Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I recently came across some pictures of my parents and my mother's family while I was searching for items for a project I was going to do with my book club. This was actually a "bookless" club meeting as we had not read a book this month to discuss. One of our esteemed members is a working artist and thought we'd all like to try our hand at making shadow boxes with "found art".

I originally started looking through some old sewing boxes that had belonged to my Aunt Dot to see if there was some old ribbon or lace in there I could use along with a picture I had of my grandmother. Instead I came up with some truly interesting items from my mother's family's past.

After finding these items I thought I could make a shadow box that would connect to my roots a bit on my mother's side of the family. I went looking for some photos to put into the box as well and came up with a few interesting ones.

There aren't a lot of photographs of my parents in their early days as those pictures were lost in a move that they made. I was very excited to find this picture of my parents, taken when they were dating. Probably about 1942. I love this picture because they look so happy and carefree. My mom's saddleshoes are adorable and the expression on my father's face reminds me of my son, The Writer. I always thought he took after the other side of the family, but I can see a resemblence here to my dad.

With this picture I found another one. A single shot of my dad, probably taken even earlier than the one of them together. Or perhaps on that same date. Again I am struck by the similarities between twenty-something Grandpa H and his twenty-something grandson, The Writer.

I actually had already selected my "inspiration" picture which is a photograph of my maternal grandmother, Grace, that has been hanging in my bedroom for a very long time. I never knew what to do with it because it was kind of small and was overwhelmed by wall space. This project was the perfect way to showcase my grandmother.

My grandmother died when I was one, so I never really knew her. I found this picture after my mother died and was struck by how much The Maven, my daughter, seemed to take after her. At least in profile, it seemed. It was this reason I hung the picture on the wall - it made me feel like we were all connected.

I'm grateful for my artist friend's great book club idea because I ended up with a great family treasure:

My grandmother's picture is in the lower left. Other than the dark hair, she and The Maven look very much alike. On the top right of the frame of her picture is a pin from the Red Cross that says "I Gave". I imagine my Aunt Dot saved this. My Uncle Murph, my mother's brother, was a WWII POW. This had a huge impact on the family and I feel that my mother, her sister and my grandmother must have volunteered some for the Red Cross during that time. A lot of people did such things in those days to support the war effort .

On the bottom right of the frame is a pearl handled seam ripper that I also found in Aunt Dot's sewing box. I just thought it was so pretty and should be included along with a picture of a pretty young woman.

To the right of my grandmother's picture is a small map of New Jersey. I circled the city of Elizabeth where my mother and her siblings were born. Aunt Dot lived in their childhood home until about 1967 with her husband. I didn't notice until I had already circled the city, but my marker went over Bayonne. The birthplace of my father. I had never realized they were born so close together.

The picture in the cross stitch hoop (found in the sewing box) and the one to the right are both of my mother and my Aunt Dot. Dot is the elder by 7 years. They were very close up until Dot died in the early 1990s. I decided to keep the focus of the box on the women in the family. One reason being I only have a small picture (under the hoop picture) of my Uncle Murph and only a couple of my grandfather. I'm hoping to ask my brothers if they have any. I know many existed because I used to look at them when I was younger, but as I said they were lost in a move. Tragic, I think.

On the top right of the hoop is a button hook! Another treasure I found in the sewing box. I had never seen one before, but somehow knew that's what it was. I found a boy scout pin which I attached to the bottom of the frame. I'm sure it was Uncle Murph's. The baby spoon above is Dot's. It has her initials engraved in it and I think it's so sweet.

To the right of the picture in the hoop is a homemade heart-shaped pin cushion that I also found in the box as well as the two pretty hat pins that are stuck in it. My Aunt must have saved every button that came off their clothing because there were a good jarful in the sewing box. I had initally envisioned glueing them all along the edge of the box, but then just picked a handful to use as visual effect.

So, what started as a simple project with friends, took on much more meaning for me, and I'm so glad. Finding the pictures and putting this together helped me feel connected again to some people who I miss very much. I also realize that through my children they will live on.


The_Tyro said...

The first picture of grandma and grandpa grandpa looks so much like the brother it is crazy! well played.

Sammy said...

wow...agreed!...the expression too

eggzachary said...

I will also agree with that. I always thought the other side of the family dominated my features, but look at that.