Two and a half days

Receipt from Staffa nursing home for the birth of George Christopher Houseman

Two and a half days is such a short period of time. Sixty hours. 3,600 minutes. Take a moment. Think back over the last two days or even the last week – what did you do, think, learn or feel? I’ve been content in lock down winter to treat each day as a new one, to let the hours and days flow past waiting for the year to start. I barely notice one day after the next.

George Christopher Houseman lived just two and a half days.

He was the first son of Mary & George Houseman. Born in Staffa nursing home in Harrogate on 25 February 1946. (Incidentally only seven months after Mary & George were married). He died two and a half days later.

Grandma (Mary Houseman) was the family story keeper. Being of Yorkshire heritage she wasn’t one to shy away from plain speaking. So, the facts she told were – George Christopher existed, he was born and a few days later he died, but she didn’t seem to want to share more – it was a sad memory.

That could have been the end of his story. It wasn’t.

Mary & George had a wonderful daughter, Christine Mary, born in 1947 and then a second son in 1950 who they also named George Christopher. This same named child was my father. The first George Christopher my Uncle.

I have a fascination with the siblings of my ancestors who remain unwed, or who married and didn’t have children. Without any descendants they tend to be less well researched, somewhat ethereal and in danger of being forgotten. Yet they often have fascinating stories much more likely to pop up on censuses with other relatives and have wills that help connect. I want George Christopher to be more than a memory (mine) of another’s memory (my Grandma’s) and so this blog is written.

George Christopher now exists for me in three documents: a receipt, my Grandma’s autobiography and his death certificate.

I found the receipt for the nursing home stay carefully folded up in a small wallet when I inherited Grandma’s papers. Staffa nursing home was popular with mothers in the 1940s in the years before the NHS came into existence and was where my own father was born too. It was the only document she had of her life.

My Grandma’s autobiography, the Changing Years, tells us more about the love she bore for her first son.

MOTHER FOR TWO DAYS

We have had so much sadness in our lives that I find it hard writing about it in detail but I can not overlook it as I spend many sad hours thinking about so many of my family that I loved so much and meant so much to me during my life. We were both heart broken when we lost our first baby, a little boy that we had very much looked forward to having in our family. I know that Dad and Mother were so pleased to have a little Grandson in the Houseman family. He was born on the 25th of February 1946 and only lived two and a half days and is buried at Dacre Top Cemetery. It took an awful lot of courage after a long three days in labour for me to get over it. But I was very well looked after at the Staffa Nursing Home in Harrogate and was soon able to come home and get back into my routine. The doctor told me that the only way I would get over it was to look forward to having another baby.

And finally, I ordered his death certificate. George Christopher died on 27 February 1946 at Harrogate General Hospital of purpura neonatorum, blood spots and discolouration of the skin resulting from coagulation in the small blood vessels. I have no way of knowing if he was a premature honeymoon baby or a pre-marriage full term. There doesn’t seem to be a particular increased incidence of purpura in premature babies but I can imagine a seven month pregnancy resulting in a weaker child much more than I can Grandma being pregnant when she married!

Two and a half days may not seem like a very long time but I hope this blog demonstrates it’s long enough to leave a legacy.  

With much gratitude to George Christopher Houseman (1946 – 1946), and thanks also to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.

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