Driving Down Memory Lane


A couple of years ago, I met with Daddy’s sisters and some of my girl cousins for lunch in my parents’ hometown of Tecumseh, Oklahoma. We ate at The Farmer’s Daughter Market and shared a single slice of their lemon blueberry cake among all of us. Mom was going through treatment for the cancer at that time. When a loved one has a life-threatening illness, it reminds us of our own mortality and the passage of time. We tend to want to cling to each other, share memories and try to get things straight historically, before it is too late. Nobody said it, but that was what this day was all about.

After lunch we moved down the street to my Aunt Jan’s house, where Mom and my sister joined us. The plan for the day was for all of us to go through her enormous collection of family photos and take some for ourselves. Aunt Jan is an incredible historian. She had an entire room set up with plastic stubs categorized by family, sub-family and time. There were tubs for my parents and siblings, tubs for Daddy’s brother’s family, his kids’ families, Daddy’s sisters’ families and their kids’ families. It was all very organized. I made a mental note to get my own photos in order for the day when my children would come together and do this. Three years later, the mental note is as far as I have gotten.

There were pictures we had seen before, and pictures we had not; like the one at the top of this note. This is a picture of my parents together. It is easy to see why my mother fell for him, not only does he look just like Elvis, but he is funny and charming and has a great work ethic. This is September 1961, and Mom is pregnant with my brother Carl Eugene, who was born that October. How is that for a tiny baby bump. I had never seen the picture, but what is more surprising is, neither had Mom. Her face lit up when she looked at it. She remembered the car and the time, of course, but did not recall the picture being taken. I find it funny that actually having a photo snapped would have been noteworthy at the time, since rare is a moment these days when someone doesn’t pull out their phone and say, “Let’s get a picture!” This photo brings to me a different side of my parents. They did not know me or know that I would make my appearance in a little over two years. They were just starting and had no idea how things would turn out. I wonder what they were talking about on this early fall day, leaning against Daddy’s 55 Chevy.

The day was an incredible trip down memory lane, as well as being an education. Because for every picture I had never seen before, or a face I did not recognize, Aunt Jan filled in the blanks. Where she stores all that knowledge, I have no idea.

The time was spent hearing stories and connecting with the history of the people who came before me. I noticed how the family resemblance, from me and my cousins to Daddy and his sisters, to my grandmother, to my great-grandmother and so forth, just shows up, generation after generation.

The laughs! Oh, the laughs. We laughed at the hairstyles. My grandmother’s half-sister, whom I had never known, was albino and dyed her snow-white hair black with coffee. “Genius,” I said. “Cheaper than Miss Clairol, plus you can enjoy a cup while you are processing.” We laughed at the clothing of the 1970s, 1960s and so on, and wondered at the homemade clothing and hand me downs worn by my poor farmer ancestors. The ladies and their Sunday hats; is that why I love hats? We also laughed at ourselves. We remembered small things the best, like my Great Uncle Bud’s seemingly unending supply of silver coins which he handed out to all the little ones, and Grandpa Rabbit’s inability to remember grandkids’ names, so he just called us all “kid.”

All the time we were there, sharing, we didn’t recall any hurts or offenses that are inevitable with families. Anyway, if anyone remembered, none were mentioned this day. It was a wonderful time of a kind that happens so seldom and ended too soon.

Many of the people who smiled from those pictures are gone now, including my beloved mother. So many I had never met, so many I feel the loss of now. I have always believed that our fear of death hinges on the fear of being forgotten. We know our physical bodies will be gone, but we fear the memory of us will fade away as well. How wonderful that the photograph was invented so we can share our history with people generations from now. As long as we continue to pass on the stories, the people will live forever. In some way, I hope those we remembered that day three years ago were there, seeing our smiles, hearing our laughter, and were pleased that they had not been forgotten.

I hope that one day my children will sit around a table with their grandchildren, sifting through photos like me standing at the top of a diving board at Girl Scout camp, or wearing my scuba gear, or of us together watching a firework show. Maybe, my son will share the story of how I walked through the plate glass window at CiCi’s Pizza after a baseball game, because I was not watching where I was going. “What a weird time that was,” he might say, “Mom runs into a window and breaks it with her head, and we get free pizza.” I see my daughter, pointing to a photo of me of me and saying to her family, “See that look? That is where I got it.” Most of all, I hope they remember how much I have always loved them.

Family…. don’t forget.

02 comments on “Driving Down Memory Lane

  • Edith Clark , Direct link to comment

    Absolutely wonderful musings of family. Such great memories to hold near to your heart.

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