Monday, December 12, 2016

A Rich History

by Carol

"We are not makers of history,we are made by history."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

I spent this past week as the "first wave" of family helping my parents move out of their house of the last 35 years. It contains most of the belongings from their previous house which they lived in for most of their married life. And that is quite a married life - on December 18 they will celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary!

Honeymooning in NYC

Significantly downsizing is an interesting task (and a lot of hard work)! My kids and I worked dawn to dusk every day, and made it through only about 3/4 of the attic. There were/are many lessons through this process, as I am sure many of you know, but writing here on a completely egocentric note, that attic taught me so much about me! It has never been more clear where I came from, what is important to me and what my influences are. In the give-away piles were chairs, clothing, giftware, ornaments, electronics (but not the old records that went with them).

Then there were the hard-to-give-away piles.

First, for me (and this will come as a total shock to you all, I know) PHOTOGRAPHS! I came home with two suitcases full of photographs from 4 generations - almost back to the first photographs made. And the majority of them are labeled! I can see the faces and houses of my great, great, great grandparents that embellish the stories I've been told about them. These will generate many future posts I'm sure, as they are all now in my possession (since I have the capability to copy them for my sisters.)

One of the few unlabeled, but I couldn't pass up the tiny frame (2")

Secondly, historical artifacts. My daughter took a 1920's art deco, black iron ashtray with a panther on it. She doesn't smoke, but it is a very cool looking piece of art right out of Gatsby's salon. I took newspapers from Nancy France during World War I when my grandfather was stationed there. I also took artwork my grandmother made while a student at Pratt Art Institute in NYC. And framed paintings from each generation. There is a photo of my great grandmother at age 7 wearing a coat sewed by her mother - and the coat itself which will be hung together. 

My grandfather's World War I stripes

From Gram's art school portfolio 

And finally - close to all of our hearts - books, books, books. My mother's first priority in her new home is her bookcase and which books she will fill it with. She found her lifelong collection so hard to part with, and each of us daughters wanted some of it. I took some antique children's books for now. Someday the ancient family Bible will become ours too.

I saw in concrete form what has always been important to our family. Education, Art, Music, Literature. Beauty. I am engaged in cleaning and "minimalizing" in my own home, but these treasures will find a home with me. I'll toss the mass-produced stuff to make room. I am filled with such gratitude for the legacy of my family that made me who I am.

Living history. Personal history.

"History cannot give us a program for the future, 
but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, 
and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future."
                                  Robert Penn Warren


AFishGirl said...

Oh, the photographs. The photographs. It will be so good to see them here in future posts. I am glad you all have each other to do this task. To be surrounded by people you love. Thinking of you.

Carol said...

Thanks so much Pam. None of us live in the same state, but we are all working together from a distance. Appreciate the good thoughts...

Dotti said...

What a treasure trove you brought home! More precious than the crown jewels. It is quite remarkable that you have so many generations of photos, history and keepsakes. What photos we do have go only to my grandparents as three of them were immigrants from Europe. I do have photos of my grandfather's family from Italy but I have no idea who they are! Nevertheless, I treasure them.

And now you have the solemn yet joy-filled duty of sharing (and preserving!) these treasures with your sisters, your children and their children so that you can all build on the generations in the family treasure trove. It will be a gratifying task, a real labor of love.

Oh! And your parents on their honeymoon are so cute!!!!!! {{ heart }}

kelly said...

What a beautiful way to start the week Carol. I can only imagine how challenging of a task this must be for you all. But what a treasure. And how awesome is it to see you family's core values throughout the years. xoxo

Deanna said...

A beautiful post. You are so blessed to have a legacy of such beauty. What treasures!!

Anonymous said...

Such a wonderful post, Carol. You are so fortunate in many ways -- that you come from a family that values art, beauty. books for starters, that you continue the lineage with your own creativity and passions, that your parents had such a long happy marriage, that you have these incredible photos (and know most of those in them, thanks to labelling!), that you are working so well with family members to help with the downsizing -- yes, all this makes my heart happy to hear.

Cathy H. said...

Downsizing and going through family treasures can be both bittersweet and wonderful. I know it's difficult to part with things that hold memories, but on the other hand looking through the beautiful photos would bring such joy. And those books, oh, they are such treasures!!

terriporter said...

Carol, I know this job has been a journey for you, both in the time it has taken and in all the wonderful memories that it brings. Such amazing treasures! You are truly blessed that your family found these things important to save and to pass on. My mother gave me all of their old photos (even her and my dad's baby books!) when she downsized and I treasure them. Thanks for sharing these! Truly wonderful.

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