Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Honoring my mother’s family

In the years before she died in 2004, my mother became interested in tracing her family roots in Bavaria and was successful in tracing them back to the 1500s – and this was before the days of! 

I didn’t fully appreciate what Mom did then, but I have come to fully appreciate her efforts now, and I so wish that I could tell her so.  But I can’t.

Instead, I took the old original photos of her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins (one board for her mother’s relatives and one for her father’s) that she had originally taped onto tag board and labeled herself…


and I turned them into these:




Most of the photos are originals – printed on very thick cardboard and ornately labeled on the back.



I love looking at similarities between our ancestors and current family members.  This, for example, is my mother’s mother, Mathilde:

Mathilde Reiss 1909

…and this is my niece Niki:


They look so much alike!

I also love exploring the dress of the time.  Just imagine how much work it was to get dressed.


(Yes, that says that my mother’s paternal grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1897!)

How regal some of Mom’s relatives looked!


My favorite story to come from Mom’s photos is the story of her nephew Willy Merkl.  This is Willy:

Willy Merkl 1900 - 1934  March 1923

If you google him, you’ll come up with this:

Willy Merkl Search

and this:

Willy Merkl Strasse

and this:

Willy Merkl website

It’s easy to find information about Mom’s nephew.  The Wikipedia entry begins like this: “

Willy Merkl (6 October 1900 – 9/17 July 1934) was a German mountain climber who is most notable for his attempt to lead a German-American team up Nanga Parbat (the Naked Mountain) in the Pakistani Himalayas in 1932.

His team was known to be very experienced in Alpine and European mountain expeditions, but were unprepared for the trials of the Himalayas. Despite being forced to turn back, the team did make excellent progress and found a way through the Rakhiot Peak and the main ridge.[1]

In 1934 he led another expedition up the same mountain that proved to be fatal.”

Could I make the claim that Peter’s earlier propensity for rock climbing…


Nah, guess not.

The beautiful original photos that I had custom framed only accounts for about 150 years of Mom’s family.  But this document (it’s taller than me!) shows Mom’s relatives all the way back to the 1500s!

Reiss tree full size

And she documented the family lineage in a document, too:




And there’s the booklet that she found that describes her family’s 225 years in the hat making business!


I’ll soon be dedicating a few wall surfaces to family historical memorabilia like this.  I just hope that the kids will have an interest in preserving it for their kids… and their kids… and…

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Monday, July 08, 2013

Retirement on Bainbridge Island? A thought to ponder.

Since we moved from California to Washington State in 1993, Bainbridge Island has been a part of our lives – first because Tom’s sister Marcy moved there in 1990 (and was our original draw northward from San Diego) and then because Tom’s very longstanding family friends (I’m talking since babyhood) the Nybergs moved there shortly thereafter. 

Once we moved northward to Eastern Washington where we spent almost two years before moving to Seattle, family holidays consisted of a drive into Seattle, then an always-entertaining ferry ride, and then delicious meals and family fun.  The kids have many longstanding memories of hikes in the dense island forests and holiday celebrations with their cousins and with the Nyberg kids, all of them around the same ages.



Unfortunately, Tom’s sister and her family eventually moved away to Northern Idaho, but the Nybergs remained on the Island and we have managed to spend time on the Island consistently for the past twenty years.

Now – shockingly -- it is time for Tom and me to think about where we want to spend our retirement.  (I know – we can’t possibly be that old… can we?!) Do we want to stay in this house, which Tom refers to as “an attempt to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse,” or do we want to live somewhere else?  Moving was never an option while the kids were in school, and it won’t be a realistic option until Tom retires in about five years, but it’s time to give the question some thought.

We think and think and think, and only one place other than our current home ever seriously comes up – Bainbridge Island.  Granted, much of the draw comes from our lifelong friends the Nybergs, whom we love dearly, as well as newer but also dear friends in nearby Poulsbo, but we also simply love the Island and can absolutely see ourselves moving there and being those grandparents who “live on an island, a ferry ride away.”


So this past weekend, spurred on and enthused by Deb and Neal’s encouragement and by their gracious invitation to spend a weekend with them, we visited the Island again, this time with retirement in mind.

While waiting for the ferry (a 90-minute wait since it was a holiday weekend), we asked ourselves whether our kids would really come see us as often as we hope once they have their own kids.  “Imagine a hungry, tired toddler in the back seat now,” I suggested. 


It was a discouraging thought.  Would we only see them on holidays once we’d move to the Island?  Not acceptable!

In a complete non-sequitur and completely irrational line of reasoning, this little guy on the ferry made me feel better. 


Surely our future grandchildren would love to go see Noni and Papa (yes, I’ve already named us as grandparents) because they’d see baby Corgis all over the ferry every time they came to see us! 

(I know, I know…)

In order to convince us to move to Bainbridge Island, Neal bought a boat. 


I know – wasn’t that thoughtful of him?

He also somehow arranged for the most perfect weather for an evening sail.  I’m telling you, this guy is good!


(Tom and Neal)


(Deb and me)


The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast of eggs benedict, roasted potatoes, and fresh fruit salad here:


I know what you’re thinking.  No, this is not an exquisite island bed & breakfast.  This is Neal and Debs‘s gorgeous island abode, beautifully landscaped, beautifully decorated, and so very cozy and inviting!

After breakfast, the four of us set out to explore a few other possible abodes, pretending that we were ready NOW to make the move – which we’re not.

There was this one…


…which was quite nice, but just a bit yawn-inducing..

…compared to this one, which we called “the gingerbread house,” which IS exciting because it has a space over the garage for a separate apartment (for kids and their families).




We decided that something must be wrong with it, though, because it’s been on the market for well over a year and has already seen a price reduction of almost $50,000.  OR it’s an amazing find and we’re stupid not to jump on it now, even though we’re nowhere near ready to move!

From the “gingerbread house” (Tom decided that he could easily tone down the cutesy aspect), we drove to this house, the new object of our affections:

Deer house A

We call it the “deer house” because this mama deer and her two babies led us there.  No really – they walked ahead of our car and led us right into the driveway!


(“So, do you like it?” she asks…)

One of our “must haves” is an apartment for visitors and this one, like the gingerbread house, has an apartment over the garage.

If either of these are still on the market in five years, we’re in luck. 

Or not– because that would mean something is definitely wrong with them!

Another option we’re considering is actually building our own place.  Er, I mean having our own place built

Tom, you did not see that!  I didn’t mean it!  Do NOT get any ideas!  (Tom has been remodeling houses for 30 years. One of my “must NOT haves” is Tom starting all over again with a house!  I don’t mind an out-of-house project, like renovating the space above the garage, but no more 30-year construction zones!)

After looking at houses, we had a chance to just enjoy each other’s company and the beauty and unique personality of the Island.


(When was the last time you saw frolicking rock-kids and dinosaurs?  Or even Bazooka bubble gum?!)

For now, we’re just getting used to the idea of moving – which, I must admit, gets me a bit verklempt because look what we did to make a home!  I LOVE our current home now!

On the way back to the mainland, we both fully appreciated the fact that we live in Seattle.  Me, because I absolutely love living in the Pacific Northwest and Tom, because I convinced him to stop thinking about the depressing incessant three seasons of clouds and to live in the moment, dammit!



Seriously, who wouldn’t love living here?!

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