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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Putting away childish things . . .

It's time to take down the Christmas decorations. We keep them up until after "Little Christmas" so we can enjoy the celebration, but it's always hard to know when, exactly, to take them all down.

It's not just about the work, but there is that. It's just hard to say 'goodbye' to all the decorations and the memories they bring until next year.

A couple of years ago, I bought some picture frame stocking hangers for the mantle and put every one's baby pictures in them - our daughters and son, our sons and daughter in law and, of course the grandchildren.

Our family has grown by leaps and bounds since then. I'm now in need of two more and have discovered that this particular style is no longer available. I've made an uneasy peace with that, but with more emphasis on the 'uneasy' than the 'peace' than I'd like to admit.

It will work out next year. The only one who will grimace as the lack of uniformity will be me. Everyone else will be thrilled.

These are the "baby" pictures of moi and Ms. Conroy. I was standing guard over my baby brother's carriage, obviously trying very hard to look very cool and not doing so very well at it.

I love this picture of Ms. Conroy. She still makes that face when she's not gotten her way. Makes me giggle.
This is Ms. Conroy's favorite baby picture of me. I should go and have another copy made so I can replace the one in the picture frame stocking holder with this one.

I apologize for the quality of the picture, but I think you can still tell its me. I was a real chubbette, right? I mean, look at those cheeks! Must have been all that evaporated milk laced with Karo syrup they used to feed us. That was the 'formula' then.

I wonder why it is that parents of that generation did that curly thing on the top of our heads. Anybody know?

I don't think it was a 'gender thing'. I've seen pictures of baby boys who had the same offense committed against them.

Okay, one more picture from my family album.

These are my maternal grandparents. My grandmother was 16. My grandfather was 18.

She is wearing her cousin's wedding gown which she brought with her to this country from Lisbon. The story goes that this picture was taken after the wedding so she could have something to send back to her father and brothers in Portugal to 'prove' that she was, in fact, married.

That wasn't so much a 'decency' thing, but rather, so her father couldn't force her to return to Lisbon to care for her brothers and him. I suspect that's why no one looks very happy. I can't even begin to imagine what it was like to be considered a piece of property. Or, to not have the right to vote. Or, own property yourself.

There is a sort of dignity to them, isn't there? Look at my grandfather's hand - that's a glove he's holding. How elegant, right?

They didn't know they were poor. All they knew was that life in 'the old country' was far worse than here. That made them wealthy by comparison. Indeed, as poor as they were, they still sent money 'back home' to help out, and even helped to pay for the transportation costs to bring more of their relatives here.

As my grandmother used to say, their greatest treasure was hope.

I love it that my grandchildren are beginning to get old enough to have curiosity about these pictures. While they love seeing their baby pictures in the picture frame stocking holders, they want to know the stories of the people they see in the pictures framed and displayed on my book shelves and end tables.

And so, I tell them all the stories I know. I tell them as gift and I tell them as prayer. I want them to know and celebrate their rich heritage. I want them to remember that, except for the First People, everyone who lives in America came here from someplace else - some to escape poverty and others to be plunged into slavery. It is as much humbling as it is provocative to remember that.

The house looks rather bare this afternoon. The 'childish' decorations are all down now, stored in boxes for next year. We'll schlep them up to the attic tomorrow afternoon.

But the memories will linger like the pine needles we'll still be picking up in July. We'll still be telling the stories when we gather for birthdays or anniversaries or summer feasts.

I wouldn't have it any other way.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

Elizabeth, you'll have to go over to my Facebook page under "fun photos." I have a couple baby pics there, including me and my first "horse."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

What GREAT pictures! They are fun. I have to learn how to scan pictures in. I'm sure they'll reproduce much better that way.

Jane R said...

You don't look like a chubette to me, you look the way babies should look, with nice round healthy cheeks. Great photos. Thanks for sharing them.