Saturday, December 17, 2016

One Friday in Fall

A crisp, clear Friday morning. The Covenant Woods’ drives and parking lots were covered with leaves, tossed out of the trees by two days of wind and rain. The day looked and felt like the October days I loved in Ashtabula, up there along Lake Erie.

As I circled Covenant Woods on my trusty chariot, the day sparked memories. Walks to Lake Shore Park, where I watched the waves rush to shore and felt the wind that pushed them and the cool Canadian air across the lake.

Memories of raking the leaves that carpeted the yard. Six-year-old Bethany watching my progress from the dining room window. When the pile of leaves reaches a satisfactory size, Beth rushes out. “Let me help,” she yells, diving into the pile and burying herself. She is silent for a moment, then asks, “Where am I, Daddy?” “I don’t know. Where are you?” An explosion of leaves; “Here I am,” Beth shouts triumphantly, wildly waving her arms. Good times, even if I have to rake up the leaves she scatters.

The memories were interrupted by a phone call. Russ said he was going to bring the pictures over. He has been looking into the history of the Harris clan on In his search, he found a man in – or the man found him, I’m not sure which – who had two photo albums that once belonged to my dad’s Uncle Hiram. The man wanted to sell them, Russ wanted to buy them, and now Russ was on his way to show them to me.

Hiram was quite the shutterbug, and his recordkeeping wasn’t bad. Beneath nearly every picture there is a note identifying the people in it and where it was taken. One or two, according to the note below, were taken at Geneva-on-the-Lake. The photographic record spanned the years 1908 until 1919, or so. An enchanting trip through time. The men seemed to always be wearing a white shirt and tie; the women were almost always in ankle-length dresses, even in the summer.

 It was a different world, and most of the people in it died before I came along. My grandfather died in 1943, five years before I was born. But in a way, I did know him. When Dad went into the service, my grandfather kept him informed with a series of wonderful letters, which Dad gave to my grandmother, Nana, after my grandfather died. The letters were often read aloud at family gatherings. My grandfather wrote beautifully, and his sense of humor shined brightly in every letter he wrote.

An hour or two after Russ left, Beth called. She brought me up to date on the grandkids – Hayden and MaKenna – and events of note in the Pratt household out there in Idaho. We talked for a half hour.

I can’t remember when I enjoyed a day as much as I enjoyed that Friday in fall.

My grandfather, Thomas R. Harris, in 1912

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