Category Archives: Burnham

A Memory of Christmas Past

A Memory of Christmas Past

   

This was a common occurrence around the dining room table in La Canada, CA (abt. 1957)

 

My mother, Jean Marie Burnham (1914-2012), was a prolific writer.  Writing was an important part of her life and she was probably one of the last letter writers since the art of pen to paper is rapidly becoming a lost art.  In addition to her letter writing, she would write to the local newspaper editor and create poems filled with her often strong opinions and feelings.    She wanted to leave her thoughts and recollections for others to read so she not only wrote her memoirs, she actually penned her own obituary, not wanting to leave her life story to others (which tells many in our family where the “control-freak” originated).  In her later years, she composed poems for the holidays and included them in family Christmas Cards.

Christmas 2009

        I had a dream the other night.

It was Christmas.

All the family was there

From the eldest to the least.

None were missing.

We were sitting at a long table

In La Canada

In the living room.

We were so happy

Eating, laughing, talking.

I woke up

And reminisced of Christmas’s past.

Then I thought of the time

We would all be in heaven.

The circle would be unbroken.

What a day of rejoicing that would be.

It would be Christmas

Every day.

 

Piece of Work

Piece of Work

Celia Grace Overholtzer

September 22, 1872 – August 5, 1976

Daughter of Samuel Ashton Overholtzer and Mariah Harnish

Revised Celia Overholtzer, Grandma at 12..her first picture

My sister and I have a saying that we use sometimes to describe certain people in our family that seem to have no sense of the scope or magnitude of what they are doing in certain circumstances.  If you are wondering if you might be one of those people that are a “piece of work”, you aren’t, because the designated recipients of that title never even imagine they are and would never even question it.

“Piece of Work” came to mind as I started going through my grandmother’s, Celia Grace Overholtzer,  primitively-carved, wooden box that held some of her most cherished items.  My mother also had one such box by the time she had passed away and I always find it fascinating what people who have lived as long as my mother and grandmother see as their most cherished possessions after multiple downsizing and reevaluations of those items. My mother’s box held treasures such as notes and letters from her children; a minuscule porcelain doll that was her only toy as a child; a letter from her father after he had left following a divorce which he had sent to her when she was 12 but her mother had withheld until she was an adult.

In contrast, my grandmother’s box was filled with pictures of herself and then I recalled how she would often have her Brownie box camera in hand at holidays and events but somehow always ended up with a picture of herself at each of these times.  Those pictures were in her box and it became apparent that she had created a ‘ME’ monument in that wooden box.  Of course, I will never know for sure what her intent was but as I looked around my office, my eyes rested on a picture of my grandmother when she was 12.  As chance had it, I came upon a hand-written story by my grandmother of just how that picture that came to be.  This is what she wrote:

“I seemed to be the available girl of the family to go help women with their children.  My first job, I was 10 years old and my mother let me go home with a cousin whose wife was sick and had 2 little children to take care of.  I got homesick and only stayed one week.  Too many children at home to play with.  The next time Mother let me go was about like it but 2 older boys had a sick mother but they had to be cared for and looked after.  I stayed through the 3 months of summer vacation and my brother took me home to start school.  I used the money they paid me to have my picture taken (12 years old).  That was just the start of being  “another Mother” and helper and it didn’t end there.”

It certainly didn’t end there.  She did go on to spend almost a lifetime of taking care of other people’s children and homes but evidently her love of having her picture taken didn’t end there either as we have hundreds of pictures of her throughout her life.  Celia Grace Overholtzer, you’re a piece of work!

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