FAMILY TIES

Genealogy is about the memories we give, as well

Posted April 22, 2012, at 4:54 p.m.

We are our stories, which is why the NBC’s program “Who Do You Think You Are?” is a title with many meanings.

Though she died when I was just 3, my great-great-grandmother Mary (Cummings) Bennett Lord of Greenville is defined for me not only by the paintings she left us, but by the one time I remember seeing her at Smart Nursing Home in Sangerville in 1954.

My mother climbed the front steps, my little hand in one of hers while her own long fingers grasped a can of frozen orange juice for Ga. Don’t we all have our special stories, even brief memories of those who loomed so large in our lives?

Perhaps you remember Ethel Sawyer, “Miss Sawyer” who was rumored to keep a razor strop in the central drawer of her principal’s desk at Sangerville Consolidated School. When I was in third grade, Mrs. Richards sent me along for a visit with Miss Sawyer because I was talking in class (the very idea!).

Miss Sawyer pulled up a chair so I could sit right next to her as she taught those big kids, sixth- or seventh-graders they were. I was petrified by the time she got around to asking what I was there for. No doubt she figured out that whatever the infraction was, a stint of sitting there worrying about it was a fairly effective penance.

Three years later, the same Mrs. Richards assembled a carnation corsage for me to wear to the Maine State Spelling Bee, purchased with pennies brought in by all the students in the school. On the second Saturday of May 1963, as Mother Nature dropped a good 6 inches of snow from Sangerville to Springvale, the Moores weren’t the only ones on the road. My teacher, Alice Mossler, and my principal, Ethel Sawyer, gave up their Saturday to go to Nasson College to cheer me on. I’ll remember them forever.

I suggest we write down and keep such memories. Even better, write down a memory for a little person who is so special to your heart and someday will take it out and be proud that he or she was worth “storing up” way back when.

It needn’t take long. I’ll call mine “Five Memories of My Five Grandchildren.”

Aidan Saucier, now 4, I think you were just 2 when Memere heard you talking to yourself, “… tres … ocho.” “Why is Aidan counting in Spanish?” “Aidan doesn’t count in Spanish,” came the answer. It was another whole year before Aidan pointed out which flowers in his mommy’s garden were “amarillo.”

Lexi Perry, now 8, was just 3 when she captured my heart by telling me her name, “Lexis Elizabeth Perry.” But she outdid herself last week when she grabbed some stickers and offered to help her little brother with potty training. I wasn’t optimistic, since I was sure that the brother in question had put the cart before the horse on this particular morning. Not only did she reward the little learner for the part of the task he got right, but she cleaned up what needed cleaning with great patience.

Andrew Perry, 5, was not a participant in the story above. Andrew likes to play games on his mommy’s computer, even though some of the games require more reading than he knows. “What does this say?” he’ll want to know. Sometimes he’s supposed to come up with a word and spell it correctly.

I’ve watched Andrew and Lexis enjoy quality time on the computer, puzzling out the spelling of this word and that. “How do you spell portal?” he asked Lexi one day. Together he and Lexi worked their way to what they hoped was the right set of letters. When I offered to help them get on the right path, Andrew told me patiently, “Memere, this is a different portal.” And maybe it was.

Youngest grandson Dylan Saucier, not quite 3, is always up for watching a hockey game, and not only when Andrew is on the ice. Dylan even knows the cheers. “Go, Nate!” is meant to encourage his cousin, Nate DelGiudice, Class B All-Star Goalie for the Messalonskee Eagles in Oakland. Dylan’s also pretty good with “Go, Eagles!”

As for Miss Emilee Saucier, she found her recent first birthday a bit overwhelming. As numerous Sauciers, Perrys, Wilcoxes, Phillipses, Taylors and Great-Grammy Moore waited for our little girl to plant her face or her fingers in the pink panda cake, not much happened.

Finally Emilee stuck her left thumb in her mouth and splayed the fingers of her right hand on her little cheek in puzzlement. Daddy sat down next to her and asked her what she thought about the whole thing. She stared with great hope at the man with all the answers for a minute or two, then decided to give that little cake a try.

And you thought genealogy was all about dusty books and tedious research?

•••

The Orono Historical Society will host a talk on “Early Orono” by Maria Girouard, historian and former director of cultural and historic preservation for the Penobscot Indian Nation, at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 26, in the Town Council Chambers of the municipal building on Main Street.

Girouard’s talk will focus on native place names of the Orono landscape by using knowledge of the Penobscot language, and will highlight the ecological knowledge of the area’s first residents and how this helped shape the history of Maine. The presentation is free and open to all. Donations will be accepted to benefit Orono Historical Society.

For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email familyti@bangordailynews.com.

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