Monday, January 7, 2013

A Little Girl’s Daddy


When we come through joyous moments like the Christmas season we’ve just passed, we sometimes forget that times like that are not necessarily as happy for everyone else.

I found a mystery photo in the box handed down to me from the Bean family that—if I’m identifying it correctly—marks the last happy Christmas together for one little girl and her dad.

The baby girl may be Judith Louise Bean, second-born child of Earle and Marilyn Bean. Arriving in October, 1954, she would have been just over the two month mark in time for her first Christmas that year.

I’m not really sure about that identity, however. The baby looks a little too hefty for a two-month-old (give or take the extra ten days past that mark for her age). And her hair color seems a little too light.

The photograph is definitely from the holiday season, though—you can see just the slightest hint of the Christmas tree to the bottom right of the shot, where the old-fashioned tinsel cascades down from a few of the branches.

The man seated in the chair is not cooperating in this identity-fixing quest, either. Looking down at the baby, his face is partially obscured. Hair color, hairline, and glasses are the only possibilities for confirming this subject as Earle Raymond Bean, Judy’s father. Well…and the characteristic long, bony appearance of legs, arms and even hands. Plus that pronounced nose bridge. That, however, could be the Marfan Syndrome speaking louder than the Bean family resemblance.

Though the picture doesn’t include any date—nor any other marks of identification—my speculations would lead me to assume this photo was taken for Christmas in 1954.

Fast forward a year.

The Bean family household, now residing in San Lorenzo, California, would otherwise have been preparing for another Christmas season by now, except for some news the extended family had just received. Earle’s brother, Sam, had been given some devastating medical news which, unfortunately, left him without any treatment options. Soon after, Sam passed away that December second.

The news for Sam was that the Marfan syndrome he had was about to cause some serious problems to his cardiovascular system.

Hearing that news could only mean the same thing for his younger brother, Earle, who had the same condition. While the brothers were nearly five years apart in age, the news took only days to catch up with Earle, who followed suit on December eleventh—nine days later.

That news left Marilyn bereft of both her husband and her brother-in-law—and left alone to care for two small children, one of whom was barely over a year in age. Within a short period of time, she made the decision to move from the family home in the San Francisco Bay Area to a new place farther north, in Santa Rosa, California, where her mother now lived. At least she could be near her mother and step father—she had lost her own father only the past spring—and have some assistance in raising her two children.

The new town proved to be a wise choice for this family—not only a beautiful place to live, but one near extended family. The house she purchased was just down the street from her mother’s place—within walking distance for when the grandchildren were older and more independent.

Perhaps one picture I found in my box—a faded photograph of Marilyn, Greg, Judy and an unidentified older woman who may have been Marilyn's mom—was an example of an opportunity for them to get together as the children grew.

The house, itself, became a symbol of a life where the children could grow in a peaceful neighborhood—just down the street from school as well as a beautiful park. It became a place the kids could call their own in this brave new life, where they could confidently create their own decorations as they looked forward to new Christmases and life together, just the three of them.

  

12 comments:

  1. Jacqi, Is it just blind luck or a tribute to your exceptional creativity and writing ability that you have crafted such an emotional story about a rather ordinary event and made it a Christmas story to boot?!?!

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    1. Some ordinary events can be quite emotional...

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  2. Children's hair often gets darker with age - mine was bleach blonde at that age and turned a deep red-brown by about age 5.

    I suspect your ID might be right. :)

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    1. I knew that about some young children's hair...but never had the chance to actually ask this family about it.

      I never knew you were a redhead, Iggy! I started life with that white-blonde, too--but I only dreamed of having that dark reddish brown color. Mine turned out to be a much more pedestrian brown.

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  3. Just a thought..the child looks more like 1 year plus..many families used to put up their Christmas Tree way early..sometimes right after Thanksgiving..just a possibility..that would mean it may be one of the last photos of Earl:)

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    1. Far Side, that Christmas tradition is my main seasonal lament about lifestyle in California: Christmas trees went up the day after Thanksgiving. I think that rock-solid tradition only budged from its revered position around here when Black Friday got invented.

      You may very well be right with that speculation.

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  4. You are a master story-teller Jacqi. This is such a tender story. How very devastating for the family to lose so many loved ones in such a short amount of time.

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    1. When I look back on it, Jana, it does seem like such a devastating thing. But somehow, when people go through difficulties like this, they just keep going, step by step, day by day. Don't know how they do it, but I do know that they did do it.

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  5. Wow, I have never heard of the Marfan Syndrome before. Thank you for including the link! I agree that the baby in the picture looks older than two months, maybe more like three or four months for her to be able to hold her head up and sit someone holding her. Maybe the Beans waited weeks to de-decorate their tree, like so many of us.

    It is a terribly sad story for two brothers to be surprised by death within weeks of each other. But what a wonderful recovery that Marilyn and her children had a placed to go, find a house and living near her mother. You give this story a satisfying shape.

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    1. Mariann, I think it is part of the human condition to at least wish to inject some element of hope into our survey of the difficulties of life.

      By the way, Mariann, between your comment on Marfan syndrome and Iggy's comments during this series, I think I'll make another post on the Marfan issue for Wednesday. Because it is one of those health conditions that--incredible as this may seem--eludes public notice due to its relatively invisible essence, Marfan's is a condition that deserves to receive greater public awareness. But more than that, the aspect of genealogical research as it aligns with pursuing family health history is one of interest to a number of people--or should be.

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  6. I believe this baby is at least a one year old. She has had a fairly recent haircut, with crooked bangs. She appears to have some of her hair pulled back in a pig tail. The hard soled shoes were usually only put on kids that are walking. I also think the man is fairly familiar as he is lightly holding her leg down so she can't kick him with those hard shoes!
    The step stool next to the chair and tree suggests it was recently used to put decorations and tinsel on the tree.

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    1. My, Tanya, you certainly have an eye for detail! Your description is very convincing. I'm still not sure that this picture is of Judy, but if it is, that places the time frame somewhere between late November and early December, 1955. In that case, it was definitely one of the last pictures of Earle before his death on December 11, 1955.

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