Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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52 Ancestors #2 – Breeching Photo of William John Flanders

This adorable young man is my great-grandfather, William John Flanders, born 25 March 1865 in Mildenhall, Suffolk, England.

William-John-Flanders

He was the third of six children born to William Flanders and Eliza Newdick. We have a lot of William Flanders in this line, both back and forward in time, so it’s nice that they gave him a middle name to help us keep them straight!

Young William is wearing an elaborately decorated coat with a pair of short pants and high shoes. The first thing you notice is the coat with all the black embroidered trim; the next is that he’s wearing short pants (which are a different thing than our casual shorts).  He looks straight ahead at the photographer. This is a formal outfit and the setting is also formal. It could have been in his home or in a photography studio; the original photo is unmarked. William’s father was a well-to-do farmer and horse breeder who lived in a large home known as Burnt Fen House and the setting is not inconsistent with that type of residence.

Although I cannot prove it, I believe this to be a Breeching photo, marking William’s transition from wearing dresses to wearing trousers for the first time, a kind of “coming of age” event. Little boys wore dresses for the first years of their life and were in their mother’s domain. When they reached 5-8 years of age, they transitioned both clothing and activities into their father’s world. There is a fascinating blog post on breeching at the Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society that’s worth a read.

I got this picture from my great-uncle Lester in 1970 when I first began researching my family. William John, the boy in the photograph, was his father, but the picture came to Lester from William John’s family in England along with a few other family photos and articles. It seems so funny to see a little boy dressed in such an elaborate outfit, and it’s the only photo I have of him before 1918, but I cherish it.


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52 Ancestors #2 – Four Generations Photo

I had so many favorite photos that I decided to write each of them up! This one is a four-generation photo taken in the spring of 1929 at my grandparents’ home in the Forest Hill area of Newark, New Jersey.

4-Generations

Here we have my aunt with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Their clothing and hairstyles are so very different, but you can see the facial resemblances.

  • The baby is my Aunt Jane Anne, born October 1928 in Newark, NJ. Round of face, barefoot, happy, she was the eldest of two beloved daughters.
  • The woman on the left is my grandmother, Marion Stokes Cooke Flanders, dressed in a white flapper-style dress that she undoubtedly made, as she made all her clothes. She is wearing pearls, a watch, bracelet, and rings, so this is not a casual photo. Marion was born in New York City in May 1902 and died in 1960 at age 58.
  • Marion’s mother and my great-grandmother, Jane Morrison Cooke, is the woman on the right. Jane, or Jennie as she was called, was born in Pennsylvania in 1871 to Scottish immigrants. Her husband died in 1925 and she wore black, as she is doing in this photo, for the rest of her life.  She wears a practical watch and a wedding ring, and long knotted pearls that gleam on her shapeless black dress. Jennie died in 1946 at age 74.
  • Margaret Brookmire Morrison Segar, my great-great-grandmother, sits in the center of the picture. She was born in Scotland in 1845, outlived two husbands, and died in New Jersey at age 93 in 1939. Margaret was a practical nurse and a practical woman, marrying her second husband while the first was in an insane asylum. Her hairstyle and black dress are very old fashioned, with lace at the neck and a long skirt in the age of flappers. Her snow-white hair is carefully arranged and she wears small wire-rim glasses.

I love this photo, seeing four generations of women in my family together. Each born in a different place and time, each dressed in their best but different fashions in clothing and hairstyles, showing that this photo marked an Occasion in their lives.


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52 Ancestors #2 – Favorite Photo, Marion Cooke

This week’s writing prompt is “Favorite Photo” and I have so many that I love!

But this one is my current favorite: my grandmother Marion “Mimi” Stokes Cooke, taken about 1924 in Brooklyn.

Marion (2)

I love my grandmother’s direct gaze in this portrait. She faced life head-on with her head held high, confident and clear-headed.  Life wasn’t always easy for her but you can see the strength in her eyes.

She was the eldest child and adored daughter of Robert Thomas Cooke and Jane Morrison. She was born in 1902 and lived in Brooklyn and Queens with her parents and younger brother Leighton until she married my grandfather in March 1927 and moved to Newark, New Jersey. She died of colon cancer in 1960 at age 58 when I was five years old.

