In one closet, the scent of mothballs was so strong that we usually just opened then shut the door. We knew several fur coats were hanging in this one. And an umbrella trimmed in mink hung on a hook. Finally, one day I opened the door all the way and began to remove items. There were multiple cashmere scarves, a handmade quilt, boxes and boxes of negatives to photos she had put in albums, a large feather duvet wrapped in a clear plastic wrap, and two boxes that I took out one at a time. My mother’s house is for sale. Everything must be dismantled and sold, given away, or donated. Hence the cleaning out of closets begins.
One of these boxes contained old legal documents. The other box held a treasure. My mother’s wedding photos all bound together,. They looked so young. Even my grandparents looked young in the photos. Of course I am older than any to them now. It is all taken in perspective when age is concerned. My mother was 22 when she married. My father was 27. Those were normal ages to marry. Now they seem young. Looking at them at their rehearsal dinner and at the wedding reception at the Midland Country Club is delightful. Under that group of photos is a scrapbook. She created the entire book about her engagement announcements in various papers, showers for the bride and the engagement party, and their wedding. It was so intricate and thorough. She had included telegrams and notes and the fantastical place cards for their engagement party. There were photos and letters and napkins and name tags and many, many clippings from newspapers.
It is inconceivable to us the amount of time that people used to spend doing things like making scrapbooks and handmade place cards. In the first quarter of the 21st century, we would never waste that much time (we think). They did not have TV or tape recorders to play cassettes or cordless phones, let alone iPhones or tablets, and games to play 24/7. They had time to kill. Time to make things. Time to invent creative handmade cards or ornaments to please themselves and each other. We spend hours texting or face-timing or worse playing video games. We have nothing to show for it. That scrapbook was a revelation to me.
When I was young, I used to make scrapbooks too. We kept things like movie ticket stubs, crushed corsages, and matchbooks from the places where we went. Our scrapbooks had sketches and telegrams and written cards with sentiments in our friend or lovers’ handwriting. We used different colored ink and lovely stationery to express our feelings to each other. We thought about what we would write down, knowing it might outlast us by several generations.
What I know now that I never realized before is that no one cares. Sadly, all that effort went into keeping a record, and yet now, I am the only one who knows a little about what my mother saved. The stories she told me about the people in the photos makes them real. Some of the pictures were of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, so I know them. But my children do not. They are long dead. My children know other cousins, but not those who attended my parent’s wedding in 1940, eighty years ago.
Today they have all seen the light of day. I photographed some of the pages. Perhaps I will send all of this to my sister in San Francisco. She says she has room to store it. Pieces of my heart will go with these marvelous memories. My mother lives on through them. Happy Memorial Day, Mother.
Copyright©. 2020 Bonnie B. Matheson