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Returned dish brings back memories

Robert's grandmother and my grandmother were sisters. My grandmother and his have been gone a long, long time. A very long time.

So when Robert, with whom I had become briefly acquainted many years ago, called me out of the blue and said he had a dish that belonged to me, I was confused. A dish of mine, from someone I had spoken to perhaps once, ever?

"It belonged to your grandmother," he explained, in a way that hardly explained any of this conversation. He and I are both classifiable as senior citizens now, so when confusion arrives, it is with very little surprise and lots of muddle. Mostly I cannot speak for him, but as soon as the family trees come up for discussion, it feels like two Russians discussing democracy. Names, places, dates, who died—it's all pretty foggy.

"My sister gave it to me last year, and it's been in my truck ever since." He continued: "How about I run it over to you." Run it over to me from where, I asked, and he said Brainerd. Oh. Okay. That would, um, be great. Okay, readers, hang on for a bit.

Because we're climbing my family tree. It turned out that sometime in the early 1950s, when Josie Hall's husband Ralph—my mother's parents—died, she sold that house—which I remember well, because it was close to a wooded area along the Wapsipinicon river in NE Iowa that we brothers and cousins growing up ran through like wild Indians when we went there for Sunday dinner but that is a whole 'nother story which we'll save for another time but when we did all that Robert's Grandma (Es) Stell and Grandpa Pat were there but they were Aunt Stell and Uncle Pat to me but my Grandma Josie wasn't there having already sold the house but there was a wood-fired cook stove there and that was a new and novel great smell how come Ma we don't have a cook stove like that and she said "shush" and all this shushing and Aunts and Uncles and Grandmas and Grandpas kind of didn't matter because we young boys were after all aspiring Indians and the only trees we were interested in climbing weren't family ones but real ones from which we could ambush settlers headed west which some of them did not far from there.

Whew, huh? The bottom line here? Robert's grandmother and my grandmother—my mother's mother—were sisters, and when my grandmother's husband died there, she sold the house and married a man named T.S. Ellwell and moved to my home town, Riceville. See, he had courted Josie back whenever but she chose Ralph over him so he went to California and made some money and when he heard that Ralph had died, he hurried home and finally got to marry her. He cheated at Chinese Checkers and mom wouldn't make him stop and so we hated playing with him when we went there for Sunday dinner because why can't we go to Uncle Pat's and Aunt Stell's so we can play Indians and mom must have gotten tired of us whining, is mostly what I remember about him, that and the fact that none of this made any sense to me when I wasn't more than five or six.

Anyway, when Grandma Josie sold that house on the Wapsie to her sister my (great) Aunt Stell, she inadvertently left behind a serving dish, which Robert brought to me and I opened up. It's a beautiful porcelain lidded soup tureen that more resembles a magic lamp like you see a Genie pop out of—curled handles on both ends, the lid arched up, bluebirds on white background. It must be a cousin to a magic lamp, to have made it this far. It's perfect!

Thank you, Robert, and your sister Jeanne, who with her mother's mother's help, shepherded this dish this long this far.

What a climb, huh?

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