“Mom” – Family Photograph (005-100)

Mom

I love this photograph of my mother.

I would say she is around two, maybe, in the photograph. She would have lived in Arkansas, at that time.

By this time in her life she was (largely) being raised by my (maternal) great-grandparents. Her natural father had left before she was born. She only saw her natural father twice in her life. My grandmother was working to support herself and my mother…so Grannie and Pa-Pa raised her whilst my grandmother was working. For this reason my mother was always very close to her Grandmother and Grandfather.

The one word comment on the back of this photograph was written in my mother’s hand.
It reads, very simply, “UGH!”

I find it sad that she hates this image so much. I think she was a beautiful baby.

This is one of my very favorite baby pictures, ever.

“Sand & Surf” – Family Photograph (004/100)

Sand & Surf

This photograph takes us to Hawaii. And a bit forward in time (from the last images posted, anyway) as this photograph was taken in 1970. I am the little girl on the right.

I remember our trip to Hawaii, vividly.

I remember the HUGE bugs in our hotel room. And on the sidewalk. (I didn’t like bugs, then. I still don’t.) I remember singing some song–on a tiny tour boat–being led by a man who wanted us to stick our thumbs in our ears and waggle our remaining fingers towards the front of the boat, in time to whatever song it was that we were singing. I remember picking sugar cane. I remember watching a boy scale a tree to retrieve a coconut. I remember being amazed that he didn’t fall. I remember being stunned to find that McDonald’s existed in a place that had (to a three-year old) seemed so foreign. I remember going to several luaus. I remember the taste of poi (umm. YUCK!). I remember seeing Pearl Harbor. I remember the scent of the flowers in the air. I remember that it rained at nearly the same time, every day. I remember my chocolate candy necklace melted as we watched the hula dancers. I remember that having melted chocolate removed from my hair was not as much fun as eating the chocolate. I remember singing “Joy to the World” (by the Three Dog Night, not the Christmas song) at the top of my lungs, whilst jumping on the bed in our hotel room.

…I was high on the sugar cane I had eaten all day. What can I say?

And I remember sitting on this beach with my new friend. We enjoyed the feeling of the sand on our feet. We enjoyed the sound of the surf. We enjoyed watching the birds fly overhead. We didn’t talk, overly. We were just happy taking in the sights and the sounds on that sun-filled beach in Hawaii.

My mother took this photograph.
To this day it is one of my favorites.

“The Family Table” – Family Photograph (003/100)

The Family Table

This photograph probably comes from the very early 1950s. I am basing this guess upon how old my mother looks in the picture. Since this is the early fifties – this photograph was taken in Arkansas. If I had a clue about whose home this was…I would know if the image was made in McRae, Little Rock or Searcy, Arkansas. As it is…I will just list the places where the image could have been made.

Food has always been very important during gatherings of my family. I think this image shows that. When I zoomed in on the photograph – I saw baked beans. Those must have been made by my Aunt Rene. She made *awesome* baked beans. Everyone else in the family said that hers were the best so, during every family gathering, Aunt Rene provided generous portions of her baked beans. Towards the back of the table I see what looks like my Grandmother’s Walnut Maple Cake. A dense, moist cake studded with walnuts and richly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. She always topped it with a homemade maple frosting which she drizzled over the cake, warm. That cake is better than most cakes I have had in fine dining restaurants. It was glorious. Also on the table are what looks like Grannie’s pounded “within an inch of their lives” pork chops. She pounded them and then dredged them in eggs and milk before flipping them into a flour base to which she had added salt, pepper and other seasonings. She then “fried them up, proper” and would set them on the table. They never lasted very long. Rounding out the fare on the table is a salad, mashed potatoes and my Grandmother’s Jello Salad (sorry, Grandma. That was the only thing that you ever made that I could not stand. Thinking about it, all of these years later, still makes me cringe. It is just wrong to mix Jello, fruit, nuts, coconut, whipped and sour cream together and call it a dessert! ACK!) There are a few things on the table that I cannot figure out. My husband asked what the dark bottle was. When I looked at the image, again, I instantly remembered the little brown bottles in my Grandmother’s kitchen when I was a little girl. That is a sweetener. More than likely it was saccharin. Grandma took five of those little pellets in her coffee! Again I say it – ACK!

The sugar and creamer set is there. The coffee service is there. The salt and pepper shakers are there. This table looks very much like the food-laden tables of my youth. The times when we gathered (usually on Sunday nights) and had supper, together. These dinners weren’t to celebrate a special event…my family always cooked massive amounts of food. Leftovers would be saved in Pyrex (glass) dishes with lids and either consumed another night as made over leftovers – or they would be packaged off with my Grandfather (Pa) for his lunch. Food was never wasted. It was always plentiful…and nearly always fried. And then smothered with “Rich Man’s Gravy” (made with milk) or “Poor Man’s Gravy” (made with water). The vegetables were nearly always in either butter…or put into a casserole of some sort. Unless it was corn on the cob. That is the only vegetable I remember eating in the form it grew. Of course it was slathered in butter. And generously sprinkled with salt and pepper.

I am sure that you will not be surprised to learn that heart disease runs in my family after reading the description of the daily fare on offer…

I like this image because it shows my family in good spirits. With maybe the exception of my aunt and my great-great grandmother. I am sure that you might be able to hazard a guess as to who they are from that small clue. Aunt Rene and great-great grandmother N. really don’t look happy in this image – but everyone else does and I like that. I don’t know if my Grandmother was looking at the food, or my mother. She has a sort of crazed look about her which amuses me. I have a strange sense of humor, I know.

