Yesterday afternoon found me poking about in the attic in search of old family ephemera for an article I was writing. The day was wild and wet, and the wind shrieked deliciously about the eaves as I crouched under the one dim lamp, a pile of yellowed papers and photographs on my lap. As a little girl I used to dream of an attic such as this for the Nancy Drew mysteries I was always acting out with my sister. I love my shadowy garrett all the more now because of it, I imagine. I wish that it was populated with hump-backed trunks filled with vintage treasures and make-shift costumes and adorned with imaginative stage draperies like the March girls’, but perhaps that will come with time. For now, there’s plenty of scope for the imagination in the mysteriously shrouded pictures and chairs and the boxes upon boxes of geneaolgy paraphernalia.
I love my history, and it’s so real to me when I can read over one of my great-grandmother’s college papers or finger a scrap from her wedding dress. I never tire of poring over old pictures, imagining the hopes and dreams behind the solemn faces. And I love it when I make a connection in my own mind between the stories my grandmother told me as a child and the scrawling script on the back of one of these faded prints. Yesterday I came across a photo of Ida Ward and her young daugher, Frances. I gazed at it tenderly for a while, noting the protective arm of the mother and the unclouded smile of the child, remembering the story that Ida had died soon after that picture was made and that Frances had gone to live with my great-grandparents (Ida’s brother and sister-in-law) who always had room in their home and their hearts for another child. Interestingly enough, I found a book in an old bookstore years ago that bore the inscription Frances Ward, S—- Georgia. There was no doubt that it was the same Frances; the little town was much to small to have more than one. I bought it on the spot.
This beautiful lady above was so arresting that I pulled her out and scanned her. Her name was Myrtle, and she was one of my great-grandmother’s best friends at Young Harris College, class of 1905. Isn’t she lovely? Why, oh why can’t we dress and fix out hair like that now? Most all of the romance has gone out of feminine apparel–but I digress… (And yes, there are exceptions, of course ;)…)
On a humorous note, I found a letter tucked in among some papers of those same college days that made me gasp and then smile. It was addressed to: Those young ladies who are in the habit of assembling over our unfortunate heads on Sundays and other days for the purpose of enjoying the sound of their own voices and feet, particularly of the latter.
What followed was a missive that would put Lady Catherine de Bourgh to shame. A scathing remonstrance upon, presumably, my great-grandmother and her ‘giddy’ friends for the carelessness and cruelties of Youth–though upon close inspection the only real accusation I could find was that of their youth itself. Knowing all that I do of my great-grandmother, her serious passion for study, her humor, her kindness, I can scarcely comprehend anyone writing her a letter like this! It sounds like something out of the Anne books–Diana’s offended Aunt Josephine or one of the surly Pringle clan. My very vivid imagination tells me that these charming young ladies won her over in the end and wrought a great victory for the side of Friendship.
I love everything that’s old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.
Oliver Goldsmith: She Stoops to Conquer