Reflections of a 94-Year-Old Matriarch - The Daily Reckoning

Reflections of a 94-Year-Old Matriarch

Nov 30, 2015


Baltimore, Maryland

Markets have been very calm over the Thanksgiving holiday. Americans -distracted by friends and family - had better things to do than panic.

We celebrated at our family farm. In addition to Thanksgiving itself, we attended a family reunion and a grandchild's christening.

The three family events focused our attention on family history and how the culture of Southern Maryland has evolved over the last 50 years. Whether this has any parallels in other parts of the country...or whether this has any significance or importance at all...we don't know. But we'll tell you what happened anyway.

At the family reunion, we each brought our old photos and tried to identify the people on them. Many were almost 100 years old. The grainy, brownish photos showed people in romantic poses - at a windblown, empty beach...a couple in front of Model A Fords in Bonnie and Clyde-style outfits.

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One showed an uncle out in Wyoming in 1928 - in a cowboy outfit. Another showed a family on the lawn...five blond children, along with a father wearing a bow tie and mother in a long, frilly dress. Nobody smiled. There were work horses. And tractors. Barns.

'That's Uncle Edward...' said a cousin.

'No, that's Uncle Hal...' said another.

'I can't looks like a woman... Isn't that Aunt Ellen?'

'Let's ask Anne.'

Reflections of a matriarch

Anne is your editor's mother. At 94, she is the oldest member of the family. We count on her to remember.

'Let's see,' she said, studying the old photos. 'That's definitely Uncle Hal. But I don't know who that is on the left.'

If she didn't know, no one would. The poor man was lost. Gone from family history; erased by time and indifference. We hoped he was not from our family at all, and that his own family remembered him at its own family reunions.

'But look at Frank,' mother continued. 'He was such a handsome man.'

They all looked handsome. These were people we knew only as old people in the 1950s. But here, on film, they had been captured 20 or 30 years before we were born. They were good looking. Young. Full of life.

'Life is full of so many surprises,' the matriarch went on. 'You just never know how things will work out. I'm surprised I'm still alive. And some of these people we're looking at had such wonderful lives. And others - many of those who seemed to have every advantage - lived in ways that were very sad.

'You can't predict it. I mean, I feel so lucky in so many ways. And I don't understand why I should have so many good things happen to me...

'These people were all my friends and relatives. They were all so much smarter than I was. And so much more at ease in the world. I was always very timid, shy...painfully shy. But they were so nice; they always tried to include me.

'Those were the days!'

No strangers

The Chesapeake Bay area was a farming area then. You were either a waterman or a farmer. There wasn't much else to do. And so the rhythm of life only had two main tempos - either farming...which almost always meant tobacco...or the bay itself...which was mostly oysters. There were no suburbs. No office workers. No marketers. No communications specialists. No info tech professionals. And no strangers.

'Everyone knew everyone else. And if you didn't actually know the person, you knew "of" the person...because you knew what family they were from or what church they went to...and whether they were a tobacco person or an oyster person. And there just wasn't' much more to know.

'But it was so much fun. In the summer, we'd drive down to Fairhaven [a little community on the bay]. And we'd go swimming. The bay was clean...or at least, we thought it was. And there was no one at the beach there. Jules [mother's brother] drove down in my father's Packard. It was a convertible. It was such a pleasure it was to drive down the gravel road to that beautiful beach. We'd spend the whole day there.

'And then we'd go to Aunt Lillian's or Aunt Ellen's or Aunt Sophie's for dinner. And there were always tomatoes and corn on the cob - directly from the garden. And somehow, they found time to bake a cake - from scratch - and it was full of butter that they got from their own cows.

'Or, if it was the winter, we'd go ice skating on the West River. We'd go down to Ivy Neck and make a fire on the shore. We'd play hockey on the ice until the moon was out. And if the moon was bright enough, we'd just keep playing until we were worn out.

'Of course, now the bay doesn't freeze the way it used to. And you have to remember, this was before WWII. We had no idea what was going on in the rest of the world. And we didn't care. We only cared about our world. And our world was safe. And we were all happy. It was very different then. It must be hard for you to imagine it. Today, everybody is so worried about what goes on on the other side of the world. And everyone is so worried about money. I don't know why, but we didn't have much money, but we didn't worry about it either.

'I was a few years younger than everyone else. And they're all gone now. I mean, I'm happy to be alive...and to still be with the family. But sometimes, I miss them all so much I can barely stand it.

'You see, I loved I love you. And I want to see them again. All of them. I knew them. They knew me. We were friends. We were family.

'Now, it seems like everyone is a stranger.'

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

Disclaimer: The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Equitymaster do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site.

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3 Responses to "Reflections of a 94-Year-Old Matriarch"


Nov 30, 2015

Very touching. In today's world we're very connected and disconnected at the same time.


Sreedhar Krishna Murthy,

Nov 30, 2015

What a nostalgic recall of the good and quiet days! When u look back it always looks greener. Yesterdays were so nice and tomorrow is such a "horror"! Booner recalls his life in the US, but the transformation in lifestyle is ALMOST SIMILAR even here in India, and down south in Bengalooru! As Bill Bonner recounts, there was not much money those days, but lots of happiness and contentment! WHAT HAPPENED NOW ? WHY THIS ANXIETY, cut throat competition and uncertainty? Perhaps, the fast pace in life is responsible for this situation. USA, which led industrialisation and materialistic world, which is aped by the rest of the world, owes an explanation!



Nov 30, 2015

Dear sir Mr. Bill Bonner,
I am very much excited to read your thanksgiving function, and it was a thrill to read for me. Till now I was not knowing fully what is Thanksgiving function. In India it is not there. But in different way we do it. It is indeed very heartfilling joy when we read our forefathers that too very old relatives their comments. their past experience how they solved when they have any sort of problems in life etc. Their view of present life comparing it their way of living i.e. contented, good health, happiness relationship with relatives and friend circle etc. was so peaceful and joy comparing now. Though the past meaningful peaceful live has gone and we live in a more developed fast life, we are now also searching happiness which is not easy to get like our forefathers/mothers/sisters etc.
thanking you very much for making us also to give thanks to our elders and crave for their blessings.
with all the best and success to you,
yours sincerely,
mohan rao perdoor

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