Sunday, September 12, 2010

Losing Love...Creating Mystery (Part 4)

Lulu’s world would finally take shape, form and color. At this point the only tangible evidence I had were two pictures; one, a portrait of Lulu and the other, a photo John had given me. It was taken at North Boden Beach, according to the words scrawled on the photo’s border. A rowboat prop, Mayflower, set the scene for the portrait. Lulu, dressed in a cutwork lace adorned high-collared dress with a heart-shaped pendant, was seated opposite Edwin; two of his sisters crowded behind. A friend, Fred, stood tall as the ship’s captain. As I looked at the pictures, I tried to quiet my fear that Lulu might prove to be just as elusive in documentation as she was in life.
Enter the world of aged (and some young) men and women, eyes glued to the screens before them, pushing buttons or hand-winding microfilm in search of a single frame in a sea of thousands. Genealogists remain seated for hours, almost motionless as if they are preserved corpses. Add to the scene, in my amused mind, cobwebs spreading from the microfilm machines and attaching themselves to the viewer. Occasional chatter breaks the silence. It is a welcomed reminder that we have not entered a morgue.

John and I go to work looking for our clues. Total silence…racing, racing through documents inscribed with scribbled, oft times illegible, names and dates. There is always enough comprehensible information on the record that either confirms or rejects the validity of a family connection. The silence goes on so long I feel I need to say something, but small talk was never my gift, and I don’t dare break our concentration for fear that we might miss something. And then the moment arrives. I see John sit back in his chair. From the corner of my eye, I notice that he is studying the document before him. He announces that he may have found something, and then more emphatically, that he “did” find something. I lean toward the screen just enough to make out the bride’s name, Lulu Gonder. Above her name is listed Edward Caraccoli. There is no mistaking it; despite the misspelling of Caraccioli, this is Lulu’s marriage certificate. The door cracks open. She is 22 years old; her wedding date, 11 March 1911; her birth year, though not listed, is either 1888 or 1889 based on her age. If she had died at 25 years old, as my mother had recalled, her death would have been only 3 years after her marriage. My grandmother, Adele, was born almost exactly one year after the marriage. This meant that her brother, Edwin, had to have been born between 1913 and 1914 as long as he was the younger of the two. Marrying at 22 years of age is not unusual, nor is the idea of having a child a year after. So where was the mystery that permeated this story? I refused to believe that the only reason there was so much intrigue was from her early death. The answer was in the discovery of the next two documents… (To be continued…)

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