Climbing Family Trees: Are You Anne? by Anne Acree

Climbing Family Trees

More great stories, poems, and helpful hints about genealogy and searching for your family's roots from the twin authors of "Climbing Family Trees: Whispers In The Leaves"

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Are You Anne? by Anne Acree

"Are you Anne?"
Anne Acree
Alpharetta, GA

My paternal great-grandfather, Dr. William O. Burbank, was a physician in Orleans County in upstate New York. He had a lovely cottage on Lake Ontario, built in 1889, which passed on to my grandfather, Homer. Living for three-quarters of the year in Rochester, New York, "The Cottage" was the summer home of my grandparents and their children. It was the center of the Burbank family life, and all of my relatives have spent countless days there throughout the years. The house was filled with the most interesting combination of old pictures, antiques, memorabilia and junk, and I loved it.

In 1989 I felt very strongly that we should have a family reunion at "The Cottage" to celebrate its 100th birthday. Homer and Marie (my grandparents) were aging rapidly, and I felt that perhaps we would not have many other opportunities to gather as a complete family again. It was a wonderful reunion. All of the Burbank clan was there, and we created many memories.
This was fortunate, because within a few years, both grandparents passed away.

The question of what to do with "The Cottage" was a difficult one. Taxes and upkeep of a home over 100 years old on the shores of a Great Lake are "nothing to sneeze at," as they say. Most of my family had moved to Georgia and the relatives who remained in New York were unable to purchase the home for various reasons. Reluctantly, "The Cottage" would have to be sold.

What about all the memorabilia, I worried? Ever since I was a little girl I had always been interested in family history, journals, scrapbooks and antiques. I urged my father to make a quick trip to "The Cottage" to collect pictures and artifacts, since no one else in the family was interested in those items. We gathered the treasures and looked around one last time. Soon afterwards, our cottage, including the remaining contents, was placed on the market.

When news came of the sale I was truly saddened. Would the "new people" throw away or sell the cherished "stuff" that gave "The Cottage" its character? Would they remodel it? Would they even care that five generations of family had enjoyed so many special times there? I decided I would never go back and look at it; rather, I would just let the memory stay as it was in my mind.

In the summer of 1998 I had an opportunity to travel to Rochester, New York with my parents. We decided to also plan a visit with my aunt whose home was not far from "The Cottage." Although I had resolutely decided never to look at it again, I couldn't resist the nagging feeling that I should stop by and just take a peek. As we rounded the corner I hesitated to look. Much to my great relief and joy "The Cottage" had NOT been remodeled! Even better, it had been lovingly painted and the yard was well cared for. Feeling a bit more consoled about the sale, I knocked on the door. There was no answer. A neighbor had seen us drive up to the house and came over to inform us that the new owners were not expected to come up to the lake that weekend since they had plans in town.

Disappointed, my parents and I went over to my aunt's house to continue our short visit. A few hours later there was a knock at the door. The visitor introduced herself as Sandie Owen, the new owner of our family cottage. She had not been planning to be up at the lake, but events had changed and she had felt inspired to make the trip.

As my parents and Sandie introduced themselves and spoke about their families, Sandie asked me "Are you Anne?" When I nodded, she told us that she had an old suitcase full of pictures, newspaper clippings and a letter to Homer, requesting family history information. Sandie was going to give the suitcase to the "Anne" whose signature was on the letter.

She immediately invited us to go back over to "The Cottage" with her. When we stepped inside, any remaining ill feelings about selling the place vanished. The Owen family had kept much of the decor as it had been and the finishing touches were in perfect keeping with the original style. In fact, it was very much like I would have decorated it if I had owned it.

Sandie gave me the suitcase, once hidden far under a bed, which held family history about Homer's family. Much of the information it contained was previously unknown to me. We talked about my grandparents and grandparents as warm feelings flooded my mind.

Then, Sandie directed us to a wall in the living room. Near the picture of Homer and Marie, still displayed, she had placed several pictures of her 19 year-old daughter who had just recently died of cancer. She had loved music and singing, just like my grandmother who had been an opera singer and chorale director. The Owens had bought "The Cottage" so that their family could spend time together in a beautiful, peaceful place where their daughter would spend her last memories. And then I knew that "The Cottage" was meant to be a part of their family, as well as ours.

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