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LJI 10 Week 1: Her Eyes

This is my entry for this week of therealljidol. The topic is "I need the struggle to feel alive."

Senora-Hampton-Hinkle-with 7-children-noframe

Her Eyes

Worn, a slight head tilt, lips pressed thin
wavy tumble of hair, she sat beside
her clapboard house, surrounded by a clump
of children. The mystery woman fixed
resigned eyes on me from across a century.

A discarded thought
the day I scanned in the photos I'd found
inside a rugged leather valise -- secreted
in a safe corner of my Mom's cat-rampaged house --
the thought eventually returned, as all
thoughts do when you are finally
quiet enough to hear them.

I knew that head tilt.
I knew those eyes.

Amongst all the family photos -- some so old
they'd escaped even my Mom's memory -- Mom
had pointed out my grandmother,
my great-grandmother,
my great-great-grandmother,
matrilineal history mattering more
to her than men.

In gray dusk, I pulled up the 1929
portrait of Senora Hinkle, my great-
grandmother -- her last formal portrait.
That head tilt.
Those eyes.
Plumper, yes, dressed in a shapeless dark dress
(I'd thought her a widow, but her husband
lived a decade more, fathered six more kids)
but yes!

Clockwise, I ticked off the roster of children --
gauging age by relative size. Harriet, Jennie,
John, Ella (my Nana), Joseph, Elmer
and chubby baby Harry. As tired as she looked,
Senora would birth four children more, losing
the last at age 6. Senora lived just 3 years more.

My Nana seemed to wink at me, the one dark carrier
of her father's hair, as well as the blonde gene
she would pass to my Mom
and my Mom would pass to me.

"You got it, Bud!" I could almost hear her cheer.
(In life, it sounded like "butt," to my perpetual

Eight faces
reclaimed from memory's abyss.

- November 23, 2016

Senora Hinkle in the late 1920s


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
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Nov. 24th, 2016 01:51 am (UTC)


I'm amazed and stunned and absolutely impressed with your detective skills and this woman, your relative.

This stanza says Everything - Amongst all the family photos -- some so old
they'd escaped even my Mom's memory -- Mom
had pointed out my grandmother,
my great-grandmother,
my great-great-grandmother,
matrilineal history mattering more
to her than men.

Gorgeously penned. Thank you for sharing.
Dec. 15th, 2016 06:14 am (UTC)
Thank you. That flash of satori when I linked the two photos was amazing. I danced around the room!
Nov. 24th, 2016 04:55 am (UTC)
This is beautiful.
Nov. 24th, 2016 05:38 am (UTC)
OOOH! I loved this. Very nicely done.
Dec. 15th, 2016 06:14 am (UTC)
Thanks so much!
Nov. 24th, 2016 01:17 pm (UTC)
Wow! This was amazing work.
Dec. 15th, 2016 06:15 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Nov. 24th, 2016 04:06 pm (UTC)
Your mother showed a special kind of wisdom to have made this connection to your family history, and how blessed you are to have been gifted with such a loving, lasting treasure. It is more than most can ever know.
Dec. 15th, 2016 06:17 am (UTC)
We are so grateful that, as chaotic as things got in her house at the end, she made sure these photos were kept safe. I do wish I'd listened more carefully when she'd pointed out other faces and names to me, specifically of my Nana's siblings. At the time, I was bored with it, because I was young, and didn't know any of them. I couldn't imagine a time I would actually care who they were!
Nov. 24th, 2016 07:33 pm (UTC)
I get this wistful feeling when I look at some old photographs. Some make you smile, some break your heart.
Dec. 15th, 2016 06:18 am (UTC)
That's what I love so much about them. Sometimes, for unexplainable reasons, they capture the spirit of the person so well you feel them in the room with you.
Nov. 24th, 2016 08:31 pm (UTC)
I love these photos! They " talk". Nice reflection.
Dec. 15th, 2016 12:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I thought so, too. What's really striking to me is seeing the difference between the studio pics and the backyard pics by the itinerant photographers who roamed the coal regions. They would just take shots of people as they were that day. I don't even think they changed clothes! I'm guessing the appeal was that it was cheap and convenient.
Nov. 24th, 2016 09:58 pm (UTC)
Dec. 15th, 2016 12:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much!
Nov. 25th, 2016 03:21 am (UTC)
"matrilineal history mattering more
to her than men"

I loved this line, in particular, but the whole thing was wonderful.
Dec. 15th, 2016 01:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I felt that line captured her approach to family history. She told me very little about the men!
Nov. 25th, 2016 01:06 pm (UTC)
This was great. Isn't genealogy awesome? I love all the photos you've been posting.
Dec. 17th, 2016 08:05 am (UTC)
Thanks! Yes, I love old photos. I also think I might have figured out who my great-grandfather and great-grandmother were on my Pop-pop's side, although there's less to go on there. He broke from his family when they didn't support his marriage and didn't talk to many of them for very long. Plus, his mother died in the early 1940s, and Mom told me she only got to meet her once.
Nov. 25th, 2016 08:16 pm (UTC)
I was going through pictures myself before I read this article(only going back as far as my maternal grandfather). You are very lucky to have these photos and it is wonderful that you take the time to do the research and find out about your ancestors. Thank you for sharing.
Nov. 27th, 2016 01:58 am (UTC)
A lovely glimpse into family history! Smile.
Nov. 27th, 2016 07:15 pm (UTC)
This is beautifully done Alyce! It must feel amazing to hold such personal history in your hands. Hugs and peace~~~D
Nov. 27th, 2016 11:58 pm (UTC)
I love looking at old family photos. It's amazing to see how similar, yet different, we all are.
Nov. 28th, 2016 09:32 am (UTC)
I know very little about my family's history. My maternal grandmother used to tell me stories about the past, her past. My father's twin sister, my aunt, used to tell me stories about my father's side of the family. I should have written them down.

I greatly admire you for doing this. It matters.
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( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

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