Saturday, October 1, 2011

Best Find EVER!

I almost didn't go to the antiquarian book and paper show. We were headed to Grand Rapids later in the afternoon to see more of ArtPrize (and I'll have some terrific pictures in another post!). Going to the show would give us a late start. But I'd missed it before and it was time to go splunking for postcards.

I always look for photos of the lake, either by where my house is now or where the family house is. That's the place where my mom, her sisters and my grandmother spent the summers -- Grandpa would come up for the weekends.

You have to step back in time when you think of those days -- It was the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. Grandpa -- like others at the resort -- brought the family up from Lansing by the first of July. Then he hit the trout streams. When he went home, life at the lake continued. For mom, it meant playing with her lake friends -- and Fran was her very best friend.

The played in the water, sang songs on the dock. They hung out with Fran's brothers and all the other kids whose dad's worked during the week and fished on the weekends.

Grandma oversaw her brood of four girls and for a few years, a little boy. Fran tells me that she was the nicest lady, and had the best sense of humor, laughing all the time. Nothing seemed to phase her. Well, she had to have a sense of humor, raising kids solo over the summer -- and back then, it really was the village raising the children. They were in and out of each others' houses constantly!

It's no wonder she could manage -- she never hesitated to play a role! (That's her, second from the left in the top hat!)

And she certainly seemed to have more nerve than I would have expected a city girl to have back during that period!

My grandmother, Minnie, had worked in my grandfather's insurance office. Somewhere along the way, he recognized she was a special sweet soul -- and married her.

She was lovely, Mom said. This photo is one of my favorites -- that little baby is my mom.

Mom told me that Minnie had so many crafty tendencies, it's no wonder she and I did, too. It came through the gene pool. And she loved a cup of tea -- mom always regretted she didn't stop more to have tea with her.

Lake days were fun for kids -- when they were smaller, they were lake rats, in the water all the time. But as they grew older, they'd travel into town -- it took about an hour to get where it now takes us about seven minutes!

Meanwhile, Minnie would spend time with the other mothers -- there were three Minnies who lived within a few doors of one another. On occasion -- but only when it was very hot -- they, too, would go bathing in the lake.

Fran remembered how frustrating it was when her Minnie-mom and my Minnie-grandma would can vegetables and make jam on different days. It meant those were days the girls wouldn't be able to play together.

And, she also tells of the time my aunt Grace -- about five, I think -- accidentally locked our Minnie in the outhouse. No one could find her, and as darkness fell everyone went looking for her in the woods, carrying their large lanterns. Someone got the wise idea to follow the dog, who led them to the small wooden building. Some would have been angry. Minnie just laughed.

My mother was pregnant with me when Minnie died.

I've always been sad that I never knew this woman -- she sounds so much like my mother, and so filled with zest and life. She was only in her 60s, and I just wish she'd had more years. I have a small kitten she made before I was born, but I'd never seen her handwriting, had a letter from her or a card. She was gone before that could happen. The photos were all I had.

Sunday I was at the show, visiting all the postcard vendors in search for all kinds of cards from all sorts of places. (Yes, one day I'll share the Paris ones, too.) Then I saw this one.

Wah Wah Soo was the resort area where our old family cottage was (and is today). It is set back from the lake. I have other postcards and the house never shows. But in this one, it seemed as though you could just see the corner of the upstairs window.

I turned it over -- and to my surprise realized it was addressed to the woman who was my childhood baby sitter. So of course I read the message.

Minnie L. -- it was written and signed by my grandmother.

I stood at the booth and cried. And bought the postcard for $14. I would have paid much, much more.

NOTE: New book post on Chopsticks and String. If you like folk music or Christine Lavin or knitting -- you mustlearn about this book. (and you don't have to like all to enjoy it!)


Becca said...

That is absolutely incredible! What a find -you must have had chills!

Thanks for the introduction to your family - I enjoyed that walk down memory lane.

Mae Travels said...

That's a wonderful story. My mother was a big postcard collector, but I'd never expect to find one FROM her at a sale. Amazing!

Annie said...

Serendipity at work. What a treasure. This is like getting a hug across time.

Jeanie said...

I can only imagine what a treasure that postcard is to you. It made me start wondering what I might have that one of my grandmothers had written. I will have to make a trip to those boxes in the basement one of these day.
It was fun to see your old family pictures.

Joanne Huffman said...

How incredibly wonderful! This is such a cool story.

Anonymous said...

