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Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Prodigal Courtier

I went to lunch with my husband yesterday and saw something I haven't seen in 30 years.  It was a little porcelain figure of a frou-frou, 18th C. French Courtier dressed in white and trimmed in gold.  He had a partner once.  She too had been dressed all in gold trimmed white.  Her greatly ruffled skirt ballooned out over an imaginary, whalebone hoop.  She wasn't at the restaurant though.  He seemed to have taken another lover with more color somewhere along the way.

I couldn't help myself, I reached for him surprised to find he wasn't securely fixed to prevent such a groping as the one I was about to give him.  Like King Kong and Fay Wray, I clutched him in my giant hand and stared into his eyes. I didn't think I'd ever see him again in my life and yet here he was keeping watch over the falafel eaters such as myself.  I turned him over to see what his mark was but instead I saw a bright pink, garage sale sticker that said $1.00.  The waitress walked by, "Is this really for sale," I asked?

I was told everything was for sale and so I placed him between Richard and myself and dug out a dollar for my prize.  Within minutes, the waitress came back, there had been a mistake my dollar went back in my bag and my courtier went back to his shelf.  Just like that, found, recovered, gone.  But the truth is, he wasn't the same guy I had back in the day.  The beautiful couple I had played with at Grandma Lucas' house until they became mine were long gone.  Smashed in fact, by my brother in an act of cruelty.

Here's the thing.  I didn't care.  I didn't mind when the waitress took him back.  She was mortified and I was really okay with it.  I didn't need him, it was just really nice to see him. Like an old friend I'd lost touch with that I chanced upon again.  The thing that struck me was how common he must have been in his time.  I thought he and his dancing partner were unique to my grandmother.  Something she alone had but my couple were New Yorkers.  This gentleman is clearly a Wisconsiner.  These figures were probably all over the country in the 1930s. 

Perhaps it was not as surprising to see him again as I would like to think.  Years ago, in the same Antique Shop on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills, I saw Grandma Nye's exact green vase on a shelf.  The vase I was told was rare, Depression-era glass.  Meanwhile in the jewelry cabinet I saw the wedding ring that Mabel was given by her first husband.   I now look at these things as having been popular and numerous in their day.  Not in the same way people of a generation have a collective awareness of TV shows or songs--common experiences of an era.  These are material things dependent on taste and budget.  My family's possessions would not have been all that unusual in the scheme of things.  We all like to think we're unique but there's always crossover somewhere.

These material things come and go and turn up where we least expect them.  Diana lost a charm off Grandma Lucas' charm bracelet once.  It was our very favorite one--the artist's palette.  Di called me very upset and out of nowhere I came over very wise and told her "Everything is transient.  We had it once but now it's gone.  Life is just that way, you have to accept that and not lament its loss".  Seriously, I responded like that mostly because Diana needed me to even though I did feel a pang in my gut.  Fifteen years later I was on ebay and I found the exact charm that was lost.  The company who had made them and many other ones familar to me had gone out of business in the 1960s but somewhere, someone had the stock still and here it was being offered.  I bought one and gave it Diana for Christmas that year. 

Life and all who sail in her are transient but sometimes the road has roundabouts and familiar scenery.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Was Telling Someone Not to be Nervous Ever Helpful?

Alice Warn Cass (1880-1936)


Thursday 1913
Allen and I went to Jamestown to see the doctor.  We got some nerve pills.
Paid Aunt and Mort   $5.75
Paid Dr.                      $5.00
Spent                          $7.50
for dry goods

Tuesday 1934
It is fair out but very cold.  I got up quite early.  Fell went back to Albany.  Mab & Eleanor began their school again.  Carl fixed the chimney.  Mattie came.

Wednesday 1935
Herman and Mildred called.  The sun is shinning.  Mab went back to (?) school.

Thursday 1936
We took the Christmas tree out.


Nora Babcock Cass (1856-1932)

Thursday 1879
Today finds me well.  Taught school.  It is an awful, cold, stormy day boarding at O.E. Thayer's.  Little Flora is very sick.  I find my mind somewhat unsettled tonight. 


Frank Smith Cass (1851-1932)


Tuesday 1917
 Victor Long paid up his mortgage and I gave Allen $100 toward paying Alice's Dr. bill at the hospital.

Tuesday 1923

Rollie went up to Ivory to a Farmer’s Institute.  Willard started back to Ann Arbor College.  Gilbert Eccles died aged 81 years.

Wednesday 1924

Made a reach for Rollie’s Sleds.  Rollie drew manure.

Friday 1925

Rollie + Morris drew wood + manure in the forenoon.  Willard was here in the afternoon.  Rollie paid Erie Comstock + Mearle Cowan $40.

Saturday 1926

Got 1350 soft coal.  Drew up deed sent a contract to John A Wheeler for a Village Lot.

Sunday 1927

Rollie + Ester were here part of the day.  Morris went to church + Sunday school.

Monday 1928

Stormy day.  Rollie and Ester, Hugh and his wife called a while.  Rollie + Esther stayed all night.

Wednesday 1929

Stayed at home.

Thursday 1930

Ward Abbey was here and offered me $45 for the 5 stacks of Hay on the hill farm.

Friday 1931

Allen A. and Ruthie (Rustic’s?)came.  Allen stayed with me most of the afternoon.

