Minnie was born on 9 January 1827 in the Posen Province, of Prussia. At the time of her birth, her father, Martin Ponto, was 34, and her mother, Rosalia Schäffler, was also 34.
Minnie married Johann Christoph Krüger. He later changed his name to John Grayer. Minnie’s husband, John Grayer, was my 2nd great grandfather. I know about the name change from Krüger to Grayer. My mother told me that there had been some type of family division and some of the Krüger family members adopted a new name of Grayer.
Minnie was not the 1st wife of John Grayer. He had been married originally to Johanne Friedrike Berndt. John and this first wife Johanne had 6 children together. 4 of those children died as infants/toddlers. Sadly, Johanne would die on 28 March 1845 right after the birth of her son Gottlieb.
John Grayer did not waste time finding Minnie as his second wife. His first wife died in March of 1845, and he married Minnie on 12 May 1845. When Minnie married John she was a mere 18 years old. He was 38 years old.
Minnie and John had 9 children. 8 of those children were born in Prussia and the 9th child was born in the United States.
When Minnie and John left to emigrate to America they brought the 8 children who had been born in Prussia and they also brought along John’s son, Gottlieb, from his previous marriage.
They sailed to American on a masted ship called the Reinhard. They were in 2nd class. This was still above the class called steerage. My cousin, Linda S., wrote a great history of our family and speaks to the fact that in 2nd class they may have had beds/bunks whereas the families in steerage where in abysmal conditions.
The trip to America took 7 weeks. They arrived in NYC on 29 November 1864. This was horrific timing. America was in the Civil War and just a few days before their arrival there had been a Southern plot to burn down buildings and hotels in NYC.
After arriving in America, they made their way to Illinois. Later, the family moved to Washtenaw County in Michigan.
Minnie’s husband, John Grayer, died at the age of 69 in 1875. Because of the age difference between them, this would have made Minnie 48 years old at the time of his death. In the same year that John passed away, Minnie remarried. Her second husband was Christian Schmidt. She did not have children with this second husband. This second husband only lived 4 days after the death of Minnie in 1898. They had been living at 703 N. 5th Ave., Ann Arbor, MI.
Gloria opened the photo album from last summer. Her birthday party had been on the beach front of her small cottage situated on Lake Huron. Right now, she was especially grateful for the photo book because there would not be a family gathering this year for her birthday during the Corona Virus pandemic. This year, she would have a quiet birthday by herself. It was considered too dangerous for her family to make the trip. She had assured them that she would be fine and would look forward to their phone calls. “Don’t send presents this year.” She said. “We will all have a big party when this is over.”
The photos from her birthday party last year showed her family in a circle of chairs outside on the sandy beach. Gloria’s chair was resplendent with ribbons and a birthday banner. Gloria was pictured with a funny cone shaped birthday hat and a big smile filling her face. The sound of the gentle water lapping against the shore and the laughter of her family gave a better music than any stereo system. They had all commented about what a perfect day it was. That August 19th, 2019. Later that day, they would have a bonfire, but first they would have birthday cake on the beach, and she would open her gifts.
Gloria laughed when she looked at the photos of her gifts. Her sons and her daughters-in-law had purchased her a large George Forman grill for her. What a hoot! Gloria had the tiniest cottage and absolutely no counter or pantry space at all. Still, they seemed so proud of themselves. Gloria clapped her hands in a feigned delight and told them, “It is perfect, I can’t wait to use it and I will have you all over for some b-b-q.”
The next photo showed Gloria holding up a pastel green polar fleece shirt in front of her body. Her daughter,who had given it to her, had remarked, “Mom, now you won’t have to keep your old flannel shirt. This should be lovely on you. I thought you would like the color.” In fact, green was Gloria’s favorite color but her favorite shirt would still be the over sized flannel shirt that had been her husband’s. She felt comforted when she was wrapped inside the soft cotton of that shirt now worn through in some spots. It was her memory shirt.
“I do love the color.” Gloria said as she touched the new polar fleece garment. “Thank you everyone for these beautiful gifts, I sure am lucky to have this wonderful family.”
The next 3 photos in the album were so precious to Gloria she smiled from the memory of having received a perfectly selected gift from her grandson Dennis.
