Saturday, October 29, 2011

Faith's Vase

The 29th comes around faster and faster every month! Five months have absolutely flown by!

Last month I wrote about finding my great-great-grandmother's wedding ring, and how I didn't know it yet, but that ring would subtly steer the course of my life (if you believe in that kind of thing). I also promised that in this post I would explain how a 150-year-old band of gold could have such mystical powers, but I lied. I can't do that yet. I have to tell a little more of the back story first.

My great-great-grandmother Susan, who's wedding ring I cherish, gave birth to a daughter named Faith. (Which, when you think about it, sounds a lot like the word Fate.) But anyway. Faith was born around 1868. I wish I knew more about her life, but her son, my grandfather, died before I was born, and her daughter-in-law, my grandmother, the last person I know of that knew her, died five years ago.

I don't know much about her personality but I like to think I take after Faith a little bit. She was from Chicago and her father Charles, despite his anglicized name, was of German descent. From one of the few clues I have of her, she loved the German language. She was passionate about it apparently, and spoke it fluently. (Before you scoff at anyone being passionate about the German language, go read some Rilke, particularly Du im Voraus verlorne Geliebte.) But anyway.

A young, unmarried, upper-middle class girl, the daughter of a Reverend no less, decided sometime in the early 1890s, that she was going to go live in Italy. By herself. I wonder where this idea came from, and how her parents allowed her to do it. (Maybe she had a chaperone?) I don't know the details, but I know that Faith moved to Florence. And what did she do there? She taught German and Latin.

Faith was in Florence not long before Lucy Honeychurch's famous visit, and they must've been about the same age during their respective sojourns. (Yes, I know Lucy is a fictional character, but just humor me.) Faith's Florence couldn't have been much different from Lucy's. I like to imagine the adventures she may have had, perhaps even a romance. "The young [American] girl transfigured by Italy. And why should she not be transfigured? It happened to the Goths."

The fact that my great-grandmother Faith was drawn to Italy a century before I was is just another proof that what brought me here is nothing less than Fate (although, call it Italy if it pleases you). Faith may not have remained in Italy as I did, but she did bring home a souvenir with her: a green, glass vase, with an etching of what looks like an early medieval castle. She carried it with with her across the ocean and on her lap on the train from New York back to Chicago.

Before grandma Lucille (Faith's daughter-in-law) died, she told my father to make sure that the vase would end up with me. Maybe she thought it should somehow find its way back to Italy. Or perhaps, out of all her granddaughters, she thought I was the most like Faith, and would appreciate this piece of family history the most. Five months ago, my father carried Faith's vase all the way back across the ocean (luckily in a plane this time). It was the most perfect, and fitting, wedding present I could ever have dreamed of.

Photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4 (top photo by author)

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