Great Aunt Ida’s memoirs focus on her childhood in the late1900s: These days would now be thought of as the dark ages by the present generation – when young girls of gentle birth were not allowed the freedom of conduct which they have today. Most telling is her language, simply offered, reflecting insidious racism: …where the darkeys singing in the harvest fields, the village church sounding faint and sweet on the quiet air of a Sabbath morning.She goes on to relate a terribly revealing anecdote: The brother was known to everyone as Tommy did fine cabinet work, but they seemed to move so silently and unobtrusively through life; there was a story that Tommy had been wild as a lad and when he was out one night carousing with some other boys of his own age – it may have been Halloween – but anyhow a stone thrown by someone crashed through the window of a negro’s cottage and killed a baby asleep in a cradle. No one ever knew who threw the stone, for the guilty one never told, but in a very few weeks Tommy’s dark brown hair had turned snowy white. Having heard the story, he was of course an interesting figure to us – though he was now a middle aged man.
My Great Aunt Ida wrote down her memories, dating back to her childhood in Maryland during the late 19th Century:
I have thought many times since my hair has grown grey and so many things that have been so important to me have seemed to lose their importance with the passing years, that I would go back home and visit the scenes of my childhood, make a sentimental journey, as it were, to all the places that are so indelibly stamped on my memory……the guinea hens roosting in the cedar trees late in the fall and being very noisy first before a storm: the bees buzzing among the roses and the holly hocks all through the long summer…..the great oak trees that sheltered the spring where water was always so cool and clear: the back lane that led out to the dirt road and the huge cherry trees…She somberly concludes her brief reflections with thoughts on her days living in 1940s New York:
When I am wearing a thick coat in April in New York and feeling resentful over the late spring, my mind invariably travel back home and I feel again the soft air, smell the fragrance of the blossoms on those far away hills – it is a very real sensation – one that I have loved and kept close in my heart for a long time and like many beautiful things – it is better to keep put away – for fear it might be lost or shattered.
I just returned from a salmon fishing excursion to Campbell River, British Columbia. I had expected to be quietly drifting along the coast, maybe even catching a few of the 45 million salmon reported to be running up the rivers.
Instead I found a gaggle of 60-70 boats going back and forth in a narrow, in and out of each other, fighting for the fish; it’s referred to as “combat fishing” by the guides.I didn’t fish so much as have the rod handed to me by the guide when there was a bite and then just reel that in as best as I could. (I batted .500)It was an odd experience, complete with one boat even running over a seiners’ nets, not like my childhood memory from many years ago, sitting there in the cold with father, hanging on to my rod and staring down into the infinite blue, catching mostly dogfish. I did however catch more fish this time (4 times as many); I’m still trying to understand if that makes it all worthwhile.