She noticed that these three photos were in the right viewing order and almost made a video of the moment. In the first photo, Dennis faced his grandmother with his little hands held behind his back. His smile was broad and excited. In the second photo of this series, Gloria is reaching her hands out to Dennis to receive the gift from him and her smile was just as broad and her excitement just as much as his. In the third photo, Gloria is caught clutching her hands to her heart with tear rimmed eyes as she looked at this perfect gift she had just received from her grandson.
Gloria had taught Dennis a love of nature from rock talk. Gloria’s grandson had lived in Gloria’s cottage home with his parents when he was very little. “Rock talk,” Gloria had said was “from rocking Dennis every night whilst she told him story after story about the wonders to be found along the sandy shores. Treasures await us everywhere,” she had whispered to him every bedtime. “We will find a treasure tomorrow,” she would promise as his eyes closed in slumber.
As a toddler, Dennis had held his grandmother’s hand while they beach combed. Her garden had some of the spoils of these adventures. Among those were gnarled pieces of drift wood, a feather tied to a string and hanging from a tree branch, some old abandoned sand shovels stuck into sand piles, and even an old row boat dragged into the garden that had now rusted and became their special place to play that they were pirates.
Last summer, when Dennis had visited, Gloria simply had spent her time sitting in a beach chair watching his adventures as he ran into the waves, or along the shores by himself. He always promised to stay in her view.
She put the photo album to the side. She would look through the rest of the photos later. Right now, she wanted to hold that gift again. She walked to her kitchen windowsill and picked it up. Such a precious gift. It fit perfectly into the palm of her aged hand. It felt right there.
It was a small smooth rock. No one else would ever know or experience the joy of that stone. How lucky she was that she had received a gift so perfect for her.
Gloria clutched it against her old flannel shirt. “Happy Birthday to me.” Gloria said and she really meant it. And that was August 19th, 2020. It was the year Gloria turned 70 during a global pandemic. It was also the year that she learned there was more than one way to define “rock talk.” For certainly the rock was talking to her sense of love. Her spirits were rising. Her love was lifting her up. She was content. Tomorrow, she would walk on the sand and look for treasure.
Randy was on his 4th date with Carey. He really liked her, and he hoped she would like his choices for the evening he had planned for them. After all, he had listened carefully to Carey on their previous date and he had made mental notes about her preferences for dining choices and types of activities.
And so, it was, that on a Friday night Randy arrived at Carey’s apartment to pick her up and drive her to begin the date at a deli with vegan options. When they finished dining, he drove straight over to the County Park and the hiking trails there.
Randy was clever enough to make the date romantic by announcing that he would leave his cell phone in the car. He told her that he wanted to give her his full attention. Randy had never been at this park and was not generally known for his sense of direction. Still, he figured how hard could it be to hike around a park.
Randy enjoyed Carey’s brilliant conversations and found it easy to be relaxed and be himself with her. His normal shyness was simply gone, and he felt an easy joy and comfort in her presence. Carey pointed out mushrooms, birds, and warned him of low branches. Randy had never had much outdoor nature experience, but it was quickly becoming his favorite activity and he wanted to learn everything from this attractive date.
And so, the time passed. And so more time passed. Randy simply paid no attention to the dimming light until Carey brought it to mind when she said, “Randy, this should be fun, we should be able to see the sunset together.”
Good grief, Randy was startled. He had no idea where they would see the sunset as he had no idea as to where they were and no idea which direction was west. In fact, he started to realize that he was lost. He was hopelessly lost in the County Park, but he did not want to alarm Carey.
Randy realized that this lost persons emergency might cause them to have to end up in the park in the complete dark of night. He began to worry about how a person spent a night in the outdoors. If only he had gone to Boy Scouts. Was there wildlife in this wooded park? He wondered. Perhaps there were coyotes. And Randy then began to think about any knowledge he might have on coyotes and how to fend them off. “Bears!” he thought to himself. “Oh my God, there could be bears!”
If only he knew where his Jeep was!
“Randy?” Carey asked, “Are you o.k.? You look worried.”
Randy had to punt. He quickly replied with a false bravado, “I’m fine, just wondering if you know the best place to watch the sunset.”
Carey pointed to the ridge ahead and then spoke, “Yes, I know this area. There is a good spot just up this path. We can sit right there and enjoy the whole view.” And as she said this the sky began to change to a beautiful shade of pink. Carey looked so happy. Was it his imagination or was she glowing?
