Family Ties

Its nearly Thanksgiving as we finish this issue, and my thoughts turn to spending the holiday with my family because our get-togethers always involve sharing food, fun, and laughter. Several stories in this issue also have a family theme.

In our Eye on Antiques column, we look at the seed pearl jewelry women favored from the late 1700s until the end of the 19th Century. Mothers gave seed pearl sets to their daughters when they came of age and young men bought sets for their brides. Those sentimental connections assured the survival of many of these fragile pieces.

Two features talk about family homes at opposite ends of the economic spectrum—the Schock homestead in Pennsylvania and the Rice house in Massachusetts.

When Bob and Susan Highfield began looking for another house to escape encroaching development, they found both a house and a second family. (Empty-nesters for a decade, they have a son who lives in Florida.) The Highfields took on their third old house restoration project when they bought the two-story log house Jacob Schock built in 1739. Jacob prospered, owning 185 acres of prime land at his death. His spacious, sturdy house sheltered his descendants until the 1960s.

As the Highfields restored the house, they got acquainted with Jacobs descendants, who shared their records and recollections and followed the house from its dismantling to being rebuilt on a new site. Grateful the "old homestead" had been saved, descendants invited the Highfields to attend the family reunion. The Highfields returned the favor by hosting the 2007 reunion at the newly restored home. During the event, Susan recounted, a Schock descendant came up to her and asked her how she was related to the family.

"Were the owners of the house. Were not related," she told the man, who responded, "You are now."

The 1782 Rice house, a rare survivor that researchers at Old Sturbridge Village documented and reconstructed, enables the museum to show the small houses that predominated in early New England and tell the stories of families who barely subsisted in structures no bigger than a modern garage.

Blacksmith Jesse Rice expanded his meager house twice but fell behind on his mortgages and eventually lost the house and his shop. Subsequent occupants, mainly renters, fared little better, never expanding the house beyond 1,000 square feet and decorating only with a bit of paint and mismatched wallpaper.

The article that brought family to my mind describes the widespread pastime of playing cards in early America. Church and civic leaders tried to ban it as a vice that led to gambling, but it proved too popular with people of every social and economic class.

In my family, getting together usually means playing cards. A longstanding tradition at Thanksgiving, we learned how to play Michigan rummy, hearts, and sevens as we grew old enough to master strategy and shuffling (though my left-handed brother always dealt from the bottom of the deck). We played more for fun and bragging rights than the few pennies we might take home at the end of the night.

The year my mother inadvertently tucked pinochle decks into our Christmas stockings gave us a new game and led to memorable winter nights when we (Mom, Dad, Jimmy, and I) would set up the card table as soon as we got home and spend hours playing.

Now my siblings and I enjoy playing these games with our children. Id like to think Jesse Rice escaped his troubles by pulling the table close to the fi replace and laughing with his children over a simple game of cards.

Jeanmarie Andrews

Executive Editor

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