Mimi was the first member of our family to go to college, graduating in 1920 with a diploma in Trade Dressmaking from the Pratt Institute School of Domestic Arts and Sciences. She made dresses, coats, even bathing suits, for herself and her daughters, and smocked baby clothes for me.  The wedding dress she created for my mom and her sister was beautifully and intricately made of satin and lace.

When she married in 1927, she moved into my grandfather’s childhood home, complete with a mother-in-law who refused to allow Mimi to cook meals until World War II rationing became too hard for her to deal with. Mimi developed a treasure trove of dessert recipes for my grandfather’s sweet tooth and I’m fortunate to have her recipe box, though some would be hard to make now since directions are sketchy.

My grandmother was all about family. She had a large complement of Cooke cousins and during the Depression, her mother and grandmother moved from Brooklyn into a house a few doors down the street so she was able to see them often.  She was playful with a sweet smile, and enjoyed vacations at their beach home in Manasquan. We lived an hour away when I was a child and she and my mom were able to see each other often. She died too young.

Although I have many pictures of my grandmother, this one is my favorite. I love her eyes, her soft but not quite perfect hair, the big flower on the dress that I imagine she made herself. She looks like someone who knows herself and is looking straight ahead at life.


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A Week or So in the Life

Have you missed me?  I seem to be spending more time living my life and chatting in short little spurts on Twitter and Facebook instead of posting here.  Let’s see if I can catch up.

I’ve been busy with work, learning new responsibilities since on 11/1 my job changes.  My best work friend is retiring at the end of November and her unit and mine are being merged into a single Acquisitions & Continuing Resources department, with me in charge. I’ll miss her like crazy because we’re good friends and I enjoy her company, knowledge, and wisdom.  We’ve been backups for each other these last 3 years and it will be hard to fly solo, but it’s also an opportunity to rethink job responsibilities and descriptions, and workflow.

I’m off to Chicago on Tuesday for a few days visit with my best friend and then a committee meeting over Halloween weekend to select the programs for next year’s annual meeting.  I’m in charge of it all so am feeling a bit stressed that we don’t make any false moves. But we will and it will all be okay. Trust me, though, I’ll be happier next Monday when the decisions are behind us and I’m home again.

Tessi went to the vet on Friday, much to her dismay, to get her claws clipped and have her anal glands checked. She’s had problems there before and I’d noticed she was licking her butt more than usual.  It seems that the glands were fine but she had some hard crystals in there that were irritating. Now she has a small shaved bit and short claws.  So far she hasn’t retaliated by throwing up but I’m sure she’s biding her time.  I’d better warn the cat sitter.

Weight loss has slowed down to a stop and to be quite honest, I don’t really care that much.  Except I do.  I’ve decided that my goal isn’t a point on the scale, it’s being able to fit into size 16 petite pants.  I’m having a terrible time finding pants to fit because I’m really an 18p right now and petite departments usually only go up to a 16.  Sure, I can get some online but I really want to be able to try them on in a store instead of paying for stuff I have to return because it doesn’t fit.

But it doesn’t really matter to me when that happens.  After losing 126 lbs, it’s hard to get excited about another 15-20.  Picking up the exercise pace will obviously help but I’ve been sick for 2 weeks and have been having continuing back problems that my doctor thinks are connected to that heavy apron of excess skin hanging in the front.  My balance is off.  At least the pool workouts are easier on everything than the ones “on land” as my trainer calls them.

Did you know that you can create 8×10 photo collages at Walgreens?  I’m sure you can do it other places, too, but I know it works there.  I uploaded some digital photos to have prints made, and discovered there was an option for photo collage.  You can select up to 20 photos (though I’d definitely recommend no more than 8-9 if you want to actually see them) and the system arranges them for you.  You can shuffle the images, add more, remove some, select the color background and width of the lines separating the photos, etc.  Price is $3.99 each.  I’m not sure if you can create them on the spot; I did this from home and picked up at the store.  They’ll make fun presents for the family and one of them will go into my new office.  Check it out!