Who are these silent strangers waiting for me to know who they are?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Giving Thanks for my family

It's Thanksgiving and I am spending it with my daughter, her husband, my son and my husband. We have done a lot of different kinds of things. The best of days and the worst of days all crammed into a short visit. Doesn't it seem, at times, like we are as mute as the lost relatives in the photos. Here I am with some of the people I love them most in the world but I feel battered by unspoken resentments, expectations and anger. Each one trying to share bits of our unconnected lives and somehow come together as a family again. What is important to one of us may not be fully understood and appreciated by the others. As a Mom I find myself cast in the role of peacemaker and arbitrator. But these are adults with complex lives and I am lost. I look at the pictures that we have taken and see the full range of emotions. Here I see excitement and happiness. There I see contentment. Over there I see disappointment and anger. To try and write what's really going on in these photos would take a novella. I love each one so much it hurts and just like when they were little they come to me with their disappointments and hurt, but I can't fix it. I can't make it good again. There is no where I would rather spend my holiday. The times when I can see my family grows shorter and harder to come by the older we all get. So I'll take each minute, good or bad that I can get with those I love.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nameless and Faceless but not silent.

I have been working on our family genealogy and wondering about all those photos with no names and all those names without faces. A friend asked me once, “Why?” Why do I spend so much time and put in so much effort into past lives. These are people I never met. So why do I care? But when I look at the photos of their lives, I see a glimpse of what these people cared about, about what made them happy or sad. Ultimately, I see what the events were that they felt needed to be remembered and shared. Someday my own life will be reduced to photos and bits of paper that my children or their children will look at and wonder about. I realized that I have been careless with my own bits of ephemera. To me, each photo holds a memory. To anyone else its a picture without substance. Who truly wants to look at a photo I took at age eleven of a trip to the zoo or Disney World. Without the story that goes with it, it is just a mute, emotionless image. So, I look at these ancestors and wonder, what were they thinking and feeling.

Here in this safe place I will explore some of the faceless ancestors and what the bits of information tell me. Here I will try to understand the faces (some without benefit of a name) and see the world through their eyes. I have boxes of stuff from 1890 to present just waiting to be explored. Letters, certificates of birth, death & marriage, wills and enlistment papers all wait patiently. I have photos of children and pets, weddings and funerals, and all the bits that these predecessors wanted to mark and share.

Maybe, I’ll begin the task of put some meaning to my own treasured bits of paper. Why do I still hang on to photos of the zoo?