I have been thinking about my family (my mother, father and siblings) for the last few days. How we interact with each other, our senses of humor, our interests. I have always thought that people are who they are because of the lifelong bond they have with each other. The shared experiences. My sister, brother and I can relate to so many things because of the memories we have of situations that closely relate to what is happening now. Or how we saw our parents and grandparents react in different situations. We use our past experiences to make decisions on events or to figure out the social protocol within our social sphere. We also have the same sense of humor. It’s really more than that though, our minds all work alike.
My two daughters grew up spending most of their time with my husband’s side of the family. They have a lot of cousins their own age and we all spent most weekends together. They grew up with cousins as best friends. That’s not a bad thing. My sister has two daughters around the same age as mine. They did not spend a lot of time together because of the distance between us or later because of time constraints. It’s not like they didn’t know their cousins, they just didn’t have the same intimate knowledge of one another as they did with their father’s side of the family. They didn’t really know their aunt and uncle on my side well at all – only because every holiday we all spent with our respective in-laws.
A couple of years ago one of my nieces was home for the holidays. We hardly see her now – she’s lives on the other side of the country. My sister’s family came to spend the day with ours. They brought their dogs. We spent the entire day laughing. Once everyone had left my younger daughter said, “I’ve always felt as though I didn’t fit in, now I realize I was just hanging out with the wrong family!” She had found her place. The place where you really understand your roots, or why you are the way you are.
This was the beginning of realizing that who we are may be more genetic than environmental. For years I tried to fit into my husband’s family but they are not who I am. What we have in common is our children.
Since my son and I have reconnected this realization comes home so often that it is fact to me now. He has never known his biological family until this past spring and we did not know him. The first things noticed were the physical attributes but the subtle, personality traits showed up almost immediately. The day he met my daughters was really a whirlwind but after he left everyone was in agreement – he is one of us. It all fit. For us this has been easy, a delightful revelation each time we get together. We gather him in and never seem to get quite enough, the visits end too quickly, there is so much of us to share. At the same time I wonder how overwhelming we might be. How much do you really want to know about a past that never existed until last March?
Since those first few meetings I’ve learned many things about him, about me. Some things can be looked at as bizarre coincidences but the reality is that we are who we are born to be, not who we spend our lives with. Our interests, how we communicate with others, our spiritual selves, those seeds were planted at our conception and we in turn pass them along to our children. My children just happen to be the ones that have made this so abundantly clear to me.
Most of my family on both my mother’s and father’s sides immigrated to the United States in the late 1800’s, the majority of them went to work in woolen mills in various parts of New England. This is fairly typical for immigrants of that era. Their skills were learned on the job and they worked their way into different jobs in a particular type of manufacturing.
My father’s father, Elmer, worked in woolen mills his entire life. I can’t say for sure what all of his jobs entailed but he is listed in the 1930 Census as a Loom Fixer. He was a brilliant man and could fix anything, including machining any parts that he needed.
He left behind a number of books where he kept track of all sorts of things including loom set ups. I had never woven a thing so when I looked at this particular book it didn’t make any sense other than to know that they were drafts and swatches of fabric that he had woven. That’s pretty cool in itself.
He had his own woolen mill in the late 50’s and early 60’s and I’m assuming these were some of the drafts for what he was weaving at the time.
Not ever having woven a thing I had no idea what he was talking about but felt like if I learned then I could be privy to his secret language, sort of get inside of his head.
A friend was moving last summer and posted on her Facebook page that she needed to get rid of her Harrisville loom and was anyone interested – I jumped on it. When I did I was thinking about this book and my family heritage with weaving. I googled weaving instructors for that particular loom and found Pam in Brimfield. I brought the book into class the second week to find out if I would be able to read it at some point. The mechanical looms are very different from the hand looms but what I’ve found is they are all the same really. She assured me that I would be able to read his drafts but would also be able to weave them
I look at this book in a totally different way now. I understand what he was saying and doing and it’s truly amazing. He would write the drafts, set up the looms and then attach a swatch of what he had created in his mind. Wow.
In the past year of weaving class I have learned the mechanics of dressing a loom and weaving structure (the basics). I have learned that my brain works in a way where I can see from a draft what a weaving structure will look like. I’ve learned that I inherited the ability to do this and understand it. Now I can spend some time actually weaving some of the drafts that my Pampi wrote. How cool it that?
I the fall of 2008 I received a call from Alan Bjork, curator of the Rowe Historical Society, about 2 photo albums he had received with photographs of Forth Pelham Farm. Someone had taken them when Olive Wright died in a nursing home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Olive had no heirs of any kind so one can only imagine her belongings upon her death were headed for a dumpster somewhere. The note above was in one of the pages of one of the albums and someone was kind enough to grant her wish that these albums return to Rowe.
Alan let me borrow the albums for a couple of days during which time I scanned all of the photographs and information in both albums. It was so obvious how much Olive loved the property in Rowe. There are numerous photographs that she took the time to write information on. There are brochures from when it was a B&B of sorts. There are notes and poems sent from lodgers, a newspaper clipping of the listing of the property with the date.
The images above are the front and back of an 8 X 10 photograph mounted on fiberboard the was in the beginning of one of the albums. Olive inscribed the back of the photo with the history of the property. She took such pride in the history.
Today the maple trees in the front of the house are no longer there. There were four of them when we moved there in 1967, the last one came down in a summer storm in 1999. The well is now surrounded by stone instead of wood. Other than that everything looks much the same, at least from this angle.
I’d like to think that Olive would be pleased with what has happened to Fort Pelham Farm in the past few decades. I think she might be most pleased having a distant family member in the house.