Randy was grateful that they had spent some quality time together but, he was also aware that this would surely be the very last date invitation she would accept from a loser like him. If only he had just taken her out bowling.
The ridge appeared and it was complete with a fallen tree limb to lean against. Randy sat next to Carey hoping to make the next of the few precious moments that were left before he had to admit their plight. He promised himself not to cause her fear by telling her about lurking wild creatures that might stalk them soon.
Randy finally lifted his eyes off his hands clenched in his lap to the sky unfolding just over the ridge. Then, the miracle appeared. For Randy, the sky was parting, the angels were singing, the world was explosive with joy because just at the bottom of the ridge was the parking lot and Randy’s Jeep was parked right there! “Hallelujah,” Randy thought and held up a quite prayer of joy. By agreeing to watch a sunset, he had redeemed himself. Now, there was a possibility of getting that 5th date with Carey and next time he would take her bowling.
Randy put his arm around Carey and settled into watching his first sunset. Well, he had seen hundreds of sunsets, but he had never really seen one. This sunset was absurdly beautiful. He had no camera, but he took to memory the quickly changing shades of illumination being drawn across the sky. It was glorious. He glanced back at Carey and much to his amazement, she was looking right at him and then she planted a kiss on his lips.
“Wow,” Randy said. “I really like you Carey, and that amazing kiss!”
Carey smiled at him and said, “I have never been with any man so excited about a sunset. When you looked over the ridge, your expression was so joyous. Your magnificent reaction was contagious.”
Randy decided right then that some secrets are worth keeping. He never would reveal that his glory moment was at discovering the parking lot and seeing his Jeep. Randy also decided right then and there to always bring his phone and to make sure it was loaded with a compass app and an app for hiking trails. It was all going to be o.k. After all, bowling should be a safe bet for that next date with his splendid new friend Carey.
Their small argument started on a Tuesday morning. Mary Lou and Hank had been married for 38 years and they loved each other dearly. They rarely had a cross word. But during their seclusion in the midst of the Corona virus pandemic, they recently had found themselves snapping at each other over the slightest provocation. Annoyance was mounting.
Mary Lou asked him, “Do you want more coffee?” It was her way to make up.
“Nope.” He said gruffly and then crossed his arms over this chest to indicate he was not ready for the argument to be over quite yet. He had a right to feel upset. After all, this was at least the 10th time that Mary Lou had made a rude comment about his habit of watching old game show reruns.
Hank got up to grab the coffee pot himself in a rather dramatic way aiming to show her that he was the martyred one who had to make all the sacrifices.
He started to talk. “There is nothing else to do now. NOTHING! Besides, I’m not the one who opened the front door!” he said in a voice that was loud enough to surprise even him.
“Oh, here we go again.” Mary Lou retorted and then went back to sipping her coffee in a way designed to look peaceful and unruffled. Her composure made Hank even more upset. He knew this was a ridiculous argument, but he could not help himself. The truth was it just felt better for him to be arguing than their routine of nothingness.
“I can’t golf, I can’t go to the swim club, there are no sports games to attend, I am done with this!” He was of course referring to the fact that they were very much sheltered in their home during the corona virus.
“Uh-huh,” Mary Lou said without looking up from her cell phone screen.
“What do you want to do today…nothing?” He demanded.
“I’m just going to enjoy my coffee. It looks like it will be nice outside today.” Mary Lou said while she purposefully tried to stay even keeled and calm. You might think this made her an angel, but her motives were not so pure. She knew that Hank could not stand her staying calm during a tiff. She knew that she was getting the best of this argument.
“Well, what about the door?” He snapped.
Mary Lou knew exactly what he was talking about. Hank was a good man. Hank was a loving husband, but Hank was also very obsessed with the front door that Mary Lou had rushed to open on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight. She said she was inviting the new year in. She could not wait for 2020 to launch she had said. Good riddance to 2019 and another year of political divides and an impeachment of the President. On that New Year’s evening as they celebrated together, they had toasted with their glasses and laughed as Hank then proceeded to open the back door to give the boot to 2019. The old year out the back door and the new year in the front door.
