The other day I was getting ready to wash my face and, when I looked into the mirror, I was horrified by the vision looking back at me! In my mind, when I am cleaned up for the day and dressed up in my best, I look just like Meryl Streep! The resemblance is amazing – in my mind.
However, what I saw looking back at me did not look like anyone I knew! I could handle the dark circles under my eyes and the lines around them. I could even look past the deep furrow between my eyebrows! The part that really bothered me was that the person in the mirror had no lips!
I’ve had to acknowledge that I inherited my grandmother’s body shape (and probably her love of sugar) and I know that I’ve inherited the Braddock eyes. They are beautiful when young, but they develop dark circles once we reach the “age of maturity”! I knew just who to blame for my lack of lips – the first Collins to come to America!
I knew that I had seen a picture of him, and my impression was that he had no lips either! I hadn’t heard much about Fredrick, but he seemed like a strange duck to me!
As I dug out the picture that I remembered of him, I came across a manuscript written by another Collins – Fredrick’s grandson, Luman – about Fredrick. When I saw the picture, I realized that I hadn’t inherited Fredrick’s lips! Granted, he didn’t have any upper lip, but he certainly had a lower lip. As I looked at the picture, I noticed that he had kind eyes and I decided to read Uncle Luman’s manuscript.
It turns out that Fredrick Collins was born in Kent, England in 1824. At that time, France was trying to recover from Napoleon’s reign and the people in that part of England were still worried that an invasion might be coming from France.
The English countryside was poor country – unless you were an aristocrat – and Fredrick’s parents weren’t. Schools in the countryside were Dame Schools, presided over by women who could read, write and do basic arithmetic.
Fredrick’s father was a solicitor – a small town lawyer. Because Fredrick was his first son, the family pooled their money and sent him off to boarding school where he would have a chance to network. In a world of athletic competition, Fredrick discovered that he was not athletic – but, he was an amazing speaker! Uncle Luman says that Fredrick would “speak on any subject, at any place, at any time!” (ok – so, in addition to no upper lip, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut as well!)
Unfortunately, Fredrick’s dad decided that public speaking wasn’t going to pay the bills, so he apprenticed Fredrick to Williams of London, a top-quality jewelry shop in London. While working there, he met the boss’s niece, Catherine Williams, fell madly in love, and they married in 1850.
Apparently, Fredrick was quite a reader. (Our resemblances are starting to rack up!) Charles Dickens was being published in the newspapers, a chapter at a time, and Fredrick was realizing the big gap between the aristocracy and the tradesmen of that time. He decided he didn’t want to be a tradesman anymore – he wanted to be aristocracy! He opened a pawn shop but that didn’t work so he became an innkeeper and operated the White Lion Inn in Cobhan, Surrey. By this time, he and Catherine had four girls and one boy. After the birth of a second son, my great-grandfather, Fredrick decided to return to jewelry making but he wasn’t happy. He really wanted to be his own boss. (Another area of similarity!)
He decided his only recourse was to move to America. During a meeting of the Collins family, a decision was made that Fred, the oldest son who was by now seventeen, would join Fredrick and the two would go to set up the household in America. The rest of the family would follow once they had a house.
Along with some friends met on the ship crossing the Atlantic, Fredrick and Fred ended up in Belleville, KS where there was one building in the middle of the prairie. The “townspeople” helped build a sod house for Fred to live in while building a real house and Fredrick went back to New York to work at Tiffany’s.
When Fred wrote to his dad that the house was almost ready, Fredrick notified his wife and the rest of the family – Catherine, four daughters, and the youngest son (George) moved to America. They rode a train from New York to Waterville, Kansas, and then two days traveling on a spring wagon with all their belongings.
Eventually, Fredrick hired a fellow to take care of the farm and he became his own boss with a real estate company. He became a politician and a citizen of the United States. He was appointed Commissioner of Kansas at the American Exhibit in London at the time of the Golden Jubilee – Queen Victoria’s celebration of her 50 years as reigning monarch in England. Back to England he went! Fifty years prior, he had watched as Queen Victoria rode to her coronation and he could watch her again as she rode to her celebration
Uncle Luman’s manuscript talks about Fredrick persevering through ups and downs, through fat times and lean – basically, a focused, stubborn fellow. As our similarities piled up, I decided that I could do a lot worse than to be related to Fredrick. As I read Luman’s manuscript, I decided that he was also a more interesting fellow than I realized!
But I’m still thinking of Botox for my lips!