I pulled out my camera to snap some pictures of the four-inch-thick family Bible my dad recently acquired from a distant cousin—second cousin once or twice removed, or something like that. This particular family Bible belonged to Dad’s grandparents, but had been passed down another branch of the family tree. Until now. It recently leaped to our branch due to the generosity of the cousin who inherited this massive heirloom only to decide that Dad would appreciate it much more than she ever would.So she presented it to him a few weeks ago, and now it sits regally on a buffet in my parents’ dining room, with space to the left for it to be opened wide and perused.After monkeying with my camera settings to accommodate the natural light from the window, I snapped some photos, flipping pages to discover some vintage artwork and family records of marriages and births.Then Dad came in to turn to the pages he found most significant, such as the one that notes the date of his grandparents’ marriage, the Bible being my great-grandfather’s gift to his wife on the occasion of their wedding.(By the way, Dad is not offering a vulgar gesture; he often points with his middle finger.)Even my dad’s birth in the late 1920s is the last on the “Memoranda” page, his name duly recorded in blue ink and old-fashioned script.I admired the pages Dad pointed out, nodding as he explained the relationships. When he paused, I mentioned the “Temperance Pledge,” which intrigued me. “Oh, yes,” he said. “My grandmother was active in the temperance movement and the women’s movements, too.”I read the pledge carefully:
Temperance PledgeWe hereby solemnly promise, God helping us, to abstain from all distilled, fermented and malt liquors including wine and beer and to employ all proper means to discourage the use of and the traffic in the same.
Though I have obscured my great-grandmother’s name, you may notice that she signed and dated it on April 15, 1889. You may also observe that the spot for a signature on the left remains empty. She recorded her commitment on the right, leaving that left area open and available, just in case anyone decided to join her in the pledge. I guess in her household, the plural pledge of “we” ended up being a singular “I.”I wonder what held back my great-grandfather? The possibility of sipping bubbly cider that accidentally fermented on a late fall afternoon? The hope of sharing a beer with his buddies?There is more to the story, I’m sure. The names and dates are nothing more than facts, statistics. Behind them lie the stories.The Bible with its lush illustrations and family notations is lovely, but stories? Those are what I crave. Both the family stories…and the Bible’s.
Credits: All photos by Ann Kroeker. All rights reserved.
Janet Macy says
What a treasure. Love the picture of your Dad’s hand on the Bible. If only that Bible could talk. And it has in what you have found written there.
Thanks for sharing this treasure.
Have a blessed Christmas
Thanks for dropping by, Janet. Dad tells about some of those relatives, little tidbits. I’ll try to capture some and tell it here, if I think others would find it interesting.
The stories. Yes. I often look at old pictures in museums and wonder what happened right before the picture was taken. How did it end up here, in this glass case? Could a snapshot of me end up in a museum someday, doing some ancient thing like blogging on a computer?
Loved this and will look forward to reading more.
Yes! The stories behind the pictures!
Hazel I. Moon says
What a treasure this Bible is. I too would like to hear the stories.
Will have to ask Dad to tell me some on Christmas Day. He will LOVE talking about his family tree…oh, my. Could be the best gift of the day, Dad getting to talk and talk and talk.
I love the family stories too Ann. I listened as my grandchildren asked my Dad and Mom, their Great-grandparents, what life was like when they were little. The gift of memories passed from one generation to the next – priceless.
Some of the stories I have sort of glazed over, having heard them so many times. I need to try to be objective and imagine what my friends would think of them. Maybe some are just family stories, but maybe some are worth passing along.
Sharon O says
I love the picture of his hand on the bible, that could be framed as a ‘sweet memory’ of him.
Sharon, I agree. It is not staged. I had the camera out and was flipping through the Bible on my own and he just showed up and started taking over the pages and then he rested his hand there, loving it.
Diana Trautwein says
Love this, Ann. The mysteriousness of what’s behind ‘the facts.’ Tell us a story, Annie – a good story based on what you know from these pages. I look forward to that. And Merry Christmas, friend. Thanks again for your nice words on my behalf today.
Emily @ Make It Happen Mama says
Oh, I love this! Both the family Bible and the lovely photos you have taken and shared – your father has wonderful hands. I have always felt a strong pull to discover my family’s facts and fictions and hope to put together some sort of written record for my son and his descendents to enjoy someday.
What a precious gift his cousin gave to him. And i can’t help thinking…whatever happened to the time when a husband gave his new bride the gift of a Bible as a wedding present? Quite humbling to think it.
Very cool! With all our gadgets – they can’t compare to the rich heritage of these stories.