Nana, Babe, Mom, Audrey, and great-grandmother Juntje, Grand Rapids MI about 1930
David says his dad, who survived WWI, the Great Influenza Epidemic, the Depression and WWII, always told him the good old days weren’t that good. Given he had a job with the Atlantic Coastline Railroad all through his life, he and his family probably fared better than most, however. Everything is relative in this world. Someone always has a worse situation than you do. And someone is always better off.
Years ago, I had dinner in an old lodge in Hershey Pennsylvania with a fellow Bell employee I had met at a training seminar. Like me, she was a manager, and we were the only two women managers at this conference. So we had a good “chin wag” over a meal, the kind you have with a fellow passenger on a long flight, or did in my day.
We discussed everything from the scary jobs we held as WOMEN managers in a male dominated business environment, to the architecture of the building…one of those neo-Renaissance watering holes, the wealthy frequented in the 1930s, to our divorces from philandering husbands.
I told her about my at-times miserable childhood, and she shared with me that she had experienced an idyllic childhood. Her father a banker, she had never wanted for anything and grew up in what she perceived to be a stable and bountiful home with loving parents.
We then debated whether it was a greater shock to discover your husband was a liar and cheat if you had experienced life’s hard knocks or been somewhat protected from the harsh reality of many women’s lives. We never reached a conclusion, but the question still puzzles me.
This morning, I was poking around mementos I keep in acid-proof boxes and found photos of my great-grandparents I need to copy and post to cousins. I have not been able to do this…I don’t know why.
Before they died, both my Aunt Marge on Dad’s side and Aunt Audrey on Mom’s side gave me photos and correspondence from my parents. They had saved these items for years. Fortunately, most of the photos had a note on the back identifying the subject for the recipient, who was often a grandmother. (Both Marge and Audrey cleared out their mother’s homes after they died. Marge had cared for Grandma S, who had been stricken with ALS. Audrey had supervised Grandma H’s care (she had dementia)).
I was grateful for these items because in the process of moving dozens and dozens of times, I had left a wake of ‘historical material.’
After Mom died, from time to time, Dad mailed various items to me unbeknownst to my stepmother. I have notes from him instructing me to never acknowledge having received such and such, like mom’s high school diploma or birth certificate. (My stepmother was insanely jealous of my mother.)
He smuggled some things out of the house in my baby book, which he delivered to me when he attended my college graduation.
I love that baby book, which contains all sorts of information I am not able to remember. Like the time when I was seven and asked Dad, “Are things different now from the Old Timey Days?” Historian, archeologist…I have always been interested in the past.