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['Community Editorial Panel with Clare Christie']
['Community Editorial Panel with Clare Christie']

Community Editorial Panel with Clare Christie

Who doesn’t love a story? They surround us: in the anecdotes people relate, in much of what we read, in most television shows, in movies and videos, in many songs. Stories may be ancient or of the moment. Outdoor enthusiasts read stories in the signs left in hoof and paw prints, in crushed grasses, by birds of prey. People with active imaginations can construct a story from the barest of details: think of neighbourhood gossip and how little truth may be involved. People watchers make up stories of their subjects based on what they are wearing, how they are carrying themselves, their facial expressions, how fast they are moving.

It can all be entertaining, whether old or new, true or imagined, happy or sad.

One source for stories that keeps me endlessly entertained are the stories about my possessions, especially items that are associated with specific ancestors.

On my mother’s side of the family, one of the most romantic stories is about the three-foot high Marble Boy which stands on an even higher pedestal in the possession of brother Fred.

On the top of the pedestal, hidden by the marble boy, is a printed note: “This statuette was given to James Heys Atherton as a wedding present, on the occasion of his marriage to Alice Curwen, in 1863, by a close friend of his boyhood, but it did not reach him [in England] until long after the date of the wedding. His friend went out in his early manhood to live with an uncle who owned marble mines in Farrara [Italy], but he never forgot Mr. Atherton, and used to correspond with him regularly. On hearing of his approaching marriage, he wrote a letter of congratulation in which he said he had given instructions to the workmen in the marble mines to search for a flawless piece of white marble and had engaged a sculptor to make from it a statuette which he would send as soon as completed. When the work was half finished, the sculptor joined Garabaldi in his fight for the freedom of Italy. He in time returned safely from the war and completed the statuette which Mr. Atherton received some years after his marriage. It was greatly prized by Mr. and Mrs. Atherton and was looked upon by the family as one of their most precious possessions. Since the sculptor did not sign his work its chief interest lies in the family associations.

“The statuette was given to Edith Alice Atherton, granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Heys Atherton, and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. Percival Atherton, as a wedding gift.”

This account does not include the fact that my grandmother was asked in 1902 what in her sister-in-law’s grand house in England she would like as a wedding gift. When she chose the marble boy, Auntie Berta’s face fell, and she protested that it was the one thing she couldn’t possibly part with because of its history with her parents. My mother grew up on this story of her mother’s great embarrassment - so when she visited Auntie Berta in 1935, just before her own wedding and was asked the same question, she didn’t even look around and said “the marbl boy”. This time Auntie Berta’s responded, ”Wonderful! None of my children want it. I will ship it to Canada immediately.”

The rest of the story is that Mom and Dad completed their honeymoon by driving the statue to Amherst from Sussex with it cradled between Mom’s legs. When Fred was born nine months later, some wag credited the statue with his paternity, a story that I grew up on and which accounts for Fred inheriting the statue.

Possessions have stories - and they don’t have to be heirlooms. Thoughtful gifts continue to carry warm-feeling associations. Mementos from trips are great reminders.

To buy my eight publications, including two collections of my columns, go to the Amherst Artisan Gallery, Amherst Centre Mall and to Maritime Mosaic, Dayle’s, Victoria Street, Amherst. Coles carries My dear Alice. For six of my self-published books and booklets, go to the Cumberland County Museum and Archives; Flying Colours, Maccan; and Main and Station, Parrsboro.

Clare Christie is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel. She can be reached at clarechristie0@gmail.com.

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