I visited with some relatives during Easter and we chatted about Ralph’s first wife, Charlotte Jones. Apparently Ralph’s second wife, Stella, was very, very Catholic, which might have something to do with why the first wife was never talked about. We speculated Ralph never told his second wife about Charlotte because Stella might not have married a divorced man. And somehow, that became a secret that the entire family conspired to keep.
Many months ago, I was looking over some old family photos with my aunt, Janey. There was a woman I didn’t recognize in a few pictures, and on the back of the photo, she was identified as “Beatrice”. “Who was Beatrice?” I asked Janey.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Oh, wait. Maybe she was Ralph’s first wife?”
“Ralph’s first wife?” I said.
“Yeah,” she said. “We never talk about it.” My family seems to have a lot of stuff that we never talk about.
My father has a brother named Ralph. That’s not who we’re talking about. The Ralph we’re talking about would be my grandfather’s brother, James Ralph Holmes. My grandfather was the youngest of three children. Abbie Estella Holmes was the oldest, but she died at the age of 20, due to complications from pregnancy. Ralph was the middle child, closer in age to Stella. When Ralph came of age in the midst of the great depression, he moved to Detroit to find work. My grandfather, Vidal, ultimately took over the family farm and raised his own children there. Ralph and Vidal both died about a month apart in 1968, shortly before my second birthday.
Beatrice is not, in fact, Ralph’s first wife. I still have no idea who she is. One possibility is that she was a nanny that briefly helped out with child-rearing duties.
Before I got into comics I did a bunch of different art jobs, and illustrating comics is by far the hardest of them. It combines everything: storytelling, anatomy, fashion, design, cars, architecture, etc. It’s relentless in what it asks of you as an artist. And you have to do it faster than any other artistic discipline.
I’m having an email correspondence with a genealogist in Ireland. I’m looking to hire her to find records on my Holmes ancestors before they came to Canada. It’s been a slow conversation, with a number of delays, but I’m hoping that something will come of it.
But today we were talking about a particular part of the tree, and while looking at my records for that part of the tree, I realized that I’d failed to transcribe some data.
Here’s the story. I’ve mentioned before that the first of my family to come to Canada are Andrew and Susan (Susannah) Holmes, who emigrated here in 1845. I’ve also mentioned that Andrew died in quarantine at Grosse Île, Quebec. But they brought with them six of their seven children, who spread out and several of those kids end up in Lambton County, where I grew up.
So I’m interested in the one that stayed behind, Mary Ann Holmes, born around 1811. She was the oldest of the seven children and she was already married at the time the family moved to Canada (the second oldest, Margaret Holmes, was also married, but she brought her husband along to Canada with her). Some time before 1861, Mary Ann joined the rest of the family in Canada. Her husband, James Dowler, remained in Ireland. The author of Those Irish Holmes’ writes, “‘Tis said he loved the Emerald Isle, the thrill of its strife, and another woman.”
Mary Ann went to Lambton County and moved in with her brother, John Holmes and his wife, Mary Wilkinson. John and Mary only had one kid, but Mary Ann brought five with her. The youngest of those five might have been born in Canada, if the censuses are to be believed. If so, either Mary Ann was pregnant on the ride over, or James Dowler wasn’t the kid’s father. Or the censuses are wrong. This line of the family doesn’t have it easy. Mary Ann’s daughter, Ann Dowler, died in the London Insane Asylum. Her older brother, Thomas, might have also spent some time there.
So here he was without maps or supplies,
A hundred miles from any decent town;
The desert glared into his blood-shot eyes;
The silence roared displeasure: looking down,
He saw the shadow of a small groundhog,
And an audience surrounding him, agog.
— with apologies to W.H. Auden
Shortly after WisCon, I decided that I wanted to be able to work with my Dreamwidth journal on my iPhone. An iOS app seemed like a natural thing that should exist in the world and, conveniently, I know how to make one.
Sadly, I was quickly impeded by the state of the existing API. The API was designed in another age: back before Rest/JSON, and at a time when people expected “LJ/DW clients” to be desktop apps that’d download all your entries for off-line reading. There are some glaring omissions from the API (and it’s certainly… old-timey).
But, hey, it’s open source, no? I mean, I suppose I could send them a pull request. True, I don’t really know Perl and find that LAMP development is about five times harder than it should be. But, hey, minor stuff.
Over the summer, I started talking to some of the folks at Dreamwidth about this, and that started me into conversations about a new Rest/JSON API and whatnot. But progress on that front has been slow. Which I get. They have their own priorities, and some weirdo from the Internet is pestering them with, “hey, if you added an X I could make you a Y.” I just think it’s a Y that’s interesting.
A few days ago, I was hit with another urge to work on the Dreamwidth iOS app, and I built out a quick app that implements some of the basic functions. I can login, see my recent entries, view some basic profile information, and post a simple entry. That’s not nothing.
But I’m still stuck with those API limitations that seem to prevent me from really making this thing useful. Le sigh.
For the last few years, I’ve been saying that I feel like it’s been a bad year for film. This year, that trend continues, and I feel like I haven’t seen very many films. I missed the festival again, so that takes away yet another outlet. Many of the films I liked this year were released in theatres in late 2015, and one that made my “top 5” list is actually a 2013 film. But I’m into talking about movies that I’ve seen in 2016, and the release date isn’t as important to me.
This year, few films really stand out as films I will think about and love forever. But if I had to pick a top five, they’d be these ones.