In a month I will be hosting a family reunion, which I am looking forward to greatly. I like my family (what little I know of them), but I’m not terrifically close to any, outside my aunt, sisters, and daughters. Geographically we have been widely dispersed throughout my life so close contact and close relationships haven’t had a physical environment in which to take root. The other important reality is that we were all raised to be very independent – a virtue in some ways, but not, perhaps, the recipe for family togetherness.
I am also the youngest member of my generation on both my mother and father’s sides. So why am I hosting the reunion? I always thought that family gatherings were the purview of the most, or near-most, senior member of the family.
The short answer is that since about 1990 I have the ancestral Riley portraits, painted by Henry Inman, and ol’ great great great Grandpa and Grandma Riley seem to convey a sense that they think the younger generations should keep track of each other.
Edward Cort Riley was a musician: he made flutes (a couple of which are in the Smithsonian), ran a music store in New York City, published primers on how to play the violin, and in one reference I’ve seen, conducted. His father was a violinist in the New York Symphony.
Eliza Way Champlain Riley was an accomplished painter, specializing in miniatures. (That she had any standing whatsoever in the early-19th century male-dominated art world was notable. Women were all but prohibited from “serious painting” subjects like portraits, landscapes, and still lifes.) Her mother and aunt were also painters of miniatures. Sadly, Eliza apparently gave up painting when she married Edward.
Music and art have been passed down through the generations, even to the choice, in my case, of a mate. My children are musical, though they pursue professions that also crop up in intermediate generations between Edward/Eliza and Dick/Susan: Lissa is an engineer and Hannah is a human rights advocate. And of course, we’re speaking of only one line of ancestry in this post – my paternal relatives. Add the influence from my mother’s side of the family, and that from Susan’s mother and father, and we have a veritable petrie dish of inheritable traits from which to choose.
Which brings me to the next generation, one of my “guys,” Silas, whom we visited recently. Here he is just a few days past his 6 month birthday.
Photos were taken by Lissa, Silas’s mom. Hannah takes great photos, too. Where did they get those genes?