I met my aunt for dinner this evening and she surprised me with a gift: vintage photographs of my maternal grandparents and parents. I don’t have access to a scanner, or I’d show them to you.
One photo, black and white, features my grandparents, my tiny mom, and her tinier brother. We figured it was from 1944, as there was no newborn sister yet, and the siblings were born almost exactly a year apart. They sat on the grass in front of the house my grandparents built, looking as people often do in older photos – kinda smiling, kinda uncomfortable. It’s one of the few pictures I’ve ever seen of my grandfather. He passed away when I was very young.
Another photo, color, was taken two decades or so later. Aunt, uncle, grandma, and grandpa are standing on the porch of the same house. Mom and dad are holding center court, sitting on the front steps. My mom was so skinny! She remained small most of her adult life. As an aside, her arms look very toned in this picture. My arms look like that right now…
I see old pictures like this and I am often filled with questions. When did my parents meet? Is it true they only dated 2 weeks before they decided to marry? Why did they elope and keep it a secret for a whole year? What was it like growing up with my grandparents? Five people with one bathroom? Really? Was grandpa a nice man? What is my birth story?
My parents are both deceased and there are countless questions I wish I had asked them. They weren’t the kind of people who would randomly sit you down and share a story without provocation. And for whatever reason, it never crossed my mind to ask them while I could. I have relatives who are gold mines of family knowledge, and I plan to collect oral histories to preserve the family memory. But my parents’ own stories of their lives are forever gone with them.