Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Start of a Journey, End of a Story
Today—likely long after you read this post, depending on the juxtaposition of your time zone and mine—a package will be hand-delivered to the local branch of the United States Post Office on the first leg of its journey home. It's a small package, less than eight inches wide and five inches in length. Inside will be the carefully wrapped album, the pursuit of whose secrets have captivated me for the past four months.
I say the first part of its journey home, because it must make a stop in this country before venturing across the ocean to reach its ultimate destination, when it finishes a round trip begun over eighty years ago. The shortstop is located in the American state of Oklahoma, where someone remembers, as a child, having exchanged letters with the Irish originators of the package. Perhaps this package was once the Christmas gift sent from County Cork by her uncle and aunt, Harry and Alice Hawkes Reid, in 1936. Now, many years later, Rita would like to see the actual photograph album, herself, and wonders if it was, indeed, the very item she thinks it was.
The album will likely reach its destination in Oklahoma in a matter of days. Rita will likely share it with her immediate family—especially with her daughter, Lollie, who has been so kind to help make the arrangements for me to speak with Rita by phone, earlier this month.
And for the rest of the journey? The album will have made its rendezvous in plenty of time for that second part of the trip. Later this year, Lollie will be traveling to Europe, and will hand carry the album back to County Cork, where it will be reunited with the granddaughter of the couple who sent it out, so long ago.
It's indeed been an incredible journey. For me, it's been a chance to travel through history—to learn about the Penrose family and Waterford crystal, then to learn about the Hawkes family's Penrose namesake and their business entities which created variations on those original crystal inspirations, both in the British Isles and in America. It's been a story which spanned two World Wars, three countries, and several generations.
Most of all, it's been an adventure I never dreamed I'd be a part of, back at that crucial moment when I picked up that tiny photo album forsaken in a basement bin of an antique store, and wondered if those three names contained inside its covers—Iris, Ruby, and Penrose—would be sufficient to lead me to the identity of its owners, eighty years ago.