The Things That Are Left Behind: A Photo Essay

First off, I’d like to thank those of you who wrote to me after my last post. I appreciate your kind words much more than I can say. I find writing to be wonderfully therapeutic and I’m happy that people felt like they could relate to this situation. It’s not pretty, but it’s something we will all have to deal with at some point. 

In the last few days I’ve been combing through boxes of pictures. My grandma didn’t like having her picture taken, and while I can certainly relate to that (I make faces in pictures for a reason!), I now find myself a bit frustrated. There are a handful of pictures from high school and college graduations, and a few family group shots from holidays and the like, but I can’t find a single picture of just her and I. My parents never sent me to daycare or preschool, instead I went to her house. So despite all those days in my grandparents house, all those holidays, all those camping trips, there is little to no photographic evidence. I’m hoping some more photos are hiding at her house, but I’m not overly-optimistic about that. 

I distinctly remember spending an afternoon over there a few years ago and helping her take tons of photos out of frames. Including her amazing framed wedding portrait, which I asked her about twice. “Are you sure you want this one taken out? It’s so… Wait… are you sure??” But she just said to take it apart. The photo went in a box, and the frame went off to Goodwill with the rest of them. She wasn’t terribly sentimental about things. But anyway, I’m hoping somewhere there is a box of photos at their house that might have a snap or two in it for me. 

In that spirit, I’d like to add another piece of advice to the shingles shot recommendation from my previous post; take pictures. Or more specifically, take pictures WITH people. There are about a million pictures of my sister and I, but we’re lacking photos with others. So grab your cameras and get to it.

Now, I certainly do not believe that things are a substitute for people, but things are what I have and I’d like to share them. Maybe it’s a little morbid, but I’m putting that aside and this is my blog so I can do whatever I darn well please. Hah! Plus, I recently remembered how to put photos together in Photoshop and I’m excited about that. I am just all kinds of productive when I don’t have to go to work! Some images are a bit small, so keep in mind that clicking on them will open them up in a photo viewer window if you want a closer look. So… onwards.

My great-grandma, grandma, and mom all had charm bracelets. I used to love combing through these charms when I was a kid, and I hadn’t seen this in years. Now looking at it is a bit funny… a sword, a tank, a horse saddle, a moon lander, and a scuba diver… some odd choices there. But she collected most of these charms on family vacations and they drove all over the U.S. when my mom was a kid. And where does one keep a charm bracelet but in….

…a jewelry box, and I always loved this one. And I am in dire need of one despite my recent brilliant jewelry storage solution. I have one or two pairs of stud earrings that need to go somewhere after all.  Now I just have to figure out how to get it back to Germany without breaking it to smithereens. 

The gorgeous old purse was loaned to me when I had my Junior Prom, and I’m ashamed to say it never made it’s way back to Grandma. But I don’t think she missed it… we cleared about 30 purses out of the closet the other day. When I was little, I thought that ring holder was a sombrero, and was highly confused as to why in the world my grandma had a glass sombrero on her dresser. I’m seriously considering buying one of these ‘old German man‘ hats and putting that sweet brooch on it. I think that would be a nice change of pace from the feathers and pretzel pins that most people sport.

Minus my sister and I, all the ladies in our family are quilters. So when winter rolls around, our house is the place to be. We have about six quilts per room in the house, and now we have a few more. The house quilt is more of a couch throw, or even a wall hanging, but the 30’s pattern fits a bed. I remember when my grandma was working on this one, I immediately loved the retro and vintage patterns she used. I mean, little Dutch children? Kittens? Adorable. 

There is one other one that my mom needs to finish for me (convenient, right?), and so today we went to pick up some fabric for the binding. Two points on that: 1) There is WAY too much selection for fabric. It was overwhelming. 2) There are some seriously beautiful/adorable/fun/etc. patterns out there. It almost made me want to learn to make these things myself. Almost. I lack patience. Maybe when I learn that, I’ll take it up. 

As I mentioned above, my grandma was not a sentimental lady. She didn’t have a lot of clutter around and she didn’t hang on to things she didn’t need. But she did collect a few things, and her handkerchiefs meant something to her. The patterns on them were so beautiful, and they were all just like new. I’m sure a vintage clothing store would be just tickled to have these, but I couldn’t see them given away. 

Now pearls are not really my usual style, but this was something else I just couldn’t see giving away. And I love that we still have the receipt for the wedding dress. We should all be so lucky as to pay $125 for something like that. Ok, that plus the $4.50 for alterations that is on the next page. Considering my mom wore the dress as well, that’s pretty much a steal. Unfortunately for my sister and I, the dress is long yellowed now, and neither of us are the size 0 or 2 that they were, but the pearls or the handkerchief might come in handy for us someday.
I should also mention that all the photos that I take are with the camera that I inherited from my grandpa. Usually when I pull it out, people exclaim something like, “woah, what kind of camera is that??” But it looks much more intense than it actually is. It’s just an older model of Sony digital camera with a measly 5 megapixels. I just crank it up to it’s highest possible quality setting and hope that I never want to blow my pictures up. I’m considering buying a new camera, but I would be a bit sad to put this one away. I guess when that day comes I’ll try to take a leaf out of my grandma’s book and not be too sentimental about it.
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6 thoughts on “The Things That Are Left Behind: A Photo Essay

  1. Lovely pics and a great idea, documenting them on “film”.

    When my grandmother died, I ended up taking a bunch of her stuff, partly because it was hers and partly because she had COOL stuff. Over the years I had to admit that I didn't need that much stuff. I slowly gave it away, keeping only the best. My favorite? A cheeky-looking wooden cat which hides a letter opener.

    Love that charm bracelet!

    – RZ

  2. Thanks, Roni. It gave me something to do. Haha. And good on you for being able to decide what you really wanted/needed. I mean, a cat hiding a letter opener? That sounds like a useful kitteh!

  3. On pictures: You're so, so, so right. Someone very close to me died back in 1996 and I only have one photograph of her. Ever since then, I've always been that guy with the camera at every family event and social gathering. Totally worth it, though.

    Oh, and I meant to comment on the other post regarding Shingles- I had it when I was a little kid, like six or eight years old. I remember everyone being a little bit amazed because it's supposed to be a disease that adults get, not kids. It was extremely painful, and I still have scars on my left shoulder from it to this day.

  4. That's great that you've taken on that “responsibility,” Steven. Unfortunately I'm too late for this situation but I definitely have a mental note for the future!

    Wow… that is unusual to have it as a kid. Did you have chicken pox as well? It really is one of those diseases that I have *never* thought about, but it seems like it is pretty common. We have heard more than one horror story about it in the last year, which is why I recommend running to the local Walgreen's and getting the vaccine. Scary stuff.

  5. Really? The doctors told us that you're *more* likely to get it as an adult if you had the chicken pox as a child. So if you can get it even WITHOUT having had the chicken pox, I guess we're all just up shit creek without a paddle. Uncool.

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