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Three score and ten or more

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I guess when all else fails, I can go to history. I wrote this a long time ago, and it was published in a family journal (geneology freaks, all of us) but it is the truth of one of my earliest memories:

Richard B. Johnson

I was born July 23, 1934, and I don't remember a thing about it. I have a number of really vague snippets of memory that seem to precede going to school, but may have happened almost any time between birth and eight or ten years old.
One really vivid memory is of my great-grandmother Agren. As a child, I didn't know very much about her except that my grandpa was dead, and that he had traveled back and forth to Cardston, Canada a lot because he had another wife there whose name was Aunt something but I couldn't remember her name, and that she was dead too.
The image that remains is of a gaunt figure, VERY old and frail in the eyes of a little boy, sitting in a rocking chair, brushing her long white hair. The flood of hair seemed to float from a slender crest to the broad floor, and as the image clears, it was my Grandma Shurtleff brushing her mother's hair because Grandma Agren was too frail to do it herself. In my vision her eyes are closed and her head tipped a little back and to one side. The skin of her face, translucent parchment with cheek bones struggling to break through into open air, glows with brittle energy. The closed eyes were trimmed with doilies of frail blue lace across the space between lash and brow. Her hair was about the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and as I reached out to touch it, she smiled and with almost transparent hands, guided my hand to her hair. Small fingers coursed, first hesitantly, then gloriously through the flood, then my cheek touched it, and I became conscious of the fragrance. It had a little bit of a strong smell, not clean and crisp like my Janet's hair when we dance together now, but it was a good smell, a rich pungent aroma and she let me hold it against my face for a long time. I don't know old I was when Grandma Agren died, but I must have been quite young because this is the only really clear memory I have of her. Sometimes, one memory may be enough, if it is a good one.


At 4:42 AM, Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Thanks for stopping by. The show I'm doing is Bouncers by John Godber.

At 5:07 AM, Blogger Ed Abbey said...

Genealogy is very addicting. I became hooked this summer and actually invested in some genealogy software and did a two week (free trial) period at ancestry.com. In the course of two weeks, I was able to go from knowing only the names back to my great grandparents to having a family tree that in a few places is 15 generations back and in most, 8 generations. My wife got on me about those honey-do house projects languishing in the background so I had to put it aside for the time being. I'm just biding my time until I have a chance to get my next fix.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

My wife is an addict. She is at a geneolgy conference at this moment (on Gaelic geneology)

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

10 27 05

How touching! I recall snuggling against my grandma's chest because she was quite obese when I was younger. As a kid, she smelled of sweet perfume, nutmeg and spices and softness. I never understood biases against fat people when I was coming up because I always was reminded of how soft and lovable and comforting my grandma was! Excellent and moving post!

At 5:28 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Three Score, you made a comment on my latest South African story. That post will disappear tonight so I just wanted to say thanks for reading it.

A few years ago I met up with a South African Jewish couple with whom I was involved in the anti-apartheid movement. I had not seen them in many years. They decided to leave South Africa when the wife was attacked and robbed. The robbers tore the ear-rings out of her ears leaving them torn and bleeding.

After that they decided to come to the USA and, like your friends, they lost most of their prosperity. They had also become angry and regretted ever working in the anti-apartheid movement.


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