It was a large family -- for awhile there were five children, though Junior died when he was about seven. Even after they were adults, there was a bond between the sisters, and I often think of them as "The Four Sisters," even though in most of my lifetime, there were only three living. (In the photo below, the sisters are Eleanor at left, Grace -- the baby, held my Iris, my mom, Jean, who looks like she's chasing away a bug, and Junior, the brother who died at about seven.
Because I was so young when she died, and because they lived rather far from us, I really didn't know her, apart from stories my mother told me, and my memories were sketchy.
I knew she was the beautiful one with the gorgeous hair -- long, thick, curly.She looked like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm! (Pictured on the above on the right and below on the left with my baby mom, Iris and my grandparents.)
Mom said when I was a little girl, I looked like her. I sure had the hair!
And a little bit of the facial structure, around the mouth.
Iris -- the oldest sister -- once said, "I was jealous, because I think Papa liked her best." (Below, Eleanor is next to my grandfather.)Mom told me what a wonderful artist she was, and I have two of her paintings that prove it! Here's one she gave mom when I was born.
Eleanor moved to Cadillac, Michigan, when she was married, and had three children -- my cousins Sue, Anne and Jack. But after she died, we didn't see them very often and I never knew them as well as the other cousins.
(Later, when I worked at Ele's Place, I remember telling someone that I wished that option had been available for the Cadillac cousins in the mid-1950s. At ages ranging from about six to early teens, the loss of a mother must have been a huge adjustment. It's big enough when you're older.)
About a year ago, Iris died at 95 (or close to it), outliving all her sisters, the last of whom had died in 1977. Last month her son brought her ashes back to the family plot. We gathered for a brief graveside service and lunch at a restaurant in the building where Iris used to work for my grandfather.We had cousins from Michigan, Ohio, and Arizona, and the four who were missing were from Ohio, Arizona and Madison. (Pictured are Eleanor's children Jack and Anne, Iris' older son John, and in front of me, two of Grace's children, Mutty (aka Mary, but we don't call her that, and David.)
Anne and Jack, both of whom live in Michigan, were able to come, and oh, what a reunion it was!I'd seen Jack a little more recently, but Anne and I haven't had a good ol' long talk, maybe ever. At least, not since we were old enough to care! But seated together at lunch, I had a chance to ask her questions.
"Did you used to have a little green plastic box in the fridge with water?"
"Yes!" she exclaimed. "It had a little push button for the water!"
A memory confirmed.
"And did your house in Cadillac have a big staircase?"
(Another memory, confirmed!)
"Did you call her Ohnee?"
"No." (That must have been my name for her, since I couldn't pronounce Eleanor very well.)
Anne told me that her mother would talk to her (she was only nine when Eleanor died) about all things metaphysical. She was deeply spiritual. This is an interest we would have shared.
And that she remembered our playing with the pots and pans in the kitchen, with the moms saying "When they meet in the middle, we'll go clean it up." Mom said that when Cleveland cousin David (below) and I would play, too!Asthma. Art. Things of spirit. Curly hair. Oh, Ohnee and I would have had much to talk about!
We talked about family, trying to piece together other relatives, and I know we'll have these talks again.
Later, I told Rick, "If Anne lived closer, she's someone I'd want to be my friend here! We just have much in common! When I told her that, she said "I told my husband the same thing!"Discovering a kindred spirit you never really knew is a wonderful (and somewhat sad) thing. Discovering a cousin with whom you share much is equally wonderful!