Sunday, November 27, 2011
Aunt Kate - The Funeral Crasher
It all began with this photograph of my mother's ancestors.
The picture was in my brother's possession for many years. As I have become the keeper of family history he gifted it to me last year. Spending time with the photograph several interesting features captured my attention.
The little boy standing in the middle (great-uncle William) reminds me of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Looking closer he does not seem thrilled about the entire process! Might be those ruffles making him less than happy with his attire.
Mom identified the woman as her aunt Kate and stated she marched to her own drummer. As the conversation progressed just how "interesting" aunt Kate was during her lifetime became clear.
This all came to light while chatting with Mom about her early memories in Baltimore City, Maryland.
One story that always makes me a wee bit uncomfortable is how Mom's relatives were laid out in the front parlor when they passed away. The family placed a black wreath on the front door to let everyone know they were grieving a loved one.
Shortly afterwards family and friends would gather for the wake. Everyone would come bearing food and sympathy. Many times offering to help with the younger children of the house.
Tell the truth when I was younger the parlor of my grandmother's house was not a favorite!
As we talked about this custom Mom remembered the story of her aunt Kate. At first I was certain I misunderstood the information being presented. Asking Mom to repeat what she just shared I realized that my great-aunt Kate was a funeral crasher!
Seems whenever Kate saw a black wreath she proceeded home and changed into her best funeral attire. Off she would go to pay her respects and visit with the family of the deceased. Only problem, many times she did not know the parties involved!
Now you see why I had to ask Mom to repeat this story. After I gained my composure I asked why Kate would engage in this type of behavior. Did she show up for the food, was she trying to discover interesting gossip, or was she lonely.
The answer to all these questions was a resounding NO! Seems my sweet great-aunt loved to comfort people in their time of need. Even if they were strangers she would offer condolences and support.
Listening to my mother tell the story made me realize how important it is to capture every memory. Making time to sit with her asking questions has uncovered many interesting stories.
Whether Kate was eccentric or kind-hearted this tale makes me smile. Don't we love finding these gems in our family tree?