I was dusting my house recently and came to an area where I have set family photos. I love family photos, and throughout the years have put many of them out and about, which I suppose has been a subconscious effort to surround myself with the feeling of love from loved ones, past and present. Al and I have done a lot of moving with his career, so these photos offered me much comfort during times I felt lonely for my family. Each time I would pick up a framed photo to dust the surface beneath, I would let my gaze fall on the loved one in the photo and reflect on them. I would then set the picture down, and pick up the next photo and repeat the process.
Recently, when I was cleaning and dusting our Master Bathroom, I began to dust a picture ledge on the wall adjacent to my vanity and chair. Here sat tiny photos in tiny frames which fit perfectly on this ledge. As I gathered them all up to dust the ledge, and as I cleaned each of them one by one, I was able to mentally visit with the people in the photos.
I peered at my Grandpa and Grandma where the picture showed them standing side by side with his arm around her shoulder, both smiling into the camera lens. “Hi Grandpa and Grandma…..do you know how often I still think of you? Do you know how much I STILL feel the unconditional love you offered to me all those years ago?” I smiled to myself as I set them back down on the ledge.
I then picked up another framed photo. In this photo I could see my beautiful, youthful Mother smiling as she looked to her left at her daughter, (which was my 19 year old self ) who was looking straight into the camera with a wide happy smile). I remember the night that picture was taken as if it were yesterday and how proud I was of her. I remember how proud she was of ME! We had a real mutual admiration society going and did until the day she died. Mom was wearing a corsage, and her hair was done up in a french twist. She looked beautiful and happy and now I wonder if the occasion was her birthday or maybe Mothers day? “How are you?” I thought as I peered at her in the photo. “Mom….I still miss you like crazy!” I silently said, as I continued my mental conversation with her about how I was feeling at that moment.
I picked up a darling photo of my daughter Andrea in her brownie uniform and greeted my sweet little 6 or 7 year old daughter in the frame. She is 35 now, but when I look at that photo, she is somewhere around 6 years old and I am the one who is 35! My goodness! Don’t the years just fly by? Has it really been almost 30 years since that picture was taken? I love my grown up daughter, very much, but do miss that cute little girl I enjoyed raising and primping over.
I picked up a small framed photo of myself in my wedding dress. I am standing at a profile to show off the length and detail of my simple floor length veil. I am peering past the veil at the photographer with a broad grin, my one satin clad shoe pointing forward out from under the lacy hem of my wedding dress. My left arm is dropped down my side and at a slight angle while my hand gently holds back the veil to show the detail of my dress. What a joyful day that was for me! I was in love and about to commit to loving a man for the rest of my life. 41 years later I am still in love and still happy to honor that commitment.
I picked up a small framed photo of my husband with his trademark smile. As I wiped off the dust I allowed myself to take in his big white toothy smile that I love so much! He looks to be about 45 in this photo and as I gaze at it, I can feel myself slipping back in time to when I was holding the camera pointing towards his grinning face. I won the jackpot the day this man entered my life, and don’t I just know it? His mother used to say it was him who won the jackpot with me, but I know better!
So many memories in my life have been captured in pictures and, of course, pictures mean different things to different people depending on who the audience is. My Grandparents and my Mother are gone now, but to me they will never be forgotten. We aren’t forgotten by those who knew us well, at least not for the duration of their life, but as each new generation arrives, one after the other, we eventually recede into the category called ancestors. We become just a face of someone from long ago to whom we are related, and our personality is no longer a part of the equation, because after a couple of generations they do not know us in the first person.
I am a Grandma now, and as I sit looking at pictures of my Grandmother and Grandfather I realize that these are two people who once worked for a living. Grandma baked and cooked, while Grandpa gardened and both moved lovingly about my life. They meant the world to me as their Granddaughter. I meant the world to them as well. But to MY Granddaughters, they are but a picture in the history book of our family.
As I pick up a picture of my beloved Mother, I sit and ponder the fact that 5 entire years have already passed since she died. My Granddaughters met my mother, but they were only 3 and 6 when she died so they have no real recollection of who Anita was. I knew her as a vibrant, laughing, loving, giving, warm human being who loved to sing, play cards, go to church, and spend time with her family. But to my Granddaughters, she is just a picture of Paternal Great Grandmother. In the span of 3 generations, Great Grandmother on one end, and Great Granddaughters on the other end, the elder person disappears into history with the exception of an occasional glance at a photo taken on a day that was thought to be special to someone for one reason or another. Someday my Granddaughters will be Mothers to my Great-grandchildren and they won’t know or remember who I am either. So the cycle continues.
I am deeply grateful for every single person in my life who has shown me love because that love is the glue that holds me together. I think one of the purposes of our life on earth is to keep passing the love from one generation to another. Our face in the picture book may not be someone our descendants will feel they know, but they will know us by living and carrying with them a portion of the love we passed along in the family and it will be the connecting thread from one generation to the other. LOVE….the face of it changes with the generations, but never the connecting thread.