The people in the photograph (from left to right – starting in the back) are: my grandmother (Mary), my aunt (Ella-Mae, she went by Mae), My great-grandmother (Essie), my great-grandfather (Estes), my aunt (Lorene, we called her Aunt Rene) and my uncle (Nolan). Seated (in the middle) are: Mrs. Marks (my Aunt Mae’s Mother-in-Law) and my great-great grandmother (Grannie N. I have never been made aware of her first name. She was a mean, mean woman and did a lot of really mean things to cats. I think that is where my Grandmother’s dislike of cats came from). Seated in the front row: Aunt Rene and Uncle Nolan’s son (L-R), Aunt Mae and Uncle Leo’s son (L), Aunt Rene and Uncle Nolan’s son) (B-D), my mother’s half-brother (my uncle, C) and my mother.

I am betting the dining arrangement wasn’t always like this. The refrigerator (a Frigidaire) is directly behind my Grandmother without room to open the door due to the chairs…and it looks like the stove is directly behind my Uncle Nolan.

It was definitely a cozy kitchen!

“The Great Ocean” – Family Photograph (002/100)

The Great Ocean

I love this picture. Very much. This image is dated May, 1955.

It shows my great-grandfather (Estes) a man who I would never know…though he did get to meet me. He was present on the day of my birth. As my relatives assembled to coo and awwww over the first (and only) baby of my parents, the first grandchild and the first great-grandchild of the family, my great-grandfather was stroking my legs. When he got to my feet he excitedly ran over to a chair, took off his shoes, ripped off his socks, pointed to his feet and exclaimed that I had his toes! Papa died, alas, when I was six months old. But that family story is one that I especially like. I think this photograph shows him as he has always been described to me. A lover of life and an appreciator of lovely women. My mother had always said that I am just like him in that I have “never met a stranger.” Meaning that I (and he, apparently) could/would/will strike up a conversation with absolutely anyone. He had a marvelous (if wicked) sense of humor. He loved his wife…and he loved his family. He had been a farmer before moving from Arkansas to California. I like to imagine what he was thinking and how he felt about seeing that large expanse of water. Judging by his smile, though – he seemed to like it, just fine.

I also love that this photograph shows a side of my great-grandmother (Essie) that I didn’t see very often as she got older. Growing up, when I glanced at this photograph, I thought that she was holding a kite. Which seemed strange to me, even then. As I got older I saw that the “kite” was actually a tangled mass of seaweed. Which made a bit more sense, anyway. Grannie was an interesting person, as well as a loving person. It was in her kitchen that I learned to make biscuits. My great-grandmother made the best buttermilk biscuits I have ever had. She would patiently instruct me how to mix the dough and how to handle the dough so that it wouldn’t become tough from over-working it. I always had a good time with my great-grandmother…but she was rather quiet. And serious, for the most part. But her laugh would brighten a room. And her eyes lit up when she laughed. I think this photograph shows that she didn’t take herself too seriously and that she wasn’t afraid to have fun.

The back of the photograph carries some information about the image. The words have been written in my great-grandmother’s handwriting. The words say:

This is Papow and I first time I ever saw the Great Ocean*

From those words I take it that she enjoyed seeing the (Pacific) Ocean. That’s the part of Grannie that I didn’t really get to see. I would catch fleeting glimpses of a woman who loved nature as she watered her plants, lovingly pruned her hydrangeas, or inhaled, deeply, the scent from the roses that I would bring to her…but never had I truly envisioned her with her bare toes in the sand–her hand aloft–holding the treasure from the water that she had rescued. A massive tangle of seaweed. On the day she first saw “The Great Ocean.”

*As an aside – I think it’s cute that she refers to the Pacific Ocean as the Great Ocean. I wonder if that is a regional (read: southern) thing, a generational thing or an Essie-ism?

“Generations” – Family Photograph (001/100)

Generations

This photograph depicts my mother (Sue-Ann), my grandmother (Mary), my great-grandmother (Grannie, Essie) and my aunt (Ella-Mae – but I called her Aunt Mae). This picture was taken in the backyard of my grandparent’s home on Tiara Street in Anaheim, California. The picture is not dated but I am estimating it was taken in the late fifties. It looks to be shortly after my mother and grandparents moved out to California from Arkansas.

A couple of things always struck me about this photograph. During my lifetime I only very rarely saw my grandmother not wearing her glasses* and neither my great-grandmother nor my aunt were fond of dark colors. I don’t know why Grandma isn’t wearing glasses in this photograph…but the reason for the dark clothing may be able to be explained by what is written on the back of the photograph, in the hand of my great-grandmother.

This was made when Papow was in Hospital with his first Hart Atact

Maybe the formality of the situation explains the dark clothing choices. I don’t know.

I copied, exactly, what Grannie had written on the back of the image. (Grannie never finished school…so her spelling always suffered, somewhat.) Grannie capitalized Hospital and (her spelling of) Heart Attack. I tend to capitalize those words, too. Initially it seemed to me that she struggled with spelling out what relatives called my great-grandfather (her husband). Seeing it written that way on the back brought to mind how all of my relatives said his “name.” I have always spelled it “Papa” in my mind – but they always said it as she spelled it… Papow. Maybe it’s a southern thing.

Despite the image being taken during a stressful time in the life of my family…I have always liked this image. Everyone looks happy and I just love my mother’s dress. The backyard of that house, as well as the house itself, had always been a favorite of mine. It always felt like home to me. I absolutely loved that house.

*As I was posting this I realized that my son has this issue with me. Last week I had wandered out of my room and noted that Madison was looking at me, strangely. I asked him what was wrong and he asked “Did your glasses break, again?” I answered with “No, why?” and he said “Because the only time I ever see you without your glasses is when they are broken. And you don’t look like yourself without your glasses.”