My great grandmother – the tiniest girl, youngest of four, her father’s favorite, born in the middle of a terrible storm. She was a black sheep like me. A survivor. She left home young and married a troubled man who drank too much and loved too little. Divorce was unheard of back then… but she endured it after close to ten children in ten years.
The youngest girl in this photo was the mother of ten children (back before epidurals, when babies were born at home)… and one of those ten was my grandma Jessie (named after her mama).
The father in this photo is a man named Fred. His daddy was a wounded Southern veteran from the Civil War. He arrived home to find that his wife had remarried. Apparently the friend that saw him get shot and taken to a military hospital wasn’t a real friend. She believed the lie that he was dead. Just imagine the heartbreak for both of them upon finding out the truth. Fred, only a boy of about 8 years old at the time, walked 9 miles to his father after he returned to town… then moved away to live with his daddy, leaving his mama and her new husband behind. The gut-wrenching reality of a boy leaving his mama… and learning to live without her… breaks my ever-lovin’ heart.
I love how photos tell a story. Look at Fred’s hand resting on my great grandmother’s head. I read a story about him buying all three girls hats one day. He spent twice as much money on the baby’s hat and his wife made him return it to the store because it was showing favoritism. He begged my great-grandma to come home when he found out her husband was mean to her… but she didn’t want to bring all her children home and be a burden to her father and mother.
I love family history. The people we came from … they were real. They experienced emotion… trials… life. There’s flesh and bone reality lurking behind those faces on the age-colored photographs of our ancestors.
Life moves fast and then we all are just an image in someone’s scrapbook.
We forget how quickly the days pass. The newborn uncurling his fingers to grasp your hand… now holding a hand out to grasp a set of keys and take his driver’s test. The sweet bubbling smile of a newlywed maturing in to the sad tears of a wife lamenting the loss of her lifelong partner. My husband cried the other day when he heard the theme song for the movie “Up”. It is his favorite animated show because of the sweet story of the old couple. So funny to imagine yourself at the end of a story when you never really grow up on the inside.
Even this shall pass.
I know I’ve been absent lately – just living life with these four children. It’s a new dynamic. It takes some time to get adjusted. Not to mention added sick-time… eight little lungs with bronchitis.
On a particularly busy day this week, I got a letter from my great aunt. Out of the blue, she sent me just what I needed to hear. Look up there at the little girl in the photo and just imagine… it was one of her ten children who wrote the letter below. Time really is slipping by…
Heather, love –
Hang in there. Before you know it, the children will be out and gone. Then like me, you will wonder – were they ever babies at all?
I look at the pictures and some times I think “were they really real… and mine”? Of course, I see the pictures – now all grown up – and know they are my son and daughter… as I get older (every day), I realize they have lives and families of their own. Like me now, their children are grown up and on their own. Bill will be 66 in August and Laurel will be 65 in October.
Time passes on.
I love you and your family and know what a busy time your life is. Take care of yourself dear. Love to all of you. I pray your children are well at this time.
I cried after I read the letter… imagining the busy moments speeding by and leaving me empty handed with just memories of how wonderful it was to hold each of these blessings for just a short time. To learn with them and laugh with them, cry with them and hug them close.
I’m doing what one anonymous reader on this site suggested a while back (thank you):
Decide each day to give yourself fully to loving your children. Don’t hold back.
Really, that’s all life is about.