Wednesday, April 7, 2010

News From the Lockport Bureau

I just received an e-mail from the intrepid Rick Heenan, my first cousin, once removed.  He's the guy who provided the photo of James Ocean McMurray, dressed in his Royal Horse Artillery dress uniform.

He's sent along some amazing photos.

First, his parents, John and Myrtle McMurray Heenan, on their honeymoon in 1936:

It's just a wonderful, joyful snapshot!  And you can tell that Myrtle is a McMurray -- I can see at least two of my siblings in her features.

Next, it's the eldest McMurray child, Edward, posing with his England-made Ford coupe:
What's not to like?  I love that one of my great uncles was enough of a free spirit that he tooled around the Eastern seaboard in a car sporting a steering wheel mounted on the right side.  Plus, the car is a lovely shade of sky blue, Manchester City's color, and that is never a bad thing. 

The best comes last.  This is Charlotte Squib Hanson.  I don't know much about my great-grandmother: she married in her teens, moved from London to Toronto to Buffalo to North Tonawanda, raising a family along the way.  Her husband died young; she died in her daughter's home, on Linwood Avenue in North Tonawanda, when she was 74.  Her father, James Hanson, was a bookbinder; the family lived in the Islington area of north central London.  Until about half an hour ago, I had never seen a photograph of her.  This image had to have been taken in London, when she was in her early teens:

A quick scan of Mr. Wikipedia's page turned up the following nuggets: Camden Town was the home of the Cratchits in A Christmas Carol; the record shop in Nick Hornby's High Fidelity was set there (N.B. I like Nick Hornby, but the protagonist of High Fidelity is, well, a git.  I like Fever Pitch and A Long Way Down and Juliet, Naked -- which is not about a nude woman named Juliet; it's about what all of Hornby's books are about, love and loss and trivia and music -- a whole lot more).  Today, Camden Town is sort of a hipster/hippie hangout.  Amy Winehouse has mentioned it in a song.  So have The Clash.  MTV's London offices are there.

Take a long look at that photo.  We can identify with politicians and pop stars, divide ourselves and align ourselves and tell us that we are self-actualized, free agents, but the truth is, this is us, this little girl with the solemn eyes and the elegant chapeau, holding the parasol.  We are the young man in the military uniform, too, and the little steely fellow enigmatically clutching the baseball in that old wedding photo.  We're the exhausted kid, sitting in a classroom by day, stocking grocery shelves by night, running like a madman in a Springtime half-mile race.  We're the little Polish lady with the big wig and the stack of crossword puzzle books, and the laughing old man with the fiddle, dispensing scratchy kisses.  Whomever we claim to be, however we choose to separate from one another, we are the sum of all who came before us.

And however we may deny it, that binds us in bonds unbreakable.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Are you kidding me? When are you going to start believing me, you Polish ham? That last paragraph and then the final sentence: absolute, pure magic. I was totally riveted, reading it, and it wasn't until I'd finished and then reread it that I realize that (a) I had been nodding in agreement the whole time and (b) I hadn't taken a breath, for fear of losing the moment. You may denigrate your writing ability, my friend, but self-deprecation in this case really does not become the man. Powerful stuff, this: the stuff of truly great writing.