Wednesday, March 9, 2016

SOL #10: Family History on Display

From where I sit in the leather recliner, tucked snugly into the corner of my bedroom, I can see all the framed photos marching across my bookshelf.  On the far left is a photo of my daughter, aged five, in a pink turtleneck and denim jumper.  Her bangs frame serious eyes, as she gazes unsmilingly up at the photographer.  This photo was sent to us just after we'd made the decision to adopt our children from the orphanage where they were living.

Next to this is a picture of my husband and I with his family--mother, brother, sister-in-law, and niece.  We're standing on the steps of the low key climbing lodge we'd invited them to for a weekend.  It's probably taken a few months before the portrait of my daughter.  We look so slim, and bear no parental worries.

An 8 x 10 photos of my great-grandparents and their children comes next.  Taken shortly after their immigration to the United States, it shows my handsome great grandfather with a faint smile.  My strong featured great grandmother is wearing a white blouse and hat, dandling my American born great aunt on her knee, resplendent in a long white gown that suggests this was her christening portrait. My grandpa, about five, stands seriously in his little suit, resting one hand fondly on his mother's arm, while my great uncle Sam, a few years older, stands uncomfortably between his parents.  I've seen a picture of the previous generation too, a kerchiefed woman and grizzled man who look suspiciously like they have borrowed shoes for the occasion of being photographed.  Their daughter and her family look to have escaped their peasant past, but I've seen other photos of my great grandmother as a widow in which her mannish features and solid form give some hint of the relentless work she put into surviving as a young widow before WWI, frilly blouses and hats long past.

A sweet but unremarkable photo of my husband and I at his brother's wedding is in a square frame, then a formal studio shot of the four members of my husband's family of origin, resplendent in 80s glasses, come next.  A double frame holds a snapshot of my husband's father in their back yard and another of his mom and niece, her first grandchild, as a baby.  I never met my father-in-law, who died a year before our paths crossed.

The final picture bookends the display with another orphanage portrait, this one of our son.  He's wearing a green striped with some sort of orange kerchief, smiling mischievously at the camera.  Like his sister, his hair is cut efficiently short.  Where she looks wary and guarded, he looks ready to burst into action.

I love how my Lithuanian ancestors sit amidst my Lithuanian children, and how the stiff poses of my in-laws are balanced by the snapshots of them relaxed and smiling.  Bits of tatted lace and pieces of amber amongst the photos bring in more family history, more Lithuanian heritage.  The very bookshelf the display sits on, sturdy and solid, custom built for my parents during an era when they were flush, is full of family history.  (Literally, actually--my photo albums sit alongside albums inherited from my mom and from my great aunt.)

Thanks to the Slice of Life challenge for giving me reason to pause and really look at something I see every day.

Written as part of the Slice of Life March writing challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers


  1. I love the story w/ which you frame each photo. I wish there were a picture of the shelf. Now I want to look at my shelf pics!

  2. " me reason to pause and really look at something I see every day" I love this line so much. It is so true. When you set yourself to write you become more observant and ponder more. I know I do it even if I'm not writing but it's maybe for a fraction of a second compared to when I know I need to sit and write.


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