Racine, Wisconsin


My grandma with Stella. My grandma with Stella.

Authors note: Mom, this is going to make you cry. Love, me

A shoebox sat on the coffee table under the window in my grandma’s living room. I eyed it as I settled into the green brocade rocking chair that my grandpa always used to sit in. Ever since I can remember, my routine when coming to my grandmas was one of a few things. 1. playing outside in the woods, 2. climbing trees in the apple orchard chasing the cats that had climbed them to get away from me and my two sisters, 3. watching movies and sneaking into her big chest freezer to nab her Schwan’s Golden Nugget bars or 4. pouring over boxes of old yearbooks & photographs.

This box I had never seen before, which made me happy. Happy doesn’t even describe it. I was excited beyond the word, trying not to voraciously dump out the box to start from the bottom.

In the end, two and a half hours later, I got half way through the box. It’s contents? Photographs I had never seen before in my life…important ones – like pictures of my mom as an infant, silly snapshots of my grandma in a giant set of pajamas at work with one of her coworkers…one of them in each leg and arm, and portraits of her great grandparents, mounted on thick paper and embossed with the studio and photographers name from back in Glasgow, Scotland.

My grandma has a hard time walking, she usually stays put in her rocker while we visit. But with each picture I inquired about, she almost leaped up out of her chair to get a closer look. She ended up sitting on the coffee table, laughing away her aches and pains as she diligently told me stories from beyond the frame. “This is me with my niece in Detroit, and just beyond the frame to the left is the steel mill in our town…” her voice trailed off as I realized this is where I inherited my photographic memory for detail (I’m that phone-a-friend for the details that you just can’t quite remember).

This feeling in my chest started to rise and I felt myself getting emotional. This is why we take photographs. To sit for hours, pouring over an old shoe box full of photographs that can instantly come to life. Photographs are a key…to a locked door of our stories buried deep within our hearts and minds.

We are trusted with great responsibility – a library of the unwritten stories of our life. How will we get these stories out, into the light where they belong? I keep thinking about our senses…sight, sound, taste, and smell. Each is a road that we can journey to places sometimes forgotten until triggered by our senses. Even that day at my grandma’s when I got out of the car, the smell of the wet grass and trees brought back a wave of nostalgia…of hours spent outside at my grandmas. And while I did say “I wish they made a candle that smelled like this!”, all I can do is take that moment captive, and tie it to the memory of the afternoon spent with my grandma, that penned the stories of my mother, my grandmother, and beyond on the pages of my heart.


My grandma is the little girl on the left. My grandma is the little girl on the left.

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