that was good for scrubbing with.
She taught me how to make tatted lace edging (and I was thrilled after she was gone to be the one that inherited the little case she had made out of an oatmeal box and some brown herringbone tweed wool fabric (probably from an old skirt) to carry her tatting shuttles and thread in)
She taught me to love the sound of words -- a passion for poetry that carried over into song lyrics -- I remember her pushing me in the swing that hung from a tree in her yard and the words of Robert Louis Stevenson
Oh how do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall
Til I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside -
Til I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown -
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
It is odd to think that I am now nearly the age she was as I first remember her.
Now there are a lot of questions I would like to ask her -- about her life before I knew her, about her life with my grandfather, about her family and the places she had been
perhaps it is that wondering that leads us to do family history!