Revelations of family history

Creativity is its own reward, I keep reminding myself. You don’t need accolades or praise if you’ve created something that the inner artist loves. Indeed, critical or adulatory feedback can obscure the joy for the creator, as somehow the piece of work moves out of their personal sphere into the realm of the other audience.

But the creativity which kept our mother going as her fingers stiffened with arthritis so that handwork of any kind (knitting, crotcheting, painting) became impossible, that creativity lives on in the small catalogue of work she produced. Actually there’s a rather larger catalogue of handicraft blankets than of paintings, but the entire set of 10 paintings that hung in the folks’ last home is helping the family distribute their desiderata to the best recipients.

To me, these two paintings speak of a family history that stretches back to homesteading days in Saskatchewan and to sugar bush days on a farm outside of Toronto. Turn-of-the-century into the 20th, a century ago. Both of these images re-create the time when our parents were children. Both are melancholy, bittersweet, with those faded memories to the fore contrasted with the sense that happy childhood experiences would retreat into the past as our parents grew into adulthood.

A piece of family history, then, re-created, encapsulated in a single image. For the new generation, the pictures are more joy, less tristesse, because the experiences portrayed are so exotic and intriguing. Even so, though our parents rarely spoke of their childhood, we offspring recognised that they held early memories close to their hearts.

I wonder what tangible expressions of joys, of hopeful experiences, we might ourselves contribute to those who come after us. Something different than our parents left, I’m sure. But I hope whatever these few items might be, they will be loved, just as we love the blankets and paintings our Mom created for us.

3 responses to “Revelations of family history”

  1. Have you done your family tree Larry? I spent a lot of lockdown doing mine which was interesting because I discovered things that I had no idea about in my family including a great great uncle who went to the Cook Islands and I’m trying to establish whether he was a whaler or a missionary or maybe neither he ended up married to a local woman there and their descendants are very much and evidence on the local Facebook group. It creatively can be very satisfying.

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  2. Larry, Today’s Joy touches on a subject near & dear. How sweet do the memories sound as you write about your Mother’s creative handiwork. You & your siblings are fortunate to have the various creations imbued with your Mother’s spirit. I know you’ve been on the other side of the pond for over 30 years. I trust, however, that you had the opportunity to watch your Mother express herself in fabric & on canvas. May the memories become even sweeter to you & your children as the years go by.  Write on! Henry

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  3. Thanks for the lovely thoughts, Henry, and I agree, we are fortunate to have those creations. My brother is packing up the originalsto send to me across the pond sometime, which will be a delight.

    To answer Annie’s query, yes indeed, the Winger family has an extensively documented family tree. Here in what we’ve called The Book of Wenger (http://www.wengersundial.com/new/page26/page8/page8.html) our history is traced back to Hans and Hannah Wenger who in 1748 were part of the Anabaptist migration from Switzerland with the Mennonites. It seems that the family name went through some transmogrifications (into for example Winger, Wingert, Wengert, Wingerd). My mother’s side was also part of that same migration, settling in Pennsylvania and Ontario like the Wenger descendants. My grandparents Marshall and Ethel homesteaded in Saskatchewan while on my mother’s side Orla and Catherine were prosperous farmers outside of Toronto.

    I used to gain some street cred, in my supply teaching days, by pretending I was related to one Arsène Wenger, which may or may not have been true. Certainly the Wenger name is still around in Switzerland/Austria, anyway, as the Wenger brand of Swiss army knives and cutlery is still extant, I believe.

    Good luck with your own pursuit of your family history!

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