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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Inappropriate Giggles

It's May 1924. My grandfather has just died. Not Fafa, my Bloomington grandfather - he lived until 1953. This is Frank Sinclaire, the grandfather I never knew, born in Brooklyn in 1860. He's the one in the center photograph on the hall table. He had been on a trip around the world, accompanied by his father in law (my great-grandfather, Henry Bischoff). Tante, his sister-in-law, had been with them for most of the trip, but had stayed on to visit the Bischoff relatives in Germany for a few more weeks.

It was never entirely clear how he contracted the smallpox; someone thought it was the inadvertent touch of a ship railing in India. They had sailed from Southampton oblivious of the deadly germ. It happened fast, and he had to be buried at sea. The longitude and latitude figures are recorded in the family bible.

So there is a funeral in Brooklyn. My mother is ten. Aunt Lucy, her sister, is twelve. Cloe, the baby, is three. There they are, in the framed photograph on the left. Their mother, Marie, is still very young but will never marry again.

During the service, the two older girls are inexplicably and embarrassingly overcome by giggles, and nothing is to be done about it. My mother never mentioned this to me; it is Aunt Lucy who has told me this story. It is one of her clearest memories of that day - the horrible giggles, and her stoic determination not to miss a day of school.


Blogger ibby said...

Is it correct that he was 52 when Aunt Lucy was born? Seems unusually old to start a family, especially for the times! I had no idea.

3:24 AM  
Blogger sixty-five said...

Yes. It was a second marriage for him. His firsts wife, Justine - mother of Francis, had died.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

Thanks Pru, enjoyed reading this history, as I haven't spent that much time, learning about the Bischoff / Sinclair side of the family, though Lu did suggest I try to to visit some family in Ottersberg when I was living in Germany. Unfortunately, she didn't have the address and one should just take the bus to the end of the route and their house was on the river. By the time I traveled there, there were many houses on the river, so never managed it. I am enjoying your blog!

11:20 AM  

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