Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dorothy Lamour and my mother

Cleaning out the house of a loved one is not a task I would recommend to anyone. Obviously, it means that said loved one has died.

With that stated, it is an interesting process -- because you never know what you might find. After all, there are a lifetime of memories packed away in a house, and in some cases some of a spouse's memories are enclosed as well.

I spent last week at my mother's condo, cleaning and sorting and discarding a variety of items. Mom used to like jigsaw puzzles, but I uncovered a few mysteries that don't quite fit together.

Such as ... the land in England.

In 1987, my father gave my mother a very small plot of land in Canterbury in England. I don't know how small it is, but since it cost about $50 I can't imagine it's big enough for a housing development. The idea is to say the recipient is a landowner in England, while helping keep an area as undisturbed from development. In this case, Dad purchased the plot from the Old England Heritage Foundation, 3 The Ness in Canterbury in Kent.

But ... there is no record anywhere of the Old England Heritage Foundation. It doesn't even come up on Google (although it will now). The street is next to a hospital in Kent, but there's no listing of any sort of business there. In other words, there's no easy way to find out what happened to the family estate in England. I guess the information goes into my filing cabinet, where someone else will look it up (hopefully way) down the road.

Then there is the key to the city of Ranson, West Virginia.

At least, I came across a metal object that was key-shaped, almost a foot long. It had "Ranson, West Virginia" on it. The family does have a connection there. When my father's plant shut down in Elmira in 1968, he was offered a job at another company in Ranson. We drove down there, looked around, and decided that the area wasn't for us. Perhaps it was the fact that there were outhouses visible from the road that scared us off. I think it was the last outhouse I ever saw.

It's tough to know what the story was. Maybe it was given out to a variety of employees of the parent company of the Ranson plant. Maybe the town was so happy that we weren't coming that we were given a gift in appreciation. I only know two things for sure: I'll never know the answer, and the key doesn't open anything.

Finally, there's the story of my mother and the movie star.

We found a scrapbook that my Mom had from her childhood. Inside was an article how Mom had been selected to present Dorothy Lamour, she of the so-called Road movies, some flowers during a War Bonds rally sometime during World War II. (It might not be that exact cause, but you get the idea.) And then on the next page, there was a newspaper clipping with a picture of my mother on a stage with Dorothy Lamour.

The funny part was that I never heard about this. OK, I was only around her for 56 years. Still, it never came up.

Yet that's not the strange part of the story. I lived in the same house as Mom for quite a while, and then came back a lot to visit. I'd often stumble on things by accident with a child's curiosity. Somehow a scrapbook from Mom's childhood survived all of those moves and all that exploration without being noticed. Heck, my mom had a birthday party as a child, and it was a big enough event to make "The Brockton Enterprise." Was it a slow news day, or just a small town paper at work? I also didn't notice a variety of pictures, cards, etc. from her past that were discovered along the way. A woman who hated to have her picture taken and seemed to wave off much of nostalgia as silly had a couple of large boxes filled with personal effects.

It's interesting to find a few more pieces to the puzzle of a life, but the process is a reminder that I'll never be able to look at the complete picture.

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