Archive for the ‘Family Lore’ Category

It never leaves, the sweat of fear.
I was lying on my bfack in the old truck, around me are my cousins and brothers. It is something we did at the country. We would count shooting stars while the house was closed and before we set off for Detroit forty miles, door to door.

But that night, my aunt and uncle had shooed us out early. They were solemn, more than usual. It seemed exceptionally quiet and we whispered the star count, making corrections if someone cheated. I always held my breath as a trail streaked the night sky.

Only the little radio in the kitchen cranked out scratchy sounds. While i could not understand it, there was a feeling. Doom. Mystery. Sadness. Fear.

I was familiar with this strageness. It starts with excluding the children, especially me. And was followed by hushed words.

What I learned later was there were reasons to worry. It was the event starting World War Ii. As a child, you learn the moods of adults around you. There are the worst times when you are virtually invisible. Like when someone is very sick or dies. You get your inside tied up inside, you stop breathing and you pull your shadow up into a small ball, hoping no one sees you.

The next time I remember there was a war brewing, raging, was Sunday, December 7, 1941. Living, attending high school in NYC, I had my own uncertainties. I stuggled to feel secure. Orphans and others who have shifting home lives, will understand the feelings.

We were spending a usual quite Sunday. After a large breakfast, my aunt rested while my uncle listened to opera on the radio. It was the kind they don’t sell any more. A floor model with both RCA radio and record player. The music had a soothing tone. My desk, and proof of study was the secretary with a drop down desk. You did have to remember to pull out the top drawer. Otherwise there would be no support to write on. Between me and the radio was the always present stack of NY Times papers and my uncle sitting, smoking his pipe.

Into such a tranquil scene, what could be so important as “we interupt this proggram…” Now we are so used
Lto Breaking News that we hardly notice. But then, to hear that America was being attacked by air in a place called …Hawaii. What could this mean for me, barely 15? I was distributing the Times at school. I decided immediately, i would save the issues to tell the story.

In time, the war either had to end or I would need a warehouse for storage. Instead we saved silver foil, used ration coupons for goods from sugar to shoes, and wrote letters until the boys came back men.

It is a time of fear again. So many fears of increasing unrest. The sweat of fear reminds me of times to become small.


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Now, at 90, my place in family history
I am the oldest living man or woman in my family. It has been the women living, triumphantly, out living their men and some children. The loss of children is unbearable. Now that I have lost my son, I grieve in silence as my aunt must have. And for those children unborn.

The women on my mother’s side were those who have aged the best. Grancy holds the prize. At 100 plus she survived slavery, segregation, birthing thirteen known children and everything in between. She was born Adeline in NC about 1833. Her mother may have been Portia and her father a Crump. They were slaves of the Crump family. When Adeline was 5, they were transported to a plantation in Holly Springs, MS. 
Her first child, Josephine, was fathered by a Crump when Adeline was 13. A total of 8 children were born before Grancy was loaned to Ephraim Talbot. He and his brother, Francis, had moved to Holly Springs from MA in 1840 to open pharmacies. Ephraim’s wife died leaving him with two young boys.
Grancy was rented, probably to live in and care for the sons. Her daughter Josephine had ben living with the William Strickland family since age 9. He was a prominent lawyer, no relation to my gradfather. There she was the nurse maid to their infant daughter, Perle.
Four children were fathered, born while Grancy lived with the Talbots: Victor (1860),Annie (1862), Adeline and William.
These four youngest children were educated at Rust College paid for by their father? Ephraim. Grancy had big responsibilities as Ephraim also ran a pharmmacy in Memphis, TN. He spent a great deal of time there running Talbot and Yates pharmacy and his slave holdings. Grancy managed the the household and his slaves in Holly Springs.
As the Civil War heated up and Memphis businesses were in danger, Ephraim returned to MS and two of Grancy’s children were born as the war ended.
My grandmother, Annie Talbot, became a school teacher at 18. She married my grandfather when they both graduated from Rust College. Annie took her mother everywhere she lived. In Little Rock, AR, El Paso and Houston, TX, Wilberforce, OH where she taught in colleges, and finally Detroit, MI.
Annie and William Strickland married when they both graduated from Rusr College. While my grandfather studied medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, the family lived in Little Rock, AR where my grandmother taught in high schools and colleges. My mother Velma and Aunt Unita taught school also.

I ssay Grancy lived longer than any other family member because records were not kept at the time to clearly state births. The names of Crump slaves were recorded on arrival in MS. Grancy herself said she remembered 100 years and the presidents who served in her lifetime. 

