Over 20 years ago, my mother had given me many pictures of not only herself, but also pictures of my ancestors. I have cherished these photos over the years, but for some reason, this time, the pictures beckoned to me to stop and take a closer look at them, so I laid my dust cloth aside and began to study the details in each picture as I had never done in the past.
I studied their faces, some smiling, some somber.
I studied their clothing and tried to determine the colors and textures of the fabrics, but being that the photos were in black and white, I could not determine what colors that they actually were.
I looked at the wedding picture of my grandparents, sitting next to each other in separate chairs, not holding hands or even looking as though it was a special occasion. It had an eerie sadness about it. My grandmother wearing what appears to be a black fur collar dress suit, with tall lace up boots (which would be very much in style today), is holding a large spray of flowers on her lap. My grandfather wearing a dark suit with a corsage on his lapel looks expressionless.
Moving onto may own parents wedding photo I see my mother wearing an ivory knee length skirt and matching jacket. The only reason that I know for sure that it was ivory is the fact that she kept this suit, and I was able to wear it to school when I was in the 8th grade. I loved it and was so happy that she kept it in good shape over the years. Neither her nor my father have smiles on their faces, not even the slightest upturn of their lips. She is not holding any flowers, but rather she and my father are wearing corsages.
I continue onto pictures of my grandmother before she got married, smiling with a friend of hers as they pose for a picture dressed in men’s suits. The story goes that my grandmother and her friend were quite “gutsy” as my mother put it, to walk through the town streets dressed in men’s suits. I love this picture and like to think that some of that “gutsiness” was passed onto me. Next is a great aunt who was always known for her laughter, smiling beautifully in this picture and wearing a very large hat. Finally, I look at a family photo of my grandmother and her family taken on the front step of her childhood home. Only two of my great uncles have even the slightest smiles on their faces.
As I stared deeper into each photo, I wondered what dreams they may have all have had throughout their lives and at the time of each picture. Were they all that different than the dreams that we all have today?
Did they aspire to be someone who makes a difference in this world, or were they just trying to survive?
Did they have hopes and dreams for their marriages? I hoped that they looked at their wedding day as a special occasion, but by looking at these wedding pictures, wondered if they put as much emphasis and planning on that actual day as has become the norm today. I have to think that they did not. I think a wedding was just a means to get married, which was and should still be the main focus of a wedding day.
Because my mother had shared many of their lives stories with me, I know some of the answers to how their lives actually turned out, but what I will never know is if it was how they envisioned their lives would be.
If I could ask my ancestors about their lives, what would they say? Maybe that yes, they had dreams and hopes, and some of them came true, and some did not. We all have dreams and hopes and sometimes what we think we want does happen how we envisioned it, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, life sends you in another direction. A direction that you had never even thought of, and that turns out to be good or even better than you had dreamed of.
The main thing though is that they lived their lives, good and bad, while they were here, and that is really all that each of us can do too.
So, what would I want my great, great, grandchildren and beyond to know about me when they are going through the pictures of my life?
Well, that I too dreamed, hoped, loved, succeeded and failed. I lived in a way that I felt would make God and others proud of me. I was passionate about many things and I tried my best, and then I passed the life’s baton onto the next generation to continue on with their own lives, dreams and hopes.