But the gloom of 2020 was unbearable. The world felt like it was falling apart and here they were in July 2020 spending a lovely summer day inside having a ridiculous argument over New Year’s Eve and old TV game shows. 129 days of isolation and it was wearing on him.
Hank pouted for nearly 2 hours. He paced, he looked miserable and when he finally made his way over to the reclining chair, he sat and put his face in his hands and sighed loudly.
Mary Lou felt herself softening. After all, this was just a man who always knew what to do and how to take care of everything and now he was lost in the despair that was surrounding them and filling the world stage.
“Do you want to watch an old game show?” Mary Lou asked as she refilled his coffee cup and brought him a muffin. Mary Lou normally would not concede to watching TV game shows, but she knew that is how the fight started and she could easily end it by putting up with one silly old show.
“OK” he said and then he said, “Thanks for the muffin.”
They had been together long enough to know the fight was over.
“What show did you find?” Mary Lou asked him.
“Oh, it is called Let’s Make a Deal.” He was smiling.
When the TV emcee came on the screen, he looked at the contestant and confirmed that they would open door #2 to see if the grand prize was waiting.
Mary Lou was going to give Hank a bit of her mind about picking a show about doors. But when she saw Hank’s face light up with that crooked little half smile, she just felt happy. He was delighted with this inane form of entertainment.
“Hank, I’m sorry I opened the door to 2020.” She said softly. “I should have kept the dead bolt locked that night.”
“I’m sorry for how I just behaved. This is hard for me.” When he said this, he did not even look at her. It was a struggle when he asked, “Are we going to be o.k.?” He turned and waited for her answer.
She just smiled and gave a little nod of her head because he had already turned back to the game show and was laughing loudly at the bad choice the contestant had made. “I feel your pain buddy.” Hank shouted to the TV guest.
Later that night, Mary Lou and Hank got a text message that their niece had just given birth to a healthy baby girl. 2020 might be a year of a world pandemic, but it was also the year of birth and love. Covid was not going to get the last word on everything. And because hope springs eternal, Hank went to bed dreaming about watching more game shows soon.
Mary Lou was the first to admit she was eccentric. Some of the things she routinely experienced were considered impossible, unbelievable, and as some would say they were downright strange thoughts with no basis in reality. She was an odd ball. She was not an artist even though that was the general assumption that people had made of her. But she was extremely well regarded in prestigious art circles. When she was published, she laid claim to the title ‘world renowned premier art critic.’
Society accepted Mary Lou’s mysterious ways because her insights and opinions on valuable art creations were legendary. Her memory for various artists and their paintings astounded even world-class leading art authorities. If asked about a painting, she could describe it in a way that was almost intimate. The various colors, styles, subjects, and themes were masterfully described. There was something beyond that too. There was some way in which you could say she just knew the painting. She saw a painting and she experienced the painting. She knew them in such an intimate way that her reflections were more heightened than the artist’s own perceptions about their paintings.
Mary Lou knew why she had this talent and why she had been able to establish this level of authority. She knew, but she dared not tell a soul why she had this talent.
Mary Lou did, however, end up telling me about her hidden insight because she could recognize that I was in possession of the same ability.
This is where I should introduce myself. My name is Claire. I am a single senior citizen who has loved the visual arts since childhood. I am not famous like Mary Lou and I have never publicly critiqued any painting or artist. Instead, I have a habit of going to flea markets and secondhand stores where I rummage through various paintings and prints. I also surf the net and explore paintings with various themes.
Are you wondering if Mary Lou and I are women with extra sensory perception? ESP is thought of as receiving information from what is sensed rather than felt through our physical senses. I do not know if that definition exactly fits the talent that Mary Lou and I have. Maybe thousands of people have our skill but they have all remained quiet about it for fear of being shamed or given a label of strange, odd, and a little touched in the head.
Now that I am an old woman, I have decided to explain the gift that I have and that Mary Lou has mastered because it might open a door for others like us to come forward and have discussions and work in concert to give a more bountiful vibrancy to the art pieces they encounter.
And because I think this will open a door for others to immerse themselves more fully into the visual arts, I will speak now and ask that as I tell you this secret you remain quiet and perhaps close your eyes and open your minds. Prepare. I will now reveal to you the secret of being a great art critic. This should open a door for you, or perhaps you are already gifted with this talent.
