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Friday, February 4, 2011


"Reverse makes me think of oppositions. Happy/sad, good/bad, male/female, past/future... and that train of thought reminds me of the time I spent this week scanning old family photos to share with younger relatives. Ancient people long gone still have an effect on young people, even if they don't know it yet. The shapes of their eyes, chins, and cheekbones aren't new. They were on someone else's face 150 years ago. Their faces are going to reappear on young people's grandchildren.

We can't escape our genes or the influences previous lives have had on our own. We can't help ourselves from influencing the younger people who come after us, any more than we can change the color of their eyes. I see my grandmother's face in my niece. Life is lived in reverse and forward all the time.

We're all getting older, every second of every day. Quite a few of us spend a lot of time worrying about it, but worrying isn't going to change reality. All we can really do is leave a mark on the world we live in. I don't have children, so I think about my legacy in other ways than passing on genes. Maybe my paintings are my babies? Maybe baking cookies with my niece is a way of leaving something of myself behind? Plus, it lets me leave something of my mother and grandmother, and probably their mothers and grandmothers too.
My great great grandmother fascinates me because she was a doctor before women did that kind of thing. There's something in her portrait that commands respect. Laura Elizabeth "Lizzy" (Poulson) Cramer was born April 16, 1854 in Holmes County, Ohio. She died in 1910 in Fredricksburg, Ohio. She was married May 17, 1877 to Bertram "Happy" Cramer, who was a blacksmith. You've got to love a guy named Happy! He was born in March, 1853 in Fredricksburg, and died in 1912. They had 3 children, John (Helen Lemmon), Charles (Ella Snure), and my great grandmother, Jennie Marie (Jefferson Joseph "Joe" Benson).

Lizzy used herbs in her healing. I grow them in my garden and make healing teas. My sister Sue is a nurse. The string of blacksmiths in my family might explain why my brother and uncle love making jewelry, or another brother's incessant banging when he was a kid. Happy played the violin, which might explain my nephews' musical talents. Not to mention Happy's father was a type maker, which might explain my love of lettering class in college?

Maybe sometimes looking forward also means looking in the rear view mirror once in a while? I'm also feeling gratitude that I'm not the first packrat in my family interested in history :)


  1. Great, great post, Linda. Thank you. Love the history and the scans. Well done!

    Reverse is indeed forward in a way; just as the past is reflected in the future.

    More and more I do see my father in me and something of myself in my nieces. Perhaps the way we see ourselves is both a reflection and a projection...

  2. This is such an interesting topic this week. I love your take Linda! A very interesting post. Love the old photos and your rendering of your great great grandmother. wow a doctor! She paved the way for other women I’m sure! It is so cool how you picked out different traits and qualities from the past and identified them in your present family. Thanks for nudging me to reflect/reverse :o)

  3. I enjoyed the read. See all that genealogy you did years ago came in handy. The illustration is very cool--is it ink? Great pics on here and on facebook too. :)

  4. Love the portrait and old photos, so perfect for "Reverse." Oh, and the history! It's always so fascinating to look back and make the connections...Do I detect a similarity between your own picture and that of your great great grandmother's?
    Another wonderful post, Linda! :o)

  5. Wow, what a story, that's so interesting, you know there is such a family resemblance. It just makes you realise how real these people are. And you know the scarier thing, one of the character's in the book that I have almost finsihed ... is named Happy. (nick name) And he is also a blacksmith.

    Now that is spooking me out . I think I will make him something else!

    Your image is beautiful, very clean and succinct - captures all the right angles.

  6. I hate myself for being such a dummy! I had a lengthy comment, of course, but I had to double click on your drawing again before I saved the comment, so I lost it.!!! ARGH!!!!

    Deep breath, take a bite of cinnamon roll and a sip of coffee...there, that's better.

    Linda, I am with you. Family stories are precious and our ancestors like yours, productive members of society, strong and intelligent should be our heroes and heroines. You must be proud. Your great-great-grandmother's story is indeed fascinating and one that should make you beam with pride. She was a woman ahead of her times! She is one of those women who made this country great.

    Likewise, a man named Happy must be delightful company.

    I love old photographs. My family lost all ancestral photographs and images when Japan invaded my birth country, the Philippines. I never knew what my maternal grandmother looked like. She died when my mother was only 10 years old. I heard she was a beautiful woman.

