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old portrait

My Great Aunt Edie

My mother has a treasure trove of family portraits. Many were passed down by my grandmother (my father’s mother) who labeled as many as she could before her memory was completely gone. I have met with my father’s cousin a couple of times, and we have shared some photos and information. She has been working on a genealogy of my grandmother’s Swedish family for many years. I also have a first-cousin who is doing her best with my mother’s side of the family. I think every family needs an archivist, and I hope to be the one who performs that service for my generation. I sincerely love the old photos; to me they have a special beauty, especially the sepia ones.

This particular photo is of my great aunt. She died when I was still a child, but I do have some memories of her. We used to have family cookouts on Sundays at my grandmother’s house. My aunt Edie lived two doors down so she was also in attendance. Until I found some of the photos I have found, I thought of her as an old lady who DID NOT want her picture taken. I have a copy of some family movies that my brother had transferred to a VHS tape, where she appears ever so briefly before hiding her face.

To me this photo is beautiful. I don’t know the year, but she is wearing her wedding ring so I don’t think she is what I would term “young” in the photo, but certainly a lot younger than my childhood memories (when she was in her 80s). As I look at it I wonder what the occasion might have been for the taking of the photo. Unfortunately my grandmother is not around to ask and she did not write down a year, simply “Sister Edith.”

It makes me think about the generations after me looking at the photos we have taken now. Most are digital and informal. We tend to document children’s lives at least annually (even if it is just school pictures), but beyond college, other than wedding photos, it definitely tails off.

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but I don’t have many pictures of myself as I have aged. The older I get, the more I become like the Aunt Edie I remember…”don’t take my picture!” But on the other hand…it is only going to get worse…I should get a picture taken while I am still youngish…

Looking at these old photos makes me ALMOST want to go out and get one taken for posterity. But of course I would then have to get my hair done, buy and put on some makeup, find a flattering outfit…hmmm.

Maybe not…:-D

 



{January 18, 2014}   Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

I don’t usually participate in the photo challenges on this blog, I usually reserve that for my Last Train to Qville blog. But I thought the topic was great prompt to tell a family story recently told to me by my mother.

I never knew my grandfather (my mother’s father) because he died when she was 6 years old, but I have been fascinated by him, especially lately, for a number of reasons. My mother has been showing me some of the few mementos and photos of him that she treasures, including his service diary when he was in World War I. He was stationed in Paris, and his love of beauty and art is reflected in the observations he chose to record in his concise and neat penmanship and the souvenirs he saved. His letters to my grandmother were full of little sketches; my mother said he wanted to go to art school someday, but he never had the chance.

My Coffee Table -- My Mother's Childhood Toy Box

My Coffee Table — My Mother’s Childhood Toy Box

My mother has some terrific pictures of him, including one of him in his uniform in front of the Arche de Triumph. I’m privileged to have the toy box he made for my mother as my coffee table. Nothing fancy, but he made it so I treasure it. She won’t let the pictures leave the house, even for me to scan, so unfortunately I can’t show you a picture of him here, but I can try to give you a picture of who he was through words. My mother recently shared a poignant story that I thought I’d share with you about the last time she saw him.

My grandfather died of pneumonia in 1932, when he was not even 35 years old. He had a wife, a son and a daughter. My uncle, who was six years older than my mother, was able to relate the story of my grandfather leaving his childhood home in Indiana and driving his family to Florida for a job prospect during the Depression. Cars were not very rugged back then. Highways were a dream to come in the future; most of  the roads were still dirt. My uncle said that often they had to stop the car to roll rocks and boulders out of the way to get through. When they arrived, my grandfather landed a good job at a lumber yard where the owners were pleased with his ability to accurately estimate the amount of lumber needed to translate design plans into finished homes. (I assume that is where he got the wood to build the toy box I have in my living room.) The family had a small home down there with a small yard, so his risk paid off; they were doing well for the time period.

But their prosperity did not last. My grandfather got sick. He was in quarantine in a backyard shed, trying to recover and delirious with fever (I don’t know why no hospital, but perhaps that was only for the rich back then). In 1932, the big news story of the day was the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. My father adored his little girl, and in his delirium, he became convinced someone had kidnapped her.

My Mother as a Child

My Mother as a Child

(I’m not sure how old my mother was in the picture below, but I think she was a pretty child. She let me have this picture because she hates it…she hates the BIG bow!)

My mother was not allowed to go into the shed where he was, but she remembers being told to wave to him through a window so that he could see that she was safe; the thinking was that it would calm him down so he could concentrate on fighting his illness. It gave him relief, but didn’t save him. The last time my mother saw him was through a window, but thanks to her grandmother (his mother) telling her the background to the story years later, she has felt loved and special to him for most of her life. I was happy she shared the story with me.



{December 10, 2013}   A “Fun” But Scary Web Site

I saw this on another blog. I was curious and I couldn’t resist checking out the web site mentioned: See Your Folks.

My father died 3 years ago, so there was nothing to input there. My mother is in her 80’s, and I see her at least once a week. The website is supposed to tell you how many more times you will see your parents. My answer was not a number. It said:

Your mum is living 6 years beyond the age she is expected to die.

Source: World Health Organisation Life Expectancy Data (2011).

Isn’t that a slap in the face? Isn’t that a gratefulness wake-up call???

 

old family photos

My Mom and Me



{June 1, 2010}   Family Lore

Does your family have stories that are told over and over until they reach “legend” proportions?  My family seems to have many such stories. Everybody knows them, even the younger people who weren’t alive when they happened.  Husbands and wives also know the stories.  Like when the family was playing a game and my oldest brother slammed his coffee cup down on the table and shattered it because he lost the game.  When I was babysitting for my two younger brothers and one of my brothers fell off the garage roof and the youngest came in the house to tell me he was “dead”, scaring the heck out of me.  When I was babysitting and my brothers were fighting at the top of the stairs; I threw pairs of shoes at them to get them to stop, and they threw all the shoes back down the stairs at me all at once, but at least they stopped fighting.  How my grandmother said she was going to watch movies in the afterlife because she was buried within sight of the old drive-in.

My husband recently told his niece some of their family stories.  She lost her mother over two years ago and has no siblings.  She has to carry on her family lore alone, which is difficult.  She has a box full of photos from her mother, but doesn’t have the narration that goes with them.  It made me think about the importance of the stories we tell about each other in binding us to our families and keeping us from forgetting those we have lost.  They live on in family lore.



et cetera
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