First, imagine any painting that comes to your recall. Next, walk into it. Yes, that is the pure secret to the gift. If you walk into a painting you check it’s textures, see if the shadows are in the right place, picture the subject as a first hand observer, and walk through the painted landscapes or open an old wooden door. Stay in the painting. Touch the garments and the grass. See if the artist has captured the light playing on the water. Then continue to concentrate and see yourself there inside the painting. Do not judge, just observe. Turn your head, look up and down, look for secrets, look for meanings, examine your feelings and emotions. Stay inside the painting until you are gradually ready to leave. The memory of that painting and all of it’s particulars will remain with you forever.
You see, the gift that I possess is the ability to be there. To be in the painting. Maybe, I have opened a door so that you can walk into a painting too. Just be there.
The summer night sky was sparkled with stars and a bright full moon. The little girl was seated in the backseat of her grandfather’s Chevy station wagon as they traveled the dirt roads towards his home. It was special for her to be out this late and it made her feel almost like an 8-year-old instead of the mere 7-year-old she was.
“Grandpa, I think the moon is following our car.” She made the declaration with great and serious consideration.
“Hmm,” he replied and then continued, “What makes you think that the moon is following us?”
She became more animated. “So, every time you make a turn in the road, I can still see the moon right there. It has to be following us otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see it when we turned those corners.” And when she explained this to her grandfather, she felt even a wee bit older still.
The old man adjusted the rear-view mirror a bit to glimpse his lovely granddaughter. He felt again the joy of grand parenting. He loved being let into her innocent childish thoughts, so he replied to her comment with a challenge. “Should we take the long way home and make a lot of turns and really check out your theory?”
“Oh yes Grandpa” she was thrilled.
The old man veered about and made many turns so his beloved granddaughter could continue to test her moon theory.
“Grandpa, it’s working. It is still following our car.” She exclaimed and then asked, “Do you think there is a man in the moon, Grandpa?”
“Well, I don’t know about that. What I can tell you is that the moon has always been a good friend to me. I call this friend Luna. And, I think Luna can be your friend too.”
“Luna” she said the word with some reverence, and she was delighted to know that the moon could be her friend. “Grandpa, does Luna ever talk to you?”
He gave a serious reply, “Oh, not in the usual way. But Luna does listen, and she sends a light out for our path. In fact, when I was in the great war, I talked to Luna right above the decks of our Navy cruiser right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.”
“Oh Wow!” she exclaimed and again thought to herself what a super grandfather she had. She had seen the pictures of him in his sailor’s uniform and remembered the impressive photos with the big machine gun ports. She would have to remember to ask him to show her the photos again.
The Chevy station wagon neared the old man’s home.
“Grandpa look your house is right here and Luna followed us the whole way. She even got here a little ahead of us.”
Once they were in the driveway, he waited for her to get out of the car and then he took her small hand in his. The moon was indeed bright this evening. The breezes were warm.
“Grandpa, can we just look at Luna for a while?” she implored.
“Pumpkin let us do something else. OK?” he replied.
“What, what else should we do Grandpa? Should we talk to Luna?” she wanted to know.
“Nope, turn around and let Luna be at your back.” He answered.
“Grandpa, that is funny. You are the one who told me we don’t have eyes in the back of our heads.” And again, she felt quite mature.
“Look.” he said. “Look at the tops of the pines. Do you see it? The moon beams fall right along the tops of each pine. Look all around you and carefully. Can you see Luna shining on any other objects that we usually do not pay much attention to in the light of day? This is what it means to see things in a different light. It really is one of the best lessons Luna taught me.”
“I do see it, I do!” she replied. And then she told her grandfather the words he loved the most. “I love you so big.” When she said it, she held out her little arms wide to each side.
“I love you to the Moon and back” he told her.
“Grandpa, did you mean you love me to the Luna and back?” Then she smiled broadly, and the old man could barely hold all the love he had in his heart.
