Monday, March 16, 2009

Tchotchke Challenge - Letter E


These framed photos of Elva are some of my treasured pieces of tchotchke. Of all my ancestors, she might the be the one that I feel the deepest connection with. She was the sister of my great grandfather on my mother’s side. She married late in life and didn’t have any children, but through her diary managed to communicate pretty well with future generations.

Her diary was kept while traveling the world in 1910. Her husband, George MacRae was hired by the Smithsonian to collect artifacts from around the world. (We realize of course that this may have involved a good deal of looting and plundering. One of the “cultural wonders” that he is known to have brought back for display is a native tribe of people from the Phillipines – but that’s another story for another post!) In 1996 I spent several weeks transcribing the diary and made copies for my family.

Here’s a typical except:

Wednesday, February 3, 1910 Tenom, Borneo

It is moonlight and I have just been out in front of the bungalow enjoying the beautiful night and gazing at the mountains all about and trying to impress the scene upon my mind never to forget it ... Except the gnawing of a rat, the hum of insects, the barking of dogs in the distance and the occasional "tum tum" - a Chinese gong - all is silent in our retreat on the hill.

This photo is special because of the little envelope attached to the back. It explains that the blouse that Elva was wearing in the photo was made from the same “pineapple fabric” contained within.

Visit Pam-J and God Bless Ya’ll Real Good and check out their cool tchotcke, too. We’ll be doing Letter F on (or around)April 1 – why not join us?


Pam J. said...

Just wonderful! You and Anne (God Bless Y'All) are really class A tchotchkistas. Great stories to go with great miscellaneous "stuff." Aren't old letters fabulous? I have drawers of them too and occasionally I'll sit down and read a letter or two. I'm always struck by how back then, a hundred years or so, someone could write a 4-page letter and talk about nothing but the weather or the moonlight or a walk they took to the post office....or the fabric used for a dress. It really was a simpler life back then. Am I a hopeless romantic to think it was also a richer life? Back when people had the time and inclination to listen.... to the "gnawing of a rat."

Gail said...

What a wonderful post...and so delightful that you have this memorabilia and her stories to share~~What a wonderful life adventure she had. gail

Joanne said...

You've got a rich sense of history going on with Elva. How wonderful to have her stories and adventure! I hope they inspire you and your family to explore the worlds you encounter, being tuned in to the sounds and sights of life anywhere.

lzyjo said...

WOW! That's so nice to have such an in depth document from a relative with such an interesting life. The photos are beautiful!

Jimena said...

Would love to have access to the transcription. Elva´s diaries! The excerpt reads delightful.


Anne said...

I'm speechless!!!

Gosh, couldn't you share some of Elva's writings on a regular basis on Nyack Backyard?

First-hand accounts are fascinating, providing glimpses of the places visited and the visitor, all at once.

One of my favorite classes in college was historiography--learning about history by studying the writer's own time and how their views of history were shaped by it.

Marvelous entry!

Kitt said...

Wow, that's pretty awesome. I'd say it's a little more than a mere "tchotchke"! Nice post. Thanks for sharing your treasure.

our friend Ben said...

Wow, what a life! Elva's adventures remind me of Isabel and Sir Richard Francis Burton. What an exciting time to be alive in the world!

Squirrel said...

WOW! I really like Elva ! (is that the feminine form of Elvis?) seriously, she was beautiful and obviously bright. Lucky you for being able to have this contact with an ancestor.