Saturday, December 29, 2007
One of the reasons I started this blog was to keep a
written history for the grandkids. As my blog header implies, nothing fancy - just life in general and me in particular.
It's been an interesting ride so far, almost two years' worth of musings, sometimes intersecting my daughter's blog and sometimes not. I've been introduced to many excellent bloggers and am surprised that I've developed my own group of "regulars". I love to peek at my site meter which gives me a glimpse of the demographics. Seeing towns and locations that span the globe is unbelievable and humbling. What a gig! I'll never meet or know most of you but THANKS for stopping by and reading my words.
I'm rambling. Not good writing, folks. Bear with me and I'll try to pull this all together.
It's the holiday season and my thoughts turn to family and friends. I prop family photos up on the colorful hutch which resides in my dining room. This piece of furniture and a very unusual rocking chair belonged to my late sister-in-law, a nun who lived in North Carolina, lobbied tirelessly for the migrant poor and traveled to Iraq long before the current administration staked its claim. Linda (Sr. Evelyn) deserves a blog entry all her own and I plan to do that soon. She died four years ago, much too young, still so much to do. In the meantime, I'm keeping the hutch and the rocking chair for Jenn since there's no room in her house to store all of her aunt's stuff. Because my sister-in-law was so spiritual and reflective, I consider her hutch an altar, a sacred space to honor past and present. For the holidays, it's a fitting place to put my photos.
As I look at and reminisce about the pictures, an idea takes shape. I grab my camera and take some snapshots.
New photos of old photos - photos which are worn and grainy, depositories of secrets and family history. Why am I so attached to these things?
This is a picture of my mom, dad, and his mother, Aniela. She died three years before I was born. My dad, it seems, was often protective of her after she was widowed years earlier. This photo could allude to a mother-in-law coming between a son and his wife. However, from my mom's and my aunts' stories, I think not. There was a special bond between Aniela and her daughter-in-law. During the Depression and WWII, mom and dad would take my babci to the movies. How she loved the picture shows! Even though she had raised eight feisty kids, lost at least two more in childbirth, and had a stern, controlling husband, Aniela seemed to have a sweet, good-hearted nature and was a closet romantic. Mom said that she would reach over and squeeze her hand excitedly whenever the actors on the screen were hugging or kissing. I wish I could have known Aniela. I have the feeling that she is still very much around, a kindred spirit, checking in on the grandchildren she never got to hold - grandchildren who are now grandparents of their own.
And this is where the future starts to nudge its way into my past and present ...
Here I am on my mother's lap, nine-months old, first Christmas. Dad, tired and somber, sits behind us. His face tells the story of a difficult year, a bittersweet Christmas. He's forty-years old, a first-time father. He and mom had tried to have children, unsuccessfully, for fifteen years. Her beaming face shows the joy at my late arrival; his serious face reflects sadness at the death of his nephew, Johnny, who was killed by a Nazi sniper in France shortly after I was born. Yes, the war years were turbulent but I love this picture of our little family unit. I could imagine dad's worry at providing for a child during these lean years too. He was that kind of guy. To his credit, he grew into the role of father and never let me or mom down. His joy returned later and I remember his booming laugh and funny jokes.
Here's a photo of my youngest grandchild, Iris. My son's daughter - a bouncy dark-haired, dark-eyed child who may, or may not, grow up to look like our side of the family. I try hard to catch a resemblance to the WWII baby sitting on her mom's lap. Am I trying too hard? The mind sees what the heart is seeking.
Now, here's another favorite photo. My mom and I were shopping in downtown Philadelphia. A photographer approached mom and asked to take our picture. I see some of me in Hannah when I look at this. What do you think?
Maybe this is part of the gift of being a grandparent - to live long enough to earn the right to try and connect the dots. To watch babies having babies of their own and to trace childhood looks and personalities back a couple generations - sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. The good news is that these grandbabies will grow far beyond us and family legacies.
There is something organic and rich about knowing how and to whom we're connected.
So I play and look and wonder at the mystery of it all.
When I touch my grandchild, I am touching not only the present and the future ... I am touching the past.