Perhaps it was the beef stew of last night. Perhaps it was a touch of full moon. Perhaps it was an overactive imagination stimulated by a late night cup of coffee.
There are nights when one tosses and turns and then wanders the house crashing on this bed, that one, a sofa, an easy chair. The mantle clock ticks loudly, more loudly still and with each incessant tick the time between seems longer and longer until one seems caught in some inescapable element of time, hanging between the minutes. And at such times the thoughts one has, the reveries one becomes engaged in are just a mite on the "strange side" and those that one would laugh at and never admit to with a breaking dawn.
It is impossible in those late night excursions wandering a house not to run into the ancestors, for their photographs, the work of their hands and their belongings are indeed what adorn it from one side to the other, from the bottom to the top. It was such a night that I sat and gazed in the reflections of a bay window, ancestral photographs reflecting from the hall behind.and had a mite of a reverie.
Halfway between one doze and the next yawn, she stood. And she did not look at all happy. Her sigh was audible and seemed to breeze around and about my grandfather's rocking chair, dance over the ancient books in the window seat, stir softly round and about the old piano and light at last on my shoulder. Startled I realized that she was indeed there, not behind me as the reflection might indicate, but reflected in the bay window, a long ruffled dress extending beneath the edge of the frame in which her countenance actually stopped at her shoulders.
"If you wanted to honor me," she sighed, "you could have chosen a better photograph".
"But grandmother!," I whispered, lest I wake anyone else in the house, "It was all I had!"
"Why do you think folks' portraits wind up unknown on Cracker Barrel walls??? Their kindred know better than to dishonor their ancestors! That is why! And I assure you," she whispered back in short disgusted tones, "That your great grandfather did indeed shave off that nasty bit of goat hair on his chin! That you should remember him through all eternity as looking like something my mother fed scraps from the kitchen! I should have burned that photograph long ago."
"But grandmother.", I feebly resisted, wondering how to explain to her that something, anything!. was better than nothing at all.
"And that cracked bowl," she continued, "For goodness sake! Is that all you could find to display of your great great granny's?? She detested that bowl!!! It was given her by her sister-in-law. who by the way was not exactly the epitomy of grace and kindness. In fact, it was deliberately chosen for its particular brand of "ugly", and it was with a grin she presented it to my mother, knowing good and well that for 'family sake' it would have to be used and looked at daily."
Granny sighed. "Mama dropped it, time and again, but the hateful thing would not break, only crack. And so here a hundred years later I drop in on my great granddaughter and what do I find?? That bowl, all that is left in her memory! Ah, fate is a curious and terrible thing!"
On and on we went, and with dismay I realized granny was more than a mite disturbed over not only photograph albums and a cracked bowl, but the choice a family had made in keeping the worst table of the household lot, the picture frame that was not the one of whom the ancestors were most proud, the letter written at a time when she claimed gg aunt Mabel was "not herself".
It was only by introducing Granny to my Gedcom that she began to calm down. Of course she let me know that I had a good many things wrong, and that I danged well better remove a few kinships I had documented.but I
think she began to get the idea that I truly wanted to remember those who had gone on before. I believe the idea of that softened her heart a bit and I thought I saw a spot of something wet upon the glass of the window.though there was no rain. When she read my stories of the past, she agreed that perhaps this family remembrance thing was truly a wondrous pursuit, even if I had a few of my facts wrong. And by the time she decided to fade from the bay window, she was actually agreeing it was nice I had the cracked bowl if I would please document the correct story behind it. Her mother had far better taste than that, was her emphatic declaration. She even said I could leave the photo of great grandpa on display. "Serve the old goat right for going around looking like one for a time!", she declared, and in a moment, the echoing tinkle of a giggle was all that was left hanging in the air.
So, was it the last night's beef stew? Or the mysterious pull of a full moon? Was it that late night cup of coffee I knew better than to engage in? I have no clue. But at dawn's breaking light, I resolved, I would comb my photograph albums and remove every single one of those of myself that are less than flattering. Only those of which I heartily approve shall descend to my great grandchildren. I intend shortly to have a yard sale, getting rid of all items I have purchased or been given in my lifetime that are representative of a particular brand of "ugly". Heaven forbid that ugly statue pushed way back in a closet should ever see the light of day in a great granddaughter's house and be presented as representative of "Granny Jan"!
Just a thought <BBG>,
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