I wiggled around in my seat and got ready for the train ride that would take me on a visit to my grandchild. I certainly did not need a mirror to know that I was smiling and filled with an abundance of joy and anticipation. As the train departed the Ann Arbor station, I grabbed my camera so I could photo document the trip and the views. Life was good. The train raced past meadows, along Main Streets, through wooded acres, past homes, and through factory yards. I kept busy with my camera. After taking several photos, I pushed the camera buttons that were necessary to review my photographs. “Drat,” I thought to myself as I looked at this recent series of photos they were all blurred by the motion and speed of the train. “It’s all a smear.” I disparaged. “Yep,” I thought, “my own life is going by so quickly that my memories are like these streaked photos.” A train in motion and my life in motion too. Then the lull of the train sounds caused me to think, “I am a grandmother, I am a grandmother,” and I kept repeating this to myself in perfect rhythm to the wheels. I tried to think where all that time had gone since I was holding my own babies. Where?
The gentleman across the aisle took me away from my thoughts when he started to address me, “Good Day, are you on vacation?” he asked.
“Something much better.” I replied and then I explained, “I am going to see my grandchild. I am really happy.”
“I could tell you looked pretty excited.” He said. I decided right then that I liked him. His company and conversation would be fun. “My name is Dave.” He stood up and reached over to shake my hand.
“My name is Claire.” I shook his hand and looked at his kind eyes.
The next half hour was filled with him showing me a train app on his phone. He showed me exactly where we were on the tracks and our current rate of speed.
Eventually, our conversation became more personal. “I am 59 years old and I am so happy to be a grandmother.” I told him. “I guess I am an old woman now.”
Dave said, “Well, I am 79. I am so old that you could ask me anything and I would know the answer.” He finished that zinger by giving me a genuine smile.
In life, you do not always come up with a quick retort, but this time I certainly did. “Ok Dave. So, I can ask you anything, but how much do you remember about everything?”
His belly laugh startled some of the other passengers. I started laughing too.
Then,I got a bit more serious. “Ok, if I can ask you anything, then how about this one? What is the meaning of life?” I said it with a smile, but his answer was profound.
“Oh, I’m honored to be the one to tell you that the entire meaning of life is to love. I suggest loving as many people as you can. I suggest that you spend time with your grandson and love him. I suggest you spend time with your elderly widowed father and let him know your feelings. Keep falling in love with life.” He looked over at me. “Just love.” He concluded.
I was filled with emotions. I understood. I met a stranger on a train and I finally understood. It was not my job, not my house, not my appearance, not my intellect or humor. None of those was what we refer to as the meaning of life. It was so obvious and simple now. Just love.” I smiled and smiled.
And then, just like that, Dave stood up and told me that we had reached Battle Creek and it was his stop. He wished me a pleasant visit with my grandson, and he was gone.
“It’s like that with the people in our lives who we like, cherish or love. They have different journeys. But we had shared a moment.
I learned a lesson about life on a train and I wanted to share it with you. I wanted to tell you to Just love. Oh, and “Go ahead, ask me anything!”
I think we could almost measure joy by watching children involved in playing games. If you try to picture a little girl on a sidewalk hopscotch grid, there is a certain whimsey and a smile that graces your face. Try holding a handful of antique marbles and you will become transfixed by their colors, patterns, and sizes. Picture the giggles that a good old game of Mouse Trap can emote. And then let your mind wander to the chaos of Musical Chairs, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or Duck, Duck Goose! Did you spend part of your childhood asking questions like, “What time is it Mr. Fox?,“ or “Mother May I?”
Many of our precious memories can be built around our recall of board games played with our friends, siblings, and parents. Some of my favorites were Clue, Go to the Head of the Class, The Barbie Game, Yahtzee, and Life.
My mother and father had an on-going score card for Scrabble. My father was a brilliant scientist, but it was hard to beat my mother because of her mastery of words and her ability to use the score points printed on the game board to her advantage. I loved their laughter as they played and their serious concentration and competition.
My grandson liked Hide and Seek. As a grandparent, I have been guilty of setting up games to make sure my grandchild will win. I purposely did a poor job of hiding behind the shower curtain and was always the first to be found out because I planned it that way. I would feign indignation to him that I had been found so quickly and praise him for his stealth at finding me.
After my divorce, I went bowling with my new boyfriend Bob. I had never bowled more than a few games in my life. I nailed one of the highest scores of the evening the first time he took me to Colonial Lanes. Bob thought this meant that I was a natural talent. He rushed out to buy me my own bowling ball. It was a purple with sparkles and came in a fancy tote bag. Turns out that the 1st game of bowling I played was also my best. That ball ended up shoved to the back of the attic.