Saturday 1932

Stayed at home Allen A. called.  He is starting back to Ann Arbor.  (very shakey hand)


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Wheel of the Year

Different Voices: Different Years

Frank m. Nora
                  Allen m. Alice                                                                          Rollin m. Esther   
                    1. Willard (m. Florence)                                                            1. Phyllis
                    2.  Dorothy
                    3.  Morris & (twin died in infancy, Marvin)
                    4.  Mabel (m. Stuart)
                    5.  Ruth  (m. Jack)
                    6.  Allen (aka Fell) dated Eleanor

Alice Warn Cass (1880-1936)

Wednesday, January 1, 1913

Ground buckwheat and took washing down to Mrs. Haley.  Frank and Morris came over in the morning. Allen came in with the New Year after being gone for four days.

Paid Gene Odell $1.00 for cutting wood

Monday January 1, 1934

Mild in the morning but cold at night.  Stayed home all day.  Rollie & Esther called.  in the evening we all visited.  Fell & Eleanor were here.

Tuesday, January 1, 1935

It has snowed all day.   Last night Earnest Bennett's house burned up in Fentonville.  We laid around all day and rested.

Wednesday, January 1, 1936

The sun shone all day.  Fell got home abut one o'clock.  Rollie & Phyllis came over.  Dot came over and swept for me.  Fell wen to the Nordus Club dinner and dance with Florence & Willard.


Nora Babcock Cass (1856-1932)

Wednesday January 1, 1879

"Happy New Year"  I spent the day at sister Emma's .  Frank came after me.  Had a fine ride back to school.  Stayed at his house all night .  My resolution is to do just as nearly right as possible with Jesus as my helper.  N.B.


Frank Smith Cass (1851-1932)

Sunday December 31, 1916

Ed Harrington lost his best horse, it got kicked and had to kill it.

Monday January 1, 1917

Nora and I went up to Joel Harrington's and visited with them and Mr. Maret's (?) folks.

Monday January 1, 1923     

Allen's folks were all here.  Carl Anderson and Dorothy, and Mary Dalrymple.

Tuesday January 1, 1924

A very stormy day did not do much.  Mrs. Ella Bingham was buried.

Thursday January 1, 1925

I was sick most all night.  Rollie went to a party below Fentonville.

Friday January 1, 1926

Willard was here a while in the morning.  Rollie came and stayed all night.  He is working at Dunkirk.

Saturday January 1, 1927

Rollie, Esther, Frank & Gunner & the Doctor were here.

Sunday  January 1, 1928

We all went to church.  Rollie came and stayed with us in the afternoon.
Tuesday January 1, 1929

We all stayed at home.  Ruth Nora came and stayed a little while towards evening.
Wednesday January 1, 1930

We all stayed at home.  Allen, Alice, Rollie, Esther, Phyllis and Ruth Nora were here a while.  Allen & Alice are thinking of going to Florida.

Thursday January 1, 1931

It snowed some.  I have a hard cold.  Rollie & Esther & Phyllis called a little while.
Friday January 1, 1932

Rollie & I went up to Mr. Davis's to see his cattle.


Meanwhile, up the road a piece in Worksburg (Falconer) another side of the family...

Alice Phetteplace Lucas (1846-1913)

Monday January 1, 1866

 Cloudy day and cold.  Emma went to town.  Finished our dresses.  Went to Sinclairville in the afternoon at 4 o'clock.  Got home at past ? in the morning.  Had a very good time. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things

It has been nearly 100 years since the start of World War I-- the war to end all wars.  To mark this anniversary we will be writing about this era over the next few months and sharing our family history as it relates.

For now here are two classic songs from the War:

 Over There

or our Grandma Kate's favorite:

Hinky Dinky Parlez Vous

Monday, September 23, 2013

Accidental Memory Revival

I thought I remembered everything.  Well, everything long-term, not short-term at any rate.  I've had a manilla envelope full of about dozen letters from my mother to my Grandma Lucas that I'd never taken the time to read. As I continue to sort out my papers though I have to face these things down.  Today I began to open them.

If you read the entry "A Broken Home and other terms that pissed off mom" you may remember a reference to the tweedy furniture that ended up in our garage post divorce.  Imagine my surprise when one of the letters I opened today contained a swatch of that black and brown houndstooth.  My memory in this instance was as good as a photo.  It is exactly how I remembered it and it was an incredibly odd sensation to hold the fabric in my hand and see it as brand new.  Unlike the long lost couch it once covered, this little piece of fabric hasn't seen light in 46 years.  I was immediately transported back to Spring Valley in a brief, unexpected bit of time travel that made me queasy.

I read on and this is where I can't believe I didn't remember.  "Jennifer has her bar for feet --Uses it at night and doesn't seem to mind."  Wow, what a thing to forget.  I needed a brace on my legs.  How did I forget that?   It  clearly didn't make a huge impression on me unlike when my elementary school friend wore leg braces in third grade.  Her mom had to make her pants to fit over them and I always walked behind with her to recess. 

I'm the kid who always folded my stick of Juicy Fruit over my front teeth to simulate orthodonture that I would never really need.  You'd think corrective bars on my feet would have made a dent in my psyche good or bad. However, if I hadn't read the letter I would never have remembered them for the rest of my life.  I am certain.

I called Diana.  She remembered them because she was jealous of them.  Kids are hilarious.  But the most curious thing about these letters is why they may have been kept.  Why just this year and just one letter from 1960 about my brother as a baby?  Was it just the years of most change?  The family was started in 1960 and it was complete in '67 and it was divided in 1970.  I will continue to read and see what else I've forgotten, or never knew.  It's funny how one little line in a letter written so long ago changes the memories as I have had them ordered for so long.