The Doe Skin photo album

I haven’t written lately. I’m up to my eyeballs in alligators, Mrs. Stepford says.

It’s true. I’m emptying out Mother’s house now that Otto has finally gone. There is still a ton of stuff, the accumulation of 38 years living in one house. It’s not interesting stuff, for the most part, but yesterday, looking through a box that appeared to be mostly throw-away or thrift shop fare, I found a wee box, a lovely looking box, about four inches square and two inches deep. It was in amongst books from the ‘thirties, dusty and worn with much handling.

When I lifted the lid, there was Mother’s pale blue bridal veil. It was so fragile and ethereal that I quickly put the lid back down. It wasn’t something I wanted to inspect amidst the dust and dirt that was surrounding me.
Just underneath that box there were two albums of family photos from early days in the pioneer community of Ashern, Manitoba in the Interlake district. When I get some time, I will scan these and add them to the family saga. When I lifted these and put them carefully aside, photographs and precious papers tumbled out. There are people that we no longer know and now there is no one to illuminate their identity.

One of the pictures was of my great grandparents from Holland. When I looked at it, I wondered what they thought of this new country that their sons brought them to – so vast, so very hot in summer, so very cold in winter, so wide open, so wild, so isolated. After the closeness of things and the cultivation in Holland both in the sense of civilization and agriculture, it must have been a huge cultural shock – more so than it is today.Another treasure lay just below. It was a soft doeskin-covered photo album with a native Indian head painted on it. This hand-made treasure had mother’s name burned into it with a fine tool. That must have been how the drawing of the Indian was done as well.

I have carefully put these aside now so that I can take some respectful time with them. There’s something wonderful about ancestral photographs; explaining the joy that it brings is almost impossible to describe.

What is it that drives us to record our passing through this mortal coil? What drives us to garner the flotsam and jetsam of our daily lives into a historic document that only our own family will probably appreciate – and even then, the younger folk are barely interested in where they came from.

Mother always said to me, ” I only want to look forward, not back.”

This used to annoy me. I wanted to know the family history.

When finally she relented and I managed to get her to look at the old, treasured photographs with me, she could no longer see. Her macular degeneration had robbed her of her vision and only the peripheral images could clarify.

Well, that’s it for this bit. No time for poring over pictures yet.

I promise myself: “It will come. It will come,” but I am eager for the day when the Estate is settled and I can paint and create to my heart’s content.

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