The Goddess Speaks
Family photos tell the stories of many lives
When my mom had knee surgery a few years ago, we traveled to the mainland to help with her recovery. It turned out she was in pretty good shape and needed more company than assistance. We were happy to oblige.
We spent most of our time together preparing meals and eating them, watching "CSI" episodes on television, reading magazines, talking and talking and talking and wandering about her lovely home looking for amusement.
My daughter was enthralled with the medical equipment set up for her grandmother's rehabilitation. Lots of buttons to push.
I was drawn to the basement.
Down there, I searched among boxes of carefully packed and haphazardly stored artifacts from my childhood. Reminders of my past.
I felt them as I wandered barefoot on the cool concrete floor and knew that when I left my mother's house, many of these concrete memories would return with me to mine.
My newfound treasures included four boxes of family photos. Not just snapshots of me and my siblings and our parents, but also their parents and their siblings and our ancestors from other lands. Windows to their pasts.
My goal has been to scan all of these photos and sort them into folders to create an extensive digital file for each of my sisters and my mother as a holiday gift.
In that process I've taken an incredible journey through my family with an opportunity to feel my parents in the vibrancy of their youth, bask in the warmth of their adoration of my childhood, and find a connection with their parents, who were merely voices on the phone on Sunday evenings.
My mother was an adorable child and a beautiful young woman. My father was handsome -- very. I didn't know this when I was young. It wasn't how they identified themselves as the professionals or parents that I knew. But looking back at their college parties and suburban bridge games, I see the twinkle in his eye and the sparkle in her smile and for a moment know them in a different time and place.
I remember my mother's voice more than her touch. We have never been an overly affectionate family -- or so I thought. But in photo after photo I see her holding my hand or touching my hair, and I am touched once again.
And then there's my father's story. I knew he was in "The War." And I knew he was married once before. But he never talked much about either. I was deeply moved by the photos of both. Pictures of Iwo Jima after "The Bomb" and snapshot after snapshot of a woman I finally figured out was his first wife make these most private aspects of his life more real to me.
This trip to my mother's house and down her basement stairs took me places I never imagined. From those boxes that I discovered, I have managed to open the doors of my youth, catch a glimpse of my parents back then and their parents as well, transcending our boundaries to connect once more through the archives of our family history.
Lorraine Gershun is publications adviser for Searider Productions at Waianae High School.
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