Friday, September 12, 2014

Why Didn't We Visit?

When I first became hooked on genealogy, I quickly focused on my mother’s side of the family.  Mom's grandparents must have been an integral part of the first couple of years of my life.

My brother and I about 1947 on East 35th St.
near Flatbush Ave.
I remember walking from our apartment on Flatbush Avenue to their home on Albany Avenue in Brooklyn, N.Y. It was a perfect summer day, and I was feeling very happy. I was walking with my mother and brother. I remember I was wearing one of my prettier dresses and my perfect, white, Buster Brown shoes. We were passing a neighborhood park with a wrought iron fence. I forgot to watch my steps, and I smelled my mistake. I had stepped in dog poop, and my little white shoes were no longer perfect. I looked up at Mom, and I could tell she was very annoyed. I began to cry. This was not my first misadventure with dog poop. I had been repeatedly cautioned to watch my steps, but continued to get lost in the world around me or in my personal imaginings. And so I had erred again.  

And whether or not it was this day or another, I can’t quite recollect, we reached a familiar house, climbed a few steps, and Mom knocked on the door. It was opened by a woman who filled the entrance way, and she embraced each of us, smothering us with hugs and kisses. She was my Great Aunt Marie. I remember my brother trying to squeeze between Aunt Marie and the door jam, trying in vain to escape untouched past Aunt Marie’s welcoming and overpowering embraces.

Once inside, all was somber. And it was made clear that we were not to make any noise. I remember being ushered into a room with a huge bed, standing so close to it, and my eyes just reaching the top of the mattress. A very old person was propped up on pillows.  It seemed like I stood there for a long time. Eventually, we were ushered from the room, and …

That is all I can remember.

Maria Augusta (Schulze) Bals
The very old person must have been my great grandmother, Auguste (Schulze) Bals, who died not many days after my second birthday.

After that day in 1947, I don’t remember ever entering that house again, although I may have and just don’t remember. My great grandfather lived six years thereafter, and I don’t remember ever visiting him. I have wondered why I have no more memories of visiting my great-grandfather, Conrad Bals, after I was two years old. He was alive until I was 7 1/2 years old. 

I asked my mother: "Why didn't we visit your grandfather?" She always side-stepped giving an answer. Now, I will never know why. 

As the years passed, I heard mention of Aunt Marie, Uncle George and Aunt Gert, Aunt Lil, Aunt Anna, Aunt Gus and Uncle Charlie, Uncle Joe and Aunt Grace, and Uncle Pete and Aunt May. These were my Mom's aunts and uncles on the Bal's side of the family. But they were just ephemeral names in conversations around me, and never entered my life, that is, until I got the genealogy bug. And then I was driven to learn more about the BALS branch of my family. 

More to follow ... in future postings.

 © 2014, Cathy H Paris


  1. Hey Cathy, Conrad was a friend of my great-grandfather Franz Wulf from Ottbergen. Together they shipped to america, but Franz must go back. His woman got a baby, my grandmother.
    Greeting from Germany, Steinheim near Ottbergen
    Heinrich Lohre

  2. Conrad Bals and my Great-Grandfather Franz Wulf were Friends from Ottbergen. Together they shipped to America 1887. But Franz must go back to Ottbergen. His wife got a baby, my Grandmother. She married Heinrich Lohre, Steinheim. I found papers from Conrad by my aunt, died in September 2014. Greetings from Heinrich Lohre