Over the weekend I was looking through photos. Actual hold in your hand photographs. Probably taken on an Instamatic Kodak camera complete with a rotating flashbulb and film~~ or as I remember my dad had an old Brownie camera and 8mm camera & yes you young people out there “film” that had to be taken to the store, developed and then picked up a few days later and “viola!” photographs to look at for many years to come.
Photographs that capture the faces of people you love, places you have been and they capture memories you may have forgot or memories you will never forget. No doubt about it photographs are little glimpses into a moment in time that can elicit a smile, a laugh or an emotional cry.
I realize that the core of myself comes from my ancestry. So many people are jumping on the ancestry website offers & the 23&me kit, in fact my brother did the 23&me kit and found out his ancestry is 48.3% British and Irish and 19.5% French and German, and 1.7% Native American (not sure what happened to the other 30.5% but I digress) the point being my great grandparents, grandparents and parents are responsible for my biological self. In so many ways those people also formed in me so many memories that sustain me in my times of reflection of those memories. The photographs in my mind are those that I hold so close in my heart. This is where I began……….
My set of grandparents had disparately different households. My dad’s parents were a rather prosperous and with my grandfather an accountant for a prominent part of a Bay City, Mi business. A beautiful Victorian home in the city. My mom’s parents were farmers and during the depression era and I am sure it was a rough life. It is rumored that the marriage between my maternal grandmother & grandfather was an arranged marriage by their parents~ my grandmother was 13 years younger and she never wanted to be married but was longing to be a nun. My mom’s mom was a very, very pious woman of the Catholic faith ~ she would do her prayers on crushed tin cans to suffer as Jesus did (rumored not sure I believe all that but I think it is an idealization of her perspective of faith and service to the church) So it make sense that my own mother would have adapted the same type of attitude. She was the second eldest of 8 children. My mother was born in 1929 at the very start of the depression and my grandmother went on to have 6 more children~ Can you imagine having 8 children in the midst of the depression? I certainly can’t.
My memories of spending time with my Mimi and Grandpa Lalonde (my father’s parents) are different from the memories of my Mimi & Pippi Dore (my mother’s parents) **sidebar note, we called my grandparents “Mimi” and “Pippi” because of our French heritage, but for some unknown reason my paternal grandfather was always “grandpa’ and never “pippi”. Anyway, those memories may have been different but they are treasured memories just the same.
Going to my Mimi & Grandpa’s was filled with memories of my Grandpa sitting by the window in the large kitchen with his cane (he had a “wooden” leg from an amputation from the war) He had a metal newspaper rack with a silhouette of a paper boy next to his chair. He was a smoker, so his ashtray was on a small table by the window. I remember the ashtray because it was a beanbag bottom and it would squish when he would ask me to empty it. I would sit on his lap and look out the window to the neighbor’s house next door. Every once in awhile he would get maybe a little drunk (but not sure.. these are memories of a small child), but I am not for certain if he drank very much or if at all, anyway he would take his leg off and clunk it on his chair and it scared the shit out of me! He died of emphysema when I was 6 years old, so my memories of him are limited to those. Now his wife, my Mimi Lalonde is a different story!! Their house was so beautiful! She took great pride in it. She was a bit of a snooty woman. She never really liked my mom. I think she felt that my dad could have done better than a farm girl. I think she took such pride in the house because it symbolized wealth and prosperity in a time (the depression) when things were falling apart. It had an front entrance with a grand staircase made of mahogany. A parlor sitting room along with a formal dining room, both with beautiful fireplaces with ornate mantels and tile work. The kitchen had a butler’s pantry, which was filled with baking supplies and spices as well as dry goods. My Mimi Lalonde was an excellent baker~ her cooking was good but her baked goods were AWESOME! I loved going to their house! She was also a gifted seamstress and would have scraps of fabric in her sewing room that I was allowed to take with me and encouraged to make something from them. I tried but eh…. It wasn’t my thing. She would make us pajamas every year for Christmas, flannel and so cherished!! We would explore the attic, which was all finished in cedar; we were allowed to play up there. We would also try to slide down that staircase, but it really wasn’t allowed. Spending time there was always fun but also a bit restrained and shall I say “proper”. Think of tea with bone china and white gloves. I actually have this tea cup set from my Mimi Lalonde. It is beautiful but is displayed in my china cupboard that I have, but never used. Maybe I need to use them more.
She eventually had to sell the house and move into a high rise one bedroom apartment, much like the one I currently live in. I remember spending time with her there and it was a much more intimate living arrangement and feel I got to know her much better during those later years of her life.
My other grandparent’s house was very different. They lived on a farm and in the country. A small house but warm and inviting. As a little girl I was intrigued with my Mimi Dore’s kitchen. It was small and filled with many stoneware bowls and cupboards of homemade canned fruits, vegetables and sauces in mason jars. She had some of the best canned peaches I have ever tasted! She made chili sauce that was to die for! She was one of the best cooks ever! She made roasts every Sunday and we when we would join her for those Sunday dinners, oh my gosh, my mouth is watering as I write this! She baked the best bread and pies, but cakes, cookies and other baked goods she did not excel in, that was my Mimi Lalonde’s forte! Needless to say my grandmothers kept us well fed. It is funny how my memories are of house, home and food. Back then both my grandmothers of course were stay at home moms. I am not even sure either one of them worked before marriage but I know they didn’t after marriage. My Grandpa Lalonde was an accountant, he wore a suit to work. My Pippi Dore was a farmer and bib overalls were his “suit”. I did not see much of him as a young child. He was always out in the field. What I do remember of him was his chewing tobacco spit can (eww) and his love of wintergreen lozenges, you know the pink ones that look a little like Pepto-Bismal tablets? As he got older and was in a nursing home, we would visit with him and he always had the little pink candies nearby to share with us.
My grandparents lived fascinating lives. They have all passed on and died~ My Grandpa Lalonde at the age of 66 (way too young) of emphysema, my Mimi Lalonde at age 84 of pancreatic cancer she lived a long life without much illness, but when the cancer hit, it hit her hard and it was not a peaceful end. My Pippi Dore (the one with the pink candy) died at the age of 85 of complications from diabetes and a leg amputation surgery. My Mimi Dore died at age 82 of congestive heart failure.
Forgive me for the statistical breakdown of my grandparent’s deaths, but it provides a snapshot for me of what may happen to me and/or my siblings as we approach old age and the inevitable. Yes, I went there, because let’s face it, we all die, some will sooner rather than later but it is always the end of the story. So with that I close the door on these rooms of my grandparents, I will peek in once in awhile to remember though. Next room I will visit will be that room where my parents are. See you there! 🙂