Saturday, September 25, 2004

Family Photos From the Trash

Few things are more pathetic than having generations of your family photos end up in the trash.

Around eight years ago, Tom brought home a couple boxes from the curb. In one, there was an old flour sifter decorated with painted strawberries. There was also a rolling pin and a few other kitchen things.

In the other box were photo albums and loose photos dating from the 1800's~~a whole family history which had been destined for the trash for reasons I can't fathom. The pictures centered around the three sisters, Ella, Esther and Eunice in the above photo. From what I could piece together, Esther outlived her sisters and these photos last belonged to her.

There is a picture of the girls' mother's family~~a sepia-toned affair of many daughters gathered around their parents in 1800's studio style, complete with a little dog and belongings scattered around the thick carpet. Then there are later pictures of the girls' parents and baby pictures of the three daughters. Eunice was the oldest, born in 1892.

Eunice created two photo albums for Esther filled with black and white travel photos pasted upon black pages. It appears that Eunice and her husband took a trip across the United States before relocating in CA in a new home, a cute bungalow. Eunice sent many photos of her life to Esther back here in NY.

The box contained pictures of Esther's husband, son and daughter, too. But mostly, Esther's photos aren't labeled. In fact, most of the pictures outside of Eunice's albums are without penciled-in labels. I nearly drove myself mad for two evenings trying to piece together who-was-who and what-was-what. Yet it was a fun kind of madness to play detective and try to reconstruct a one-hundred-and-thirty-year-long family history.

(Note to myself and anyone else:label all your photos!)

Of course, the real insanity comes while wondering things like, "Did these three girls have happy lives? Did Eunice and Ella also live into their 90's like we're guessing Esther did according to when Tom found the photos? Whatever happened to Esther's son and daughter? Why didn't they rescue the family photos? Did Esther perhaps outlive both her children? Her nieces and nephews,also? Did an uncaring executor of the estate just dump the photos on the curb?"

It's odd, but eight years later, I'm still asking these same questions. And every once in awhile I drag out the box of photos on snowy, winter nights, only to ask myself these same questions again and again.

Well, whatever the reason, I'm glad Tom rescued these pictorial memories. In a way, it has kept the memory of Eunice, Ella and Esther alive a few years longer. And now even more people, like you, will remember them, too.

But my most comforting thought has been that God knows exactly who these people were, just like He knows exactly who I am~~and who you are. He remembers our history. His eyes are always upon us, come what may, and He will never forget us. Yes, that's a comforting thought, indeed.

Oh and by the way... I still use Esther's strawberry-painted flour sifter. It hangs on my kitchen wall to remind me of her.

1 comment:

Terri Cheney said...

I have started picking up stranger's photos, especially sepia toned ones, at flea markets. A mother and two lovely daughters from a photography studio in Texas, a family grouped with "Grandpa Sayer's brothers and sisters". Recently my mom gave me two shoe boxes of family photos, with barely visible penciled in notations on the back. As I do more and more genealogy research, I get the connection to some of the names, and a few are still a mystery But I love looking at them, the details of dress, plants (most were taken outdoors), decorative details on homes, etc.