Thursday, April 7, 2011

Photographs and Memories

I must be on a Jim Croce kick today.  For those of you, too young to know, Jim Croce was a soft rock singer popular in the early 70's who died tragically in an airplane crash after recording only a couple of record albums.  But he had a few top 10 songs and developed almost a cult following as his music spoke to many of us.  Some of his shortest songs, were his sweetest.  "Photographs and Memories" are one that has stayed with me through the years.

My nephew Jeremy's wife, Kerry and I are Facebook friends.  Since they live in the southern part of the state, I don't often get to see them and love following my two grandniece's and grandnephew through the pictures and anecdotes, Kerry puts up on Facebook.  She recently put a picture of her eldest daughter and son riding on a "penny horse" at a store.  Taylor and Trevor are about the same age apart as my brother Kim and I, and I was reminded of that and told Kerry as much in the comment section.  She asked if I had any old pictures of Kim and I as kids I could put up as many have told her Trevor looks just like his grandpa.  That prompted a visit over to Mom's for the "red" album which contained my baby pictures and Kim's.  The album was worn and frayed from much perusing over the years.  Pages had come loose and the cover was about to fall off.  But oh, such good memories are contained in those pages and pictures.

Before I came home with the albums, Mom and I had a memory catchup and left behind the dreary early April day in Michigan to remember a childhood that I describe now, as wonderful.  If I could just reach back and capture some of those times again....

We talked growing up rural and the country neighborhood, where all but Mom are gone now and only a handfull of their children remain.  But while we were desparate as kids growing up, my closest friends, two sisters, no longer live close, those that remained have formed a bond of shared childhoods in this setting.  We have stayed to look after our parents, though that was not originally the plan and to be the keepers of the country flame.  It is what it is, and the generations have thinned out.  What once was 3 and 4 generations farming the shared land is no longer.  Those that have remained look to children removed from that, and we know we are probably the last of our families to stay.  It is sad in many ways, but it is also the way it is...I can linger in that sadness or be grateful for what I have and have had and look to whatever future remains for me.

The afternoon proved a good one, one in which Mom and I connected, in a shared way of mother and daughter, remembering the bonds that hold us close.  And that evening amid dreary rain, I opened the albums and was transported back to a joyous time, I mostly only remember through the pictures snapped, forever capturing me in my all my baby glory, black and white and exquisite to me.  I smiled at the pictures of my two favorite girl cousins and the times we went up to my grandparents cottage, our moms taking just the kids up and we being kids, eating dry cereal out of individual serving boxes, called variety packs and something we got only when on vacation.  Glimpses of my grandparents cottage which I knew so intimately growing up as it was a part of every one of my summers.  Even now, I can close my eyes and smell the smells that made it unique.  The piney smell of evergreen trees that surrounded it.  The smells of water and wet sand.  The chatter of squirrels that woke us every morning, and the rich smells of coffee brewing and in August, Grandpa's "fried apples" on the stove for breakfast.  Even thought black and white picutes, I remember vividly, the colors of that place...

I remember the elm trees that surrounded my house and were gone so soon after we moved to the "farm", victims of Dutch Elm disease.  They are a faded memory, but the pictures bring back how lush the farm was with them and how denuded it seemed at first when they were gone.  But that was another good memory.  In order to replace all the trees we lost, my dad would dig up maple saplings from the creek area and brought them up to the house and planted them where Mom directed.  We each got a tree and it was our job to water that tree until it took hold.  It became our tree and I remember every tree we planted and nutured. 

We were country kids and did things like sled and ice skate in the winter, and wade in the creek in the summer and try to avoid "bloodsuckers" which visiting city cousins always seemed to find and a quick foot and leg check after wading was always in order.  We ate fresh picked sweet corn and strawberries.  We had homemade canned pickles, not realizing the work it took to can all those jars of cucumbers every August and why the smell of dill will always evoke the summer kitchen and pickle making.  We rode the tractors with our dad as often as we could and when we got our first two wheeled bikes, we lived on them during the summer months visiting our country "best friends"....

I often think, my kids could not possibly have had as good a life as I did growing up, but I have a suspicion, my mom would say the same thing about her childhood, and I hope my kids consider it a wonderful time of memories. 

So I looked through the albums and took a step back in time and thought how young my mom and dad were, how hopeful that all would go right in their young married life, just as I am sure I looked in my later albums.  It is the cycle of life we have been given.  My prayer is that I live up to all that has been bestowed with a willing and cheerful  heart even in my later years. 

Thanks for the memories....

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