Monday, September 5, 2011

An open letter of apology

To those relatives or friends of my relatives who may or may not be reading this:
(as The Girl would say)

Your grandmother may be laying in my recycle bin.

I first want to introduce myself.  I am Valerie, granddaughter of Richard and Betty. 

First, the good news:

I recently came into 5 boxes of genealogy that spanned 90 years.  That is correct. 

90 years.  Five boxes.  That is like finding a gold mine in the Mormon world.

There is a long backstory with these papers, but suffice it to say that I waited almost 19 years to look at it and get my hands on it.  Age was on my side, and my father recently received it all in the mail for me to go through and take care of. 

I have learned a couple things sorting through these papers and pictures.

First, do it in the living room where the tv is. Put in a long movie...something like "Thorn Birds."
(thanks Carol T. for the movie!)

Next, have snacks and drinks available. A girl can get parched.

Do it when the family is out of town. Less distractions...less interacting to throw your focused mindset off track. And you don't have to cook dinner.

One last thing and certainly the most important:
If you are going to hold on to photographs of people you may or may not be related to for 70 years, you should write their names on the back.

Now, for the bad news....especially if you have a relative in one of these pictures below:

That pile of picture spread out on the living room floor is every single person that I do not recognize.  I do not know who they are (they don't look like family.)  They have no names, dates, or places. 

I cannot assume they are family because I learned going through the papers that my grandmother, Betty, if she could have done any job regardless of money or skill, it would have been to be a....hold on for this Brian....

a photographer. 

My dad only learned this just yesterday.

Her grandmother Mary was an amatuer photographer.  Betty was an amatuer photographer.  My brother is an amatuer photographer.  And even though I am not related by blood, I like to take pictures too.

And as people who take pictures can tell you, you take a lot of pictures.  And keep a lot, even if their "story", as Dave would say, might not mean anything to anyone else.

The point of my tale here is that all these photographs you see in the picture, they are now in the recycle bin.  I pulled out some "art" kind I will assume Betty took to show you here next post.  For all of you who may incidentally be related to the people in these photographs, I am sorry to say that they are gone.

The good news for my family is some were marked.  Like a couple of these:
This is Grandpa Richard (Dick) in the early 1940's with his son, Michael.  Michael was killed in a car accident when he was 9.  My grandparents divorced in about 1950.  Grandpa died in 1983.

Look what I found, unmarked in my pictures....

Here is me, my dad, and brother in Ak in the late 1970s.

Here is grandpa another day in the 40's.  What is interesting to me is that my grandmother died in 2008.  They were divorced almost 60 years, but she still held on to this picture.  There were no kids in it.  I guess I always imagined that when you get divorced, you would get rid of the pictures of your spouse if they didn't have the kids in them.  I think maybe this picture tells more of a story than it looks. 

First, the composition is really great.  In the last 1/3rd of the frame.  He is smiling, genuinely.  He is a light shirt so it must be warm.  He has sort of muscley arms so maybe he does some kind of manual labor (found out later he was a house painter).  The new car is in the background.  How do I know it is new?  Because I found a picture that WAS marked. 

I like that he looks happy.  Maybe my grandma kept it because it was a happy day for her too.

All the pictures in the world are not going to mean anything to whoever they end up with in 70 years if you do not mark them somehow.  Those pictures, the ones now floating about in the blue recycle bin on the porch, each have their story to share.   It just makes me sad that I cannot send them to the family who would enjoy those stories most.  My apologies.