    Have a lovely super duper day. I am on-call today. It is cold here!

  7. Such thoughtful comments! Thanks everybody! I do think there's some similarities between Lizzy and me, but of all the odd things to notice, I've got exactly her ear.

    @Mary Lou, yes, ink. Regular ball point pen as a matter of fact. I just added some color and patterns in PhotoShop. The drawing was fast. I hate to admit how much time I spent piddling around with it afterwards -- and didn't even use any of the stuff I spent time piddling with. There's a day I'm not getting back!

    @Andrew, how funny you have a book with Happy the blacksmith! Obviously it's kismet, and a sign of good things? I wouldn't change it for anything :)

  8. Thanks Ces! I'm sorry your family lost the photos. I'm surprised these photos survived. I found them in my grandmother's bathroom closet, buried under old linens. They should've been a mildewed mess. I'm feeling fortunate to be able to save them.

    I'm at 32 degrees F today. Woohoo! A tropical heat wave! Stay warm :)

  9. I love the way you've woven the 'past' with the present in this essay, Linda...and tied it all to musings about your own life and purpose. An artist friend recently described her thoughts on the origin of wings: generations of ancestors, lined up behind our left and right shoulders, supporting and influencing our lives now. It's a lovely image, isn't it? And so is your grandmother painting...

    I don't want to think about my ancestors who had HUGE waistlines and severe countenances, though! :-)

    Thanks for your 'ethereal' comment, my dear. Hope you are weathering the storms with perspective intact. I know cabin fever can make that very challenging!

  10. What a nice illustration and great text.
    We explain our 'same-ness' with the help of 'genes'. Other culture explain your described 'influence' by reincarnation. Know your ancestors and you know a lot more about yourself.

  11. Nice sketch! And it is interesting to think about our ancestors. I think it's equally entertaining to contemplate what my progeny will be like, and what sorts of stories will be told, if any, about me in the generations to come!

  12. @Susan, I love what your friend said about ancestors! Funny thing is that I've dreamt of Lizzy, even before I had seen her picture. I think she must be looking out for me. I don't spend much time thinking about the ancestor who were thick in the middle either though :)

    @Paula, I wonder about reincarnation. Maybe some day we'll know the answers to everything?

    @Deb, obviously all of your progeny will remember you with the greatest respect and affection!

  13. What an incredible post! I remember my grandmother when she was 98, and I remember her laughing and staring at the children playing during family reunions. She told me, "I love this, it's like seeing my brothers and sisters, all over again, when we were little!". Your incredible story made me remember that. It is how we live on forever, passing those incredible physical genes, memories and times in our DNA! What an amazing post and art. Thank you Linda!

  14. Thanks Indigene! I love your grandmother's comment :)

  15. Cool! I like your reflection on this week's theme. And that's a very nice depiction of your great great Dr. grandmother. Just enough detail.

  16. Thanks Abby! And thanks for the follow Amalia!!

  17. Awesome illustration. I love the colors and the subtle patterns.

  18. Very cool stuff. I love that you really thought about the topic and shared some of you family's history. It makes me want to look into my own heritage. The rendering of your great great grandmother is awesome. I love the treatment of the hair and patterns. Once again very cool stuff Linda keep on rockin.

  19. love it and the thought behind it.

  20. Heisann!
    Looking back on the family lines can give many revelations in terms of talent, interest and typical traits of personality!
    It's like to join an excavation-project;:OD)
    So fun ;:OD)

  21. Thanks everybody! It is like an excavation project, or a puzzle with only one right answer. It's fun to look at where we came from, and I used to spend quite a bit of time looking into it. I'm glad I can share, and hope others look into their histories too!

  22. Oh, goodness, Linda. What a beautiful, delicate and elegant portrait. Thank you for sharing your rich heritage with us. It seems you come from a long line of meticulously creative people. I wish I knew more about my ancestors. Fabulous post!

  23. Linda...I look forward to your writing AND your drawings. Your interpretation of the old family portrait makes the woman seem full of life. Lovely.

  24. Yes, really lovely and thoughtful.

  25. Wonderful post, Linda. As usual!

  26. Thanks everybody! I added another post to show how much Lizzie and I look alike. I saw some similiarities before, but now I can't get over how old my face is!