Ah, October! Seems as though I was just writing about an early autumn not so long ago, but it’