Monday, May 16, 2016

The Lost Cousin Reunion

Back in September 2014, I wrote on this blog about getting in touch after 50 years with my long-lost cousin Tim. (Finding Tim). After corresponding back and forth all this time, we finally arranged for a cousin reunion. Attending would be (cousins in bold):

Tim Crabtree (my mother's youngest brother David's son), his wife Laine and son Jack; all came by air from Minnesota.

Cheryl Blakely (my mother's younger sister Faith's daughter). Arrived on the train from California.

Jean Harris (my sister from down the road here in New Mexico).

And me, Clair Harris Zarges, my husband Bill and son Ben (all living in New Mexico).

Any time people get together after fifty or so years there is that moment of searching each other's eyes, looking for the child we knew so long ago. We all got past that point, and spent our days chatting; picnicking; sharing old photos, papers, and letters; and doing even more eating and drinking together.

Though cousins, we felt like siblings who had long been separated. There were so many years to fill in. There were moments when tears came to our eyes, and moments when a touch on a shoulder or a hug said what words couldn't.

Of course, the time was much too short.

Here are just a few of the photos we shared. They had all been lodged somewhere in our communal memory; we just had to figure out which of us had the photos we remembered from so long ago.

Tim's father, David Jewett Crabtree, Jr. (1928-1974)
Taken in the early 1950s?

Another of Sailor David; if only he had met his grandson, Jack, who looks so much like him!

Tim, Santa, and my little sister, Jean Lee

Ah, the terrible things we made little Timmy do; this was the famous Avon Lady outfit. That's a [now vintage] nylon stocking tied so creatively around his head. Heaven only knows what we had stuffed in the bosom part!

Cheryl, age 2; daughter of 
Faith Crabtree Blakely (1926-2001)

Cheryl, age 17

My mother, Elva Crabtree Harris Rodriguez, (1914-1998). 
This photo was from a document recording her U.S. citizenship in 1954.

My mother and me, looking like we've just learned a rather unsavory secret. 
This photo makes me laugh. 
Probably taken around 1948. 
My dress was red plaid. 
We'd love to know what happened to the green jade brooch my 
mother is wearing. It's another family mystery.

Always a shiny girl, my little sister Jean Lee. 
I believe that was a red taffeta dress.
Photo taken around 1953, I'd guess.

The Harris girls, Jean Lee and Clair Marie (Duffy)
I remember my dress, it was pink and gray. 
This must have been around 1954.
A lot of my busy mother's time went into maintaining those hairdos!

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Beautiful Tribute to a Mother

My 1st cousin once removed (or so tells me), Heather Anderson Smith, wrote this tribute about her mother, Marilyn Louise Victory Anderson (1942-2005). Marilyn was the daughter of Gladys Crabtree Victory (1921-2002). Gladys was my mother's sister. I am publishing this with Heather's permission, so that our family can always read her lovely words, written with such love. 

Here are Heather's words, written for Mother's Day, 2016:

A picture of my mother with her brother, Wayne.

I cannot buy Mother's Day cards anymore. When Mother's Day comes I just walk right by them, because it's just too painful. 

But today on Mother's Day I would like to remember my mom.

I am the oldest of three. The only girl. She sewed beautiful things for all of us to wear.

She was stylish- she and her friend, Nancy Black, in Cleveland would buy a Vogue magazine and have a new outfit by Sunday.

She had three pairs of pull on patton "go go" boots Navy, Red and White and she let me play dress up in them.

If I was going anywhere overnight or longer she always made sure I had a decent case for my makeup and a new robe.

When I was ready for make up she bought me the "real thing". Not cheap

She laughed with us at the dinner table even when we were being inappropriate.

She taught us good manners

She used good china regularly - and she had more than one pattern. Lots more.

She crawled into our beds with us and talked until we were tired. 

After I was married, she always made a german chocolate cake when I came to visit because it was my favorite.

She would never entertain a bad word about my kids or any of her grand kids.

She loved her in-law children.

She adored all the grandchildren she got to meet and would have loved all of the littles now too!

She kept an immaculate home.

She let me have a bunny that ran loose all over the back yard. And the neighbor's too!

For awhile she drove the cutest white VW beetle with red curlie pinstriping all over it. Stick shift.

She knew how to pop the clutch and start the car.

Once she helped me paint my dad's toe nails, while he read the paper. He didn't find out until he was putting his socks on the next morning for church.

She loved dogs.

She loved to tell us stories about her life on the farm.

She rubbed our hands in church when we were little to keep us quiet.

She was a lady.

She valued hard work.

She loved mischief and playing harmless pranks on her family and friends.

She made us siblings be kind to each other.

When I was a young teenager and she was worn out in the afternoon she would teach me how to cook.

… She laid on the couch and gave directions. I could bring it over as often as I wanted to make sure it looked right.

She let me take over the grocery shopping and never made a fuss if I got the list wrong or bought new things to try.

She knew how to encourage people to be their best selves.

She did not laugh if things were not funny. Not to please anyone.

She did not suffer fools lightly.

She was formidable.

A couple of young notorious "biters" had been terrorizing my brothers in the church nursery.
She grabbed both of their arms one morning and told them if they bit my brothers again she would bite their arms clean off!

She was a bargain shopper and taught us all how to play "the game"!

She always smelled good.

Saying that you were a "good sport" was high praise from Marilyn.

She was a wonderful cook.

She played the piano and had a lovely alto voice.

She encouraged all of us to be musical.

She helped me so much with Nolan when he came home from the hospital so small and weak.

She believed in Santa and made a pact with Nolan that no one would talk them out of it.

She loved to buy good gifts. Christmas was the highlight of the year and she often had her tree up by Oct. 31.
She would call me and say…"got chur tree up yet?"

She liked to do things properly and with style.

She prayed for each and everyone of us every day.

She showed us how to live with grace and how to die with dignity.

She bore an immense amount of pain and suffering in her last seven years, but usually we didn't even know about it.

Miss you mom!