I have watched this post card obsession up close and personal for years now. It was always "interesting" but hardly anything worth getting TOO excited about. Until this find! This is the absolute best discovery in maybe forever. I was almost excited as you were to hear the news. It's a lot more interesting to see a post card with a personal connection than a grave stone, which I have been privileged to visit many times now. I pity all those poor people out the texting and tweeting and whatever they do to "communicate." Their offspring will have no such discovery in 70 or 100 or more years!

ds said...

That is amazing. What a lovely life your mother and her family had at the lake. And what a serendipitous find--fourteen dollars is cheap for such a poignant memory.

Herzblatt said...

You show a lot of wonderful old photos of your mother and grandma...And the photo of the two girls in the boat reminds me of Huckleberry Finn...I love watching old pictures and postcards...And I also love reading biographies of interesting famous people, who died a long time ago....But the best for me ist watching documentary films from around 1900 on TV.....Absolutly great!
And what a coincidence and big luck
is it for you to find this old postcard of your grandma.....
She led you from heaven to this little box, where the card was lying...*lol*...
Best wishes from Germany

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Oh my gosh. That is amazing. What an amazing find. To be able to see a relatives hand writing is such a special thing. So amazing!!

You say she sounds like your mother, but she also sounds like you! :)

Arti said...

What an amazing find! With all these precious memories in photos and artefacts you must write a memoir now. That postcard is priceless... I await more photos and yes, the ArtPrize results in your upcoming posts!

Bonnie said...

Loved this! It's like it was just waiting there for you to find it!

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Wow, Jeanie, what a find!! Thank goodness you made time to go there! I loved hearing about your family's history at the lake and otherwise. It's fascinating, isn't it, how certain talents and interests are passed from one generation to another and then on to another. I can see Minnie is very important to you -- and am so glad you now have another tangible piece of her life to savor.

beth said...

talk about !!

all of those photos are just brilliant....i love old photos no matter who they are, but when they're, it's so special !!

Barb said...

Jeanie, What a great ancestral story. All those old photos are wonderful - I especially loved the one of your Mom being held as a baby. The story of Minnie and the outhouse made me laugh out loud! Gave me chills when I read about the found postcard. Don't you just love when things like this happen!

Janet said...

What an amazing find! I loved reading this post and seeing all the old photos....and then to have it end with the story of finding the postcard....perfect!!

Jennifer Richardson said...

I love the serendipity
of your story!
And what lovely ancestors
you have
(mine all look so
frighteningly severe).
Beautiful bright spirits, all!

Kate said...

Wow what a fabulous story. Have you ever thought of writing about her. It sounds like it would be a wonderful story. SO glad you found the card.

Oh said...

What? signed by your Minnie - I mean, what are the odds? what wonderful path, how many corners turned that would bring you to this place at this time with this postcard for sale? It gives me the good kind of goosebumps - oh, Jeanie - what a wonderful find, and that Minnie found you!!!!

and all these photos are just wonderful - so many stories within each one. Hugs.

anno said...

what a serendiptitous find -- takes my breath away! So glad you made it to the show ... even if you didn't find something as wonderful as this postcard, it would be a shame for you to miss a show like this.

jet1960 said...

Those sound like lovely times! Our family never had summers somewhere like that, although there are some family vacations to the beach that I remember. Maybe that is more common up that way or when you live near the lakes. One of my friends and coworkers is from Vermillion,Ohio and she talks of spending summers at a campground by the lake. She is a little younger than me. Anyway, lovely stories and photos and your postcard find brought tears to my eyes as well!

paris parfait said...

These are just the best! Love vintage photos. What a great collection!

paris parfait said...

As for the postcard written by your grandmother - what a wonderful memento! So pleased it came home with you. Priceless. xx

Retired English Teacher said...

This is an amazing story. Really, I can hardly believe that this card was kept all these years and then sold. It was meant to be found by you. I can only imagine how you felt when you found it.

My mother's mother also died in her sixties before I was born. I would have loved to have known her. I think it is a great loss not to have known our grandparents.

I found a card in some things my mother had that was written by my great-grandmother just after my birth where she mentioned how thrilled she was that I was born. I treasure that little card because it just really touched me to think that she knew me as a baby and yet I never really remember seeing her except for a dim memory.

Keicha said...

This made me grin from ear to ear. How wonderful that you found that postcard. What a treasure.

All of your old family photos are great! Don't you just love old pictures?

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