Unita lived to be 101 as active then as ever. She worked for the government in Detroit. She followed the tradition of caring for her mother until her death. My great aunt, Adeline (Aunt Addie) Morris lived to be 92. She taught at Rust College and was a political powerhouse in KC, KS.

And now it is a puzzle to be resolved in the future. The statistics for me are good. I never was a smoker. I did not drink alcohol until my late forties and I have an active, quirky mind. So, will it be the tortoise or the hare?

Sent from my iPad

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Digital Art from UZU

Iridescent Egg

Easter Monday
The big news for children has been the White House egg roll on the South Lawn. This tradition started in 1878 after Congress passed a law banning the event at the Capitol, where it had started in the 1870s. (more…)

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Diary (Photo credit: Barnaby)


Diary (Photo credit: toby___)


Imperfect Impulses liked my post Santa’s Route (thank you.) I checked his blog. This morning activity turns out to be ‘where did the time go?’

In a cartoon, there would be a lady in easy chair surrounded by books, computer or iPad, clock, mug and, of course, words and images swirling around her head. To make it morning-lost, perhaps curlers or scarf on hair, house coat etc.

One of Imperfect’s posts asks what is best to keep: art journals or smash books? I had not heard the term ‘smash books. ”

Swirling about my head are terms evoking memories.


How have I recorded past memories?
The small lined 5 year diary with green cover, gold lock and key was a 10 year olds introduction to the difficulty of writing. I lost interest before I lost the diary. The memory remains of the limitations of lines. I can still recall one entry:

My uncle purchased 52 acres more or less with his war pension.  It had hills, he said. My diary drawing of hills gave no indication of a future career as an artist. Two knockdown. Writer! Artist!

Through the years more memories were started on envelopes and yellow pads. Sketch books have text additions according to my mood. Travel journals include outfits, activities and menus beside pen and ink drawings.

As I approached 80, journals became more important. I prefer blank paper to add sketches and paste programs etc.  The first many were spiral books with colorful covers bought at art stores or online. Small books with black paper are used for gel pen abstract drawings. Each has a thought or poem added.


Now I am using Moleskin thin books for writing and those with Japanese folded paper for sketching.  My friend, who keeps her writing well-organized, gave me a beautiful book to combine my interests. It is a jill bliss Butterfly Fields Eco-Journal published by Chronicle Books in San Francisco.

Who knew?

Journalling, recording audio and video as well as blogging will provide the materials for historians. Usually one family member becomes the keeper of secrets. I hope our online posts will be mechanically retrievable but if not, handwriting on archival paper will preserve the memories we wish to share.

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This old house
Country comfort
Modern use
Sits nestled in the hills
Beside the river gorge
(or is it just a stream?)
The history of cows
And Roses,
Charming Thurber,
Talented Simott
In an upper room.
Young marrieds and children
Moving in tandem
Making space for more.

Times were different.
The occupants fewer now.
Their history-making
In the mold
Of Rose’s garden.

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A Day's Outing

End of Summer

Now that the nights are cool and the mornings are foggy, it is time to put away the signs of summer. It seemed the heat would never end.

Who knew?

Cleaning out of a drawer had a hidden treasure – my

handwritten poems Narcissus, Hibiscus and Mandrake. With them are the research notes on the relationship of the flowers and trees used as the theme. And, as if that was not enough, notes from the Writers’ Conference my daughter and I attended.

I flew on People’s Express from Nashville to the hub in Newark. The daughter was in graduate school at Rutgers. Such convenience. We flew from Newark to Michigan for the conference.

Cesar Chavez & Audre Lord at Plaza 16 Public g...

Cesar Chavez & Audre Lord at Plaza 16 Public gallery at 16th St BART (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

Audre Lord, the outstanding poet, was one of those featured. Manuscript in hand we absorbed as much as we could and returned home the route we came by. Just ending a long marriage, I felt such a euphoria of independence (which had been lacking).

Read poems at


And Now

Just recently there was news that an unknown novel written by a Harlem Renaissance writer had been authenticated. It was found by a graduate student looking through some unopened boxes. Will my manuscript and notes have the same fate and be written about in the New York Times?

Related articles

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Louis Curtis Washington, Sr

My Daddy

Family Lore – Looking for Daddy

Marking Father’s Day

My father died when I was 10  years old. He came to visit us at my aunt’s house on my birthday and walked me to school the next morning. As I walked toward the school door, I turned and looked for him.

I have been looking for him ever since. My first memory is of my father holding me as he cried. My mother had just died and I was 2 plus years old.

Memories are one thing


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