My mother was part of a bridge club. As a little girl, I would sneak down the stairs and hide behind the china cupboard to watch the fancy ladies play. Every woman had her own little dish of bridge mix. For those that do not know, Bridge Mix is a delightful chocolate assortment. Little handmade tally cards looked glamourous and the women were all dressed ‘to the nines’ for the evening. Their conversations were filled with great stories and much laughter.
The year now is 2020. I am no longer a girl hidden behind a china cupboard. I am a mature 66-year-old single grandmother. This year we struggle through a pandemic. This disease is like an angry ugly person shouting at us, “I’m not playing games.” Last week, I began to worry that I might not even be fun anymore because fun feels so elusive now.
This is also a year where I feel especially called to righteously stand for Black Lives Matter and to support the “I can’t breathe” protests for equality.
I wonder what memories and lessons will be carried away after this year. I want us (all of us) to win over this pandemic and the racism that has plagued us. I want to play hard to make this difference. I am not sure how I will do it, but I am sure going to try.
My superpower is time travel. For several hours every day, I travel back in time. I might spend an hour in the 1990’and then go back to the 1890’s an hour later! While I am traveling in the past, I stay busy collecting information there and insight to bring back to the present and to share with others. I might spend my time travel in Europe, Colonial America, an Amish farm in PA, Salem, MA during the witch trials in the 1600’s, or even on the Mayflower.
I build pathways for others to travel back in time too.
There is a name for the superpower that is used for the many people like me who travel backwards in time. We form a group called genealogists. Ta da…Super Granny Genealogist! That’s me!
It is a bit odd to come up with a superhero name for myself. I did come up with a name for my website and I was a bit surprised that it was an available choice. It is called Telling Life Stories. Org. The website becomes a door for others to hear the stories of their ancestors. Like a river, we flow from the experiences and stories of our ancestors. It is a gift to know their stories.
Some people have a hard time finding their ancestors and I try to help those people. My story is humanity’s story and so it is important for me to use my superpower to help others connect to their direct roots. I am pretty good at my superpower. I have a lot of tools and memberships in ancestral websites that help me. But, my superpower is far from perfect. I often try to find information from the past, but it is elusive. I could not find the birth parents of my friend Beth. I could not find out who Jennie’s grandparents were. I did find records of Jennie’s Japanese mother who had arrived in America as a wartime bride from Japan, but was unable to trace the family further back.
Because there are many people who have my same superpower, there are others who have helped me find my direct ancestors and even photographs of them. Just think how it feels to see a photo for the first time of your 2nd great grandparents. Or, imagine seeing the photo of the farm in France where my children’s great grandparents had lived.
In January of this year, I traveled to France with my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. We went to the village of Sundhousen to meet a gentleman there who is also a genealogist. We had found out about each other through my website. He found my website while researching his grandparent’s story and it turns out that his great grandmother and my children’s great great grandmother were sisters. Think how it felt to arrive at Gerard and Josette’s French home to spend a weekend delving through the past together. Imagine how it felt to see photos of my children’s ancestors on the wall of the guest room provided to me during my stay. Imagine coming home from that trip with copies of dozens of photos of the Groshans family from France. And best, we met and dined with family we did not even know we had. My 7-year-old grandson was delighted to find out that his family now included this extended family in France.
I love my superpower. I love sharing my power and helping others gain the power of time travel too. Finding ancestors, hearing their stories, knowing the history and events that faced them are all part of something that we call a tree. A family tree.
When John Andrew Bravin “Uncle John” was born on March 1, 1922, in Meduno, Udine, Italy, his father, Anibale, was 31 and his mother, Lousa “Louise” Melosso, was 22.
In the 1930 US Census, Uncle John was only 8 years old. He was living with his family then at 924 E. 10th Street, Altoona, PA. The census indicates that both of his parents were born in Italy and that the family language in their home was Italian. In this same year, his younger brother Louis was 5 years old and his sister Madeline was 3 years old. Both Louis and Madeline were born Altoona, Pennsylvania.
Uncle John was a US veteran. He was in the US Marine Corp during WWII and served as a Sergeant.
He died on February 10, 2011, in Altoona, Pennsylvania, at the age of 88, and was buried there.
Here are a few photos from the Groshans family photo collection: