Waxing nostalgic about family and three wishes

Aunts, uncles, cousins. My Mother is the woman standing on the right in the back. My Dad is the man seated facing forward on the right.

Aunts, uncles, cousins. My Mother is the woman standing on the right. My Dad is the man stooping, facing forward on the right.

My recent project was to frame old photos and position them along my staircase wall. I have wanted to do this for a while but it’s a chore. I don’t have great photos of my parents and grandparents. I don’t even have many photos of me as a child. The ones I have are all the wrong size. Who ever heard of photos that are 1-1/2 inches square? These were the days before inexpensive cameras and color film…and standardization.

There is something so special about going through old photos. Most of them were taken between 1920 and 1955. It’s almost as if I was reliving the times. I saw flapper outfits and old-time hairdo’s. There were automobiles and furniture that were from the beginning of the century.  It was very cool.

I got nostalgic looking at the very few pictures I have of my father. I forgot how handsome he was.  I surprised myself at how much I still miss him. He has been gone over 50 years.

There were pictures of my mother as a child with her many siblings. She was so pretty. People are laughing and singing and hugging. Really having a great time.

The beloved husband pulled out his old family pictures and we were hard pressed to come up with good photos of any grandparents. What we have are black and white and blurred but they will do.

There is a picture of a picnic with all sorts of relatives sitting around the grass. I wasn’t born yet so it was probably just after World War II. People are having a good time. I can see my aunts and uncles and older cousins. I wish I was there.

What strikes me most is how young and full of hope everyone is. I remember most of them as older people, not as twenty-something’s partying. They were beautiful and carefree. Almost all of them are gone now.

I wonder if someone would say that about me. Aging is a harsh process. The worries and troubles are etched in your skin and in your psyche. They erode your naivety. You lose some of your easy trust and become more jaded with life. What you have left is resilience. Survivorship. Not a bad thing but not the same as the promise of youth I see in these pictures.

Just on a whim, I looked up data on my grandparents and was able to find information I didn’t know. They emigrated here in 1899. They look like something out of American Gothic. How hard it must have been for them. Maybe this photo project will encourage me to start down another project tracking our family history.

Three wishes — I wish I could go back for an afternoon to spend time really listening to my long-gone relatives. I wish I would have been more attentive when they were around. I wish I would have told them all how much I loved them.

22 thoughts on “Waxing nostalgic about family and three wishes

  1. I echo your 3 wishes, Kate. A very thoughtful post. I fondly recall the days we lived at my maternal grandmother’s house. It was filled with fun, laughter and many wonderful memories.
    About aging. I see older folks slowly hobble along, knowing how they once were full of energy and had a quick gait. That makes me sad. What’s sadder still is that I wonder when that will be true of me.


  2. You struck a chord of longing in my heart, too, Kate. I do still have my parents with me, for which I know I’m more than fortunate. But there have been many others in my life I miss terribly, and would love to have just a few more moments of time with. I remember when my husband and I watched the movie based on the Mitch Albom book, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” and it hit my husband like a ton of bricks. I was almost unsure we should have seen it! He lost his dad when he was a child, and his mom years later, but the emotions that movie stirred really come to mind as I hear you speak. Photos and reminiscing can sure stir melancholy,but what a treasure it would be for you to track your family history. As you do, share your journey if you can! It will be interesting. 🙂


    • It stirred up quite a bit of good memories but a lot of melancholy too. I dreamed of dying after writing this post and I am sure it was connected. I am still working on the photos though.


  3. The problem with projects like this is we tend to get absorbed in the photos and nothing much gets done. My mother recently gave me some old photos and my kids refuse to believe that the woman in the bathing suit, with long black hair in fact their grandmother.
    If you having difficulty with the size of the photos, Sam’s club copies old photos and they can change the size. They can even take out any cracks…my mom had that done for us when my brother passed away. Just a thought…good luck with your project!


    • You are so right! The photos are all over the dining room table. I have Photoshop so I am spending hours taking out creases and cropping and resizing. Nothing else is getting done. Even dinner is kind of thrown together so I can get back to it. Now I want to work on ancestry.com too! Thanks on the printing tips. Our printer (which is supposed to print photos) is casting a pinkish glow over everything so I will have to get them printed.


  4. A lovely nostalgic post. I can identify with all those yearnings to know your family. If only we could go back in time like “on vacation” to just meet and greet and share, and then come back all the wiser.


    • We always had a 4th of July picnic with ALL the relatives on both sides at my uncle’s farm. It was wonderful. Birch beer on tap for the kids and a watermelon cooling in the creek. Everybody brought their own food so it was a smorgasbord! I’d just love to go back for one of those picnics.


  5. Your commentary touched me. You see them in photos. You see them in your hearts eye. Wouldn’t it be cool if they see you? Between you and me, I will still tell my grandpa I love him from time to time. When a shadow crosses the window sill just right, I almost think he hears me. Trust solace will grace you there. Thank you. Dan


  6. Wonder of all wonders and wishes of all wishes. That’s the strange thing about looking at old photos. It brings out this deep feeling hiding inside. Black and white I think are good colours for an old photo. Rest assure when you are gone, the living will be having the same wonders and wishes. Thanks for sharing this nostalgic moment.


  7. Lovely post, Kate. Time marches on so swiftly. Like you, I’d love to have a day with my parents and grandparents when they were in the bloom of youth. What fun that would be.

    Maybe in the after-life we get to have those conversations and compare notes?


  8. How wonderful you have all the photos. (Please make back up copies and keep safely someplace: like in a acid free plastic sheets in a binder. Write down any information/stories you can remember about the picture. This is important as photos can fade or get damaged – and it makes a family history book later generations will cherish – my mom did some of this for each of us – I was too little to even remember most of my grandparents, so this is all I have.)


    • I have been thinking about posting them on-line in a place that my family who lives all over the place can access. This is all we have of the grandparents. There were two professional photographs of my father’s parents. My aunt had them and when she died I don’t know what happened to them. Probably got sold for a dollar in a yard sale. I was willing to buy them!


      • Digital is a great idea – everyone could add stories/pictures they have, too.
        just be sure it’s secure on-line. Once stuff is posted, you can lose control – not so honest people grab stuff/pictures and use them as they wish.
        Really considering making copies of what you have – just in case.


  9. A touching and insightful post. I love your paragraph…all of it…on “I wonder….” Me too. I’d like to share in your three wishes too. Since I can’t, I’ll just keep pressing on. That’s just what we must do. Thanks.


  10. I have the same thing going on. I have a couple of photos of my grandparents, a few of my parents and then odds-n-ends of me. Photography wasn’t the done thing when we were growing up. It’s difficult for me to look at the few photos that I do have because everyone looks so uptight and tired. Not at all like the colorful, relaxed candids that we are accustomed to seeing nowadays.


  11. Awesome, I see Stella and Joe, Uncle Steve, one of the Schwartz’s. My hubby’s brother and cousin traced their ancestors to Europe. Then they took a vacation and found their great grandparents home. They even spoke to the people living there now and were invited in for cake and coffee. They toured the area and brought back pictures.
    Next reunion bring out those pics. I’d love to see them.


    • I should figure out where to post so relatives can access. I have two photos of my grandfather. He was a short guy with a crinkly smile! I bet there are great stories about him. Oh yes, the wine stories. He made his own wine….in the barn….much to the dismay of my grandmother!


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