(enlarge this to see the photographs in detail)
There are recognizable faces to readers of this page- the great lady, Nancy Astor, her niece, one of our favorites, Nancy Lancaster, along with the famous Langhorne Sisters drawn by John Singer Sargent.
I love these sorts of walls-this one in the dining area of Elizabeth Winn's London flat. The flat was photographed for The Englishwoman's House-a book published in 1984. Elizabeth Winn- Nancy Astor's great niece wrote the piece about her home for the edition and of this photograph she says- The walls are "plastered with black and white photographs of my family past and present, which makes it very nostalgic for me." Not mentioning her famous connections, Winn shares one of the intimate spots in her house that must have been a great joy and perhaps a bitter sweet one too. Images of loved ones past- loved and along with them the up and coming-much to love- generation that will carry on the name, the stories, the photographs. I don't know if the wall still exists or if the family photographs have been broken up and passed along to the next generation in Winn's family. It really doesn't matter. Doesn't that wall exists for us all somewhere?
I well remember a room with polished log walls where my great grandmother slept. It became the room where she could usually be found when I went out for visits.
She wasn't holding court as some might think-rather she was holding a place for all her loved ones -many scattered away from home- in that room.
The screen door to the log house-always open-the doors always unlocked. Come in.
Step onto a long enclosed porch where every variety of plant & seedling was lined up along a shelf that ran across the length of window. Just beyond that shelf-the bathroom, an addition at some time in the house's history-when I don't know-for once upon a time a privy had existed out on the grounds just beyond the house.
From the porch to the kitchen, I enter & am accosted by the fragrant odors of baking pies, cakes, always baking. Lots of baking was done there, someone-one of four of my great aunts always seemed to be baking.
From the kitchen and on to the bedroom where MaMa is keeping faith with her memories.
There- in the room along with bed and sofa and chair-is the Family.
There in that room "plastered" everywhere are the images of her daughters and her son-my grandfather.
From that generation to the next-there are the grandchildren- my father and the other grandchildren added to the logs .
My parents wedding portrait hanging amidst all these photographs.
Onward to the great grandchildren- my own generation and forward. Mama is keeping faith with the family by adding pictures of every sort-with many spilling out onto her mantle.
Often-if she is not sleeping, I might ask for a story from her or my father or mother about one of the pictures-
"Now who was that? "
"MaMa is that you? "
"Where is my picture?"
"Was I born when that picture was taken?"
"Now how am I kin to them, Daddie?"
Hearing and hoping to remember that strand of our story so on my next visit I can share it with her- and so on from there to the next.
It's my story.
It is all a memory of course-
The wall is gone-long gone-as is the house- as it was known to our family.
There is a private family cemetery where so many gather together again- but for me- it is that wall that I think of and remember.
It's my story and I think of it and often I dip back to those days-
and that wall.
(photograph by Derry Moore are from The Englishwoman's House)