The Whole darn Bunch

Opa never told me about his drawings.

I found one in a box with a stack of his and Oma’s old photographs. A small rectangle of cardstock – measuring about 6″ x 2 1/4.”  Drawn in ink, perhaps with a fountain pen. My mother had written on the back…identifying it as Opa’s handiwork.

 

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circa 1926

Who are these people? I recognized two names: “Hank” is Opa and “Ruth” is Oma.  The details make me smile. Cowlicks. Curly hair. Twelve friends holding hands and grinning. Each person just a bit different from the next. Whimsical and sweet and young and happy.

And then I found these photos tucked in with the drawing.

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Labor Day 1926 Loveland Park, Ohio

I can match two of them…Hank and Ruth are second from the right. The rest – I can only guess; although “Andy” in the tank top could be a close bet on the far left.

Oma was 19 and Opa was 20 years old in September, 1926; as I imagine most of these young people probably were too. Were they all childhood friends? I have no idea. All the photos tell me is they were enjoying the day and each other. Celebrating a day off from work together.

How Opa & Oma loved their friends! They traveled with them. Exchanged letters for many years. Went out to eat. Visited both near and far. Opa went on numerous hunting and fishing trips with his buddies. Oma went along on at least one hunting trip that I know of, but I think the black flies put an end to that. They traveled to Florida for deep sea fishing trips with lifelong friends. They both made friends most everywhere they went.  Opa was an open, gregarious man who relished the art of conversation. Oma was a bit quieter, but ever present with a twinkle in her eye and a sly comeback.

Opa traveled in Europe quite often in the 1940’s and 1950’s for business. He once struck up a conversation with a man sitting next to him on a long distance train in Switzerland. Opa’s soon-to-be new friend happened to have twin daughters who were the same age as his daughter (my mother). The twins became penpals with my mother and eventually emigrated to the United States a decade later. Fast forward to my childhood — they became like family and shared many holiday celebrations with us. One twin became my sister’s godmother. I am still close friends with the surviving elderly sister, who now lives back in Switzerland. Look what a chance meeting on a train led to.

I wonder what happened to my grandparents’ friends after this Labor Day in 1926. Their friends from before marriage and children and, in a few years, the Great Depression.  When everything changed.

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Labor Day 1926 Loveland Park, Ohio

I am glad they had each other…The Whole darn Bunch.

 

 

 

 

downsizing and stuff – part 2 – photos

It shouldn’t be surprising, but too much stuff can still survive the process of downsizing. Despite the carloads and truckloads and endless Craig’s List posts and sales, too much stuff snuck into our new – smaller – home.

I wonder…so what? I found room for it – piled in closets and the 2 tiny storage units that we own. And there it stays…possibly mocking me.

Hundreds of photographs, negatives (remember negatives?) and slides (remember slides?) neatly organized by month and year in those fancy decorated shoe boxes you get at Michaels on sale for $2. Who will ever want them? Will they all end up in the nearest dumpster someday?

Photos are now mostly digital…poof! no boxes. No spaces to fill up. You can fit thousands on one of those little flash drives that fit in your pocket.  But nothing to hold in your hand….in their hands. Pieces of photo paper – glossy or pearl finish, with borders or without. Images of history.  Flip them over and if you’re lucky you’ll find  dates, names, places. The older ones may be faded or yellowed. Well loved ones may be creased or lightened from the sun where they were tacked to a bulletin board or hung near a sunny window.

Remember this? When we went to watch sunsets at Sunset Beach? Remember when she was learning to eat with a spoon? Remember when he shot a 3 & pretended to be on the Dream Team? When Opa and I played Pinochle for hours? Look at us sitting there, both of us with cigarettes alight. Memory triggers….

They all tell stories if you look close enough. I think that’s what fascinates me the most. Body language. All lined up sitting on the couch but not touching. Or with arms entwined. That smile, that frown, that wink, that grimace. Who is there and who isn’t. It all tells a story. Some happy. Some not so happy. Some painful. It is all important. To someone. I am the keeper of all that.

And there are the photographs from a hundred years ago – long departed relatives and friends posing for photos only taken a few times in a year. Most are carefully posed with older women and men standing stiffly in a back row behind the younger women or children. Or, as in the case of my grandfather’s family; his father and uncle standing with arms crossed, others grinning, others not. Three generations together. What was the reason for the photo – bow ties and all? A turn of the century family story.

1915
circa 1915

 

This still doesn’t solve my problem. All those photos in the Michael’s boxes. And the rest in file size storage bins – including the aforementioned old photos plus polaroids and instamatic prints. Then there are school pictures of….everybody. I can’t imagine that my adult children will ever want the full extra set of their toothy grin fifth grade photos. Plus the bookshelf stuffed with 40 years of photo albums.

A new friend said to me recently – do you want to leave behind a gift or a burden? Not that I am planning to get to the “leaving behind” stage of life for a while.

So what to do? I still have no idea.

BUT…..It’s so much less than before.

I insist

(to myself)