Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bidding Another Season Goodbye

If October caught up with you as unexpectedly as it did me, you can see why we so often use the phrase, “Time flies.” We’re now out of summer and into fall. While I am not inundated with autumn-colored leaves on my front lawn yet, thanks to the mild weather in my part of the country (and certainly not running the risk of frosts or first snows like one blogging friend of mine mentions), I am nonetheless sensing the passing of another season.

This season I’m mentioning is a time in which I’ve been privileged to linger over the papers of one relative long gone from our family. It’s been over a year now since I began sorting through those items. Letters, cards, news clippings and mementos: all cherished by Agnes Tully Stevens during her lifetime—and, as we all must do someday, all left behind for others to dispose of.

There are a few more items still left to post. Most of these are cards of one type or another. Many are holiday mementos, which I’ll save to share at the appropriate time. Why she kept these for so many years is something I cannot discern. I know some of the material actually belonged to Agnes’ own mother, and we’ve seen some of these items dating back to the 1870s. Perhaps Agnes kept these for a remembrance of family members of generations preceding her. Perhaps some inspired a nostalgia for special seasons in her own life—like the mysterious mention in a letter that seemed to refer to a disappointment in a relationship during her young adult years.

While it is easy to guess at the motivation behind saving some of the keepsakes we’ve seen over this past year, there are some items for which I have no clue. Take this picture at the top of today’s post. The card is captioned, “Lover’s Leap—Rock City Gardens, Lookout Mt.”

Why Lover’s Leap?

Could it be that Lookout Mountain was a stop on the way home to Chicago from the Wrightsville Beach area of North Carolina where the Tully family evidently enjoyed some vacations?

Or could this be a reminder of a disappointment in her own life?

The card itself, while similar to some postcards that can be found online, is of a smaller format. Slightly larger than a modern-day business card, the picture measures 2½ by 3¾ inches. There is nothing printed on the reverse other than a small marking in the corner, which—once I retrieved my magnifying glass to decipher the print—merely indicates a code: “2491.”

What I thought was a reproduction of a painting turns out to actually be a photograph overlaid on a linen finish. Embedded in the shrubbery detail of the lower left corner of the card is the barely legible stamp, “Photo by Ohne.” (At least it looks like it says Ohne. Maybe someone else would know better. I can’t read it.)

Regardless of the detail, the question remains: Why would Agnes keep this little card for so long? There is no endearing note enclosed. It is not wrapped within a letter that would reveal more details. It’s just there: a solitary keepsake, as singular as the striking subject of the card itself.

Whatever it is, it has become like the changing colors of fall to me: a melancholy reminder that a season in which I’ve enjoyed lingering is about to pass. I’ll miss sharing these daily treasures from the cherished possessions of a woman I’ve never met. Discovering her cultured late-Victorian-era childhood in the rough-and-tumble immigrant milieu of a rugged Midwest city was a piquant mix that upset my preconceived notions of nineteenth century Chicago and growing up American in an Irish household.


  1. Upstairs I have some postcards that I liked..I purchased them about 43 years ago..I have kept them all these years. Agnes was a keeper. :)

    1. Yeah...truth be told, I have my own stash of favorite cards and postcards! I like that: "Agnes was a keeper." Good way to see it.

  2. It's conceivable that the train from Chicago to Wrightsville/Wilmington went through Chattanooga (Lookout Mountain). shows the railroads in the region circa 1910.

    1. The train route would make sense. Thanks for sharing that link!


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