Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Found and Made

I recently participated in a Flickr project called Found/Made. I chose to show scrapbooks. The photo on the right is of some of my scrapbooks from recent years.

The photo on the left shows an antique scrapbook that was created by my 5th great grandfather, Oscar Loraine Dewees, and carried on by his daughter, Mary Loraine Dewees. Oscar originally kept it as more of a journal, writing poems and thoughts with an occasional clipping from a book or newspaper.

Mary used it to record family information and did a wonderful job of adding newspaper clippings of births, obituaries, weddings, and related family events. It is a treasure trove of genealogical information and was quite beneficial in solving some genealogical puzzles related to my Dewees and Wiggins families.

Mary passed the book to her son Blake who passed it on to his daughter Aline, my great grandmother. She was a sentimental student of genealogy also and kept it in a wooden box at her home along with letters that were sent between her parents prior to their marriage and other family treasures. Her sons had no real interest in these things so they remained in the box through their marriages and the visiting grandchildren, one of whom was my father.

My father's parents moved in with my great grandparents during the 60's to help take care of them. The house was a huge Victorian, full of antiques and history. I remember only a few things about my great grandparents but from family stories, I feel like I know more. My mother would tell you that my great grandmother, Aline, was the most patient and giving person she had ever met. She had severe arthritis and was confined to a wheelchair later in life but Mom said she never, ever complained. My great grandfather, Frank, on the other hand, was a hypochondriac. Once when he was complaining about some imaginary pain, my great grandmother, from her wheelchair, said, "Oh Frank, just shut up". My mother said those were the harshest words she ever heard her say.

After my great grandparents died, my dad was sent to Vietnam. During that time, my Mom and my siblings moved in with my grandparents. I loved the huge old house. Everywhere there were heavy wood doors with white porcelain knobs. There was a smelly cellar and huge, leather bound books in the library. There was always something to explore. And I found the box. It was fascinating to me - the old books and letters and the pair of child's shoes and the old spectacles. I would frequently go through them, carefully putting them back into the box in the order I removed them. Even after we moved on to our next location, at every visit, I always visited the box.

When my grandfather passed away, my grandmother moved out of the house and into an apartment. She asked what I wanted. I knew immediately that I wanted to box. And she gave it to me. It sits today on a table in my living room, surrounded by pictures of many of the people that added items to the box. I sometimes sit in my living room and read the letters, look through the scrapbook, hold the tiny shoes. It makes me remember those family members that I never really knew but to whom I feel so close.

This is one of the reasons that I scrapbook. It is telling our stories, saving photographs, documenting our lives for future generations. Someday my scrapbooks may be stored in a box for one of my future family members to discover 5 generations later. I hope she learns that we had meaningful, wonderful lives, full of love for each other. And I hope these scrapbooks mean as much to her as my ancestor's have meant to me.


Wanda said...

What a wonderful thing to do. It takes time and effort ~~but how worthwhile to our future generations.

I don't scrap book, but journal and have for years, now I've started a watercolor journal which I really hope to continue.

Love your stories.