Sunday, September 6, 2009

Not Even A Mouse



No one else around for the rest of the evening.

No one to chatter to me.

I can really, really relax.

Like I said, bliss.

And now for something completely different: I have new old family photos, both maternal and paternal.

This is the Chitrin family in Dvinsk, Latvia. My maternal grandmother wasn't born yet. Pretty serious lot. I think the old guy is their grandfather, my great-great-grandfather. This photo may have been what their father kept close to his heart as he negotiated their new life in that new world.
This is my grandmother on the far right with her siblings arranged oldest to youngest.
I remember all those great-aunts, but somehow not the great-uncles, only one of whom was still alive when I was old enough to form memories.

Auntie Tillie (far left) died when I was fairly young, and I remember visiting her on her death-bed, and being made to kiss her. It freaked me out a bit.

Auntie Becky (the short one - she was better looking as a grey-haired old lady - who is easily recognizable as the smallest girl child in the photo above this one) had four sons, and her husband died fairly young, and as she was a rather small creature, disciplining those boys (and of course in those days we're not talking time-outs, or asking how it makes you FEEL when you do that to your little brother) was difficult, so rumour has it that she would stand on their fingers with her high, pointy heels, as she couldn't smack them hard enough to have any effect.

I always wondered why on earth they'd consent to that, but I guess she had some authority.

Auntie Belle Miller (one away from my grandmother) did the most exquisitely fine crochet work you can imagine. She died when I was probably in high school, but not before having made me two sets of luncheon mats (which I have, and cherish) for my Bottom Drawer, even though my generation didn't really do that.

She also made a couple of tablecloths for my mother, one of which was made to fit our oversized dining-room table which could comfortably seat eighteen when fully-extended. For that, were there a heaven, she deserved a place of honour since I cannot conceive of so large an item using such tiny thread. I've never seen anything that fine since her work. We don't know what to do with the thing anymore, as the table is long gone, and the tablecloth is probably bigger than two California Kings.

I think the next picture must have been taken in South Africa, since it contains my paternal grandmother, who claims to not have been born in the Old Country (somewhere in Eastern Europe) like most of her siblings (she was the youngest. Or perhaps the second youngest. She had Issues with her age).

They went through (like so many immigrants) a bunch of name changes during the emigration/immigration process: my mother's notes say "Isaacs → Macht → Berkowitz" - my grandmother was a Berkowitz, and I guess the family started off as Isaacs.

The story about Macht was that there was no passport office out in the village where they lived, and so when the family started the emigration process, they went to the local machter (the guy who made things. Like passports, birth certificates, travel documents - pretty much any document that one might need. He could make anything) to get some passports made. He asked what name to put on the passport and they said "Macht" (yes, it sounds like hacking a loogie) - I have no idea why they thought it imprudent to use their real last name. Perhaps so that the Authorities couldn't find them and bring them back, although really, why would they have bothered?

At least, that's what I always heard.

I don't know where Berkowitz came from. Perhaps they liked the sound of it.
My grandmother is the rather sullen blonde child next to her somewhat stern mother.


Spindlers2 said...

Wonderful photographs. We have to keep fighting our respective mothers not to throw everything out, and to tell us who people are. It is important!

Elizabeth said...

Those are wonderful! I love family pictures and stories.

kim said...

My 4'9" Aunt Bess used to tell her 6'2" son to "Sit down so I can yell at you!", which conveniently (for her at least) put him closer to eye level. And when she said it, he dropped into the nearest chair!