Ancestor Seekers of Kenora

Genealogy in the Kenora District of Northwestern Ontario

Last night I suffered a disaster. A minor disaster. A messy disaster. One of those disasters that happens like a stretching exercise... in triple slow motion.

Almost every night at bedtime, I make myself a great big, giant mug of cocoa. I love my cocoa. I take it into my room and set it on the corner of my dresser beside my bed.... You can see where this is going already, can't you.

Last night, I hopped into bed.

I don't know what I did or what I was trying to do, but the next thing I remember is the sound of my heavy glass mug rocking on the oak top of my antique dresser. I turn my head. I see the wave of hot chocolate milk, like a mirror image negative of that famous Japanese print. I try to grab the mug as it tumbles, feel the scalding liquid, fumble and watch helplessly as the wave cascades to the floor and splashes....

And then everything speeds up.

I look at my dresser. Books, of course. Pens. A coaster. A couple of pain-killers soaking in that expanding, hot, chocolate puddle. I am frozen with the shock of what just happened for a moment or two. Then I see my three treasured photographs - two Victorian ones, one of my Great Grandfather and another of my Great Grandmother just at the rim of the slowly expanding puddle. I grab them and am about to put them on my bed when I realise it's all wet, too! The third photo is in an unfinished wood frame and lies on its back in front of the other two - a photo of the daughter, my maternal grandmother.

I grab it quickly and then some Kleenex (it's all I've got handy) because I see the cardboard backing is soaking and dripping with chocolate milk. There's a small, liquid splotch on the ill-fitting glass, too.

My Great-Aunt Grace gave me the photo of my grandmother. They were sisters. My grandmother had a hole in her heart. By some miracle, she lived a full life, but she was gone before I arrived on the scene. This is one of the only photographs I have of her, that I actually own myself. She's less than a decade older than I am now, but she looks older than she is. The photo is taken in the garden of another sister, my Great-Aunt Gladys, in San Antonio. Aunt Glad was a nursing sister in the First World War. Grandmother was under her care as she recuperated from one of her numerous strokes when this picture was taken. She looks happy and relaxed.

I could see that the liquid was going to cause some real damage if I didn't disassemble the frame quickly and get things dried out fast!

I popped out the cardboard backing which was taped on one side with butcher's tape to the back of the frame. To my surprise, it came out easily, along with two other photos packed in behind my grandmother! I was quick enough that only my grandmother's photo was slightly damaged at the extremes.

Once I got the mess out of the way (oh, it was an awful mess - closet doors, dresser, bed had to be remade, the floor was a lake...), I took some time out to examine the photographs. The one furthest back was my Great-Grandmother, the same woman as in the Victorian photograph.

The sandwiched photo was one of my Great Aunt Ruth, the historian, with her baby daughter. Three generations in one 2.5x4 inch package! That must be a record - at least in my family.

On the rear of my great-aunt's photograph was the notation:

January 1944 [Aunt Grace's hand]

Geoffrey sent the jacket & bonnet.

Notice the quilt.

January 1944 [cut off, all in Aunt Ruth's hand]

I showed Mom the photo this morning to confirm that it was Aunt Ruth. I thought the remark that Uncle Geoff had sent the jacket and bonnet was a bit odd, since they were married.... I didn't say anything to mom about it, though. I just waited to see what she'd say.

"Yes, that's Aunt Ruth and Judith. Look at her [Ruth]; she's so happy!" Stories ensued.

She flipped over the photo and read it aloud. She paused when she read the bit about the jacket and bonnet.

"Oh, of course! Uncle Geoff would have been overseas then."

You'd think with all the work we're doing on veterans right now at ASK, I'd have thought of that, now, wouldn't you!

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Tags: Dr._Elizabeth_Beckett_Matheson, Matheson, Ruth_Matheson_Buck, archives, family_photographs

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Comment by Elizabeth Campbell on February 19, 2013 at 3:30pm

Oh, I agree, Linda! LOL

Comment by Linda (Forbes) Pelletier on February 16, 2013 at 6:22pm

I enjoyed reading your story and so good you saved the photos!

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