A Visit to Aunty

I suppose the first of my “catch up” posts should be about my trip to visit Aunty Mary.  I admit I was of two minds about it.  Part of me looked very much forward to it – I hadn’t seen Aunty in years and she was one of my favorite aunts.  But, I knew there was huge potential that she’d be upset with me (again, I hadn’t seen her in years!) and that she’d pull no punches in letting me know.  Which, by the way, is one of the reasons she’s one of my favorites.  Also, my father told me she has 6 or 7 cats living with her.  As I mentioned before, I not only despise cats, I am violently allergic to them.

Nevertheless, I took a day off work and drove the hour or so down to her house.  It is the same house she’s lived in since some time around 1935.  The same house my dad was born in.  The same house my grandfather died in. The same house.  In fact, almost everything in it is the same – but more on that later.

My first thought when she opened the door was “Aunty got old.”  What did I expect? She turns 81 this April.  Still, 80 is the new 50 if Aunty is any guide!  She lives alone and gets herself around, does minor repairs on the house, painted the outside trim, cuts the lawn, everything!  She is amazing.  I hope I am as active when I am 65, let alone 80.

Well, we went in and chatted for a bit.  I updated her on the new things I had learned since we last spoke.  And then, she broke out the albums.  So many albums!

Aunty has always been a pack rat.  In fact, I think she will be remembered as teh patron saint of pack rats!  But that is not a bad thing – especially where genealogy is concerned.  Aunty showed me a stack of 15 or 16 photo albums.  I was almost overwhelmed.  She told me who and what was in each of them.  She categorized them chronologically, by family member.  I had brought my digital camera, a pad, pen, and a digital recorder to help take notes.  We opened the first page of the first book and my overwhelming was complete.

I saw faces of people who, until that moment, had only been a collection of names, dates, and familial lines on a family tree chart.  My grandfather, Paul, who died in 1953 was there as was my great grand father, Frank – the one who left his wife and 3 kids (including my grandmother) only to return some years later to have 6 more kids.  So many people were there: aunts, uncles, cousins, people I knew only as adults who were pictured as kids, grandparents, great grandparents, great uncles and aunts, and more.  There were drawings, poems, original artwork done by my relatives – and surprisingly good, if I may say so.

Aunty knew them all by name.  She rattled off names and dates and places like a tour guide who’d been on the job for 60 years.  We fell into a rhythm.  She told all about the photos on each page; we staged the page so I could take a picture of it; I took the picture; then we moved to the next page. It went on for page after page after page.

99 pictures later, the battery in the camera died.  Of all the things I brought, the battery charger was not one of them.  99 pictures later it was about 2 in the afternoon.  Still, we didn’t stop.  We went though 8 or 9 of the albums before it was time to go.

Since then I’ve been copying, cropping, and saving individual pictures.  When I dont know the names anymore (my memory isnt what it used to be), I send the pages to Aunty and she labels them for me.  I’m not done yet but I still have to go back and get more pictures of more pages.

More on that in a future post.

(so much for more frequent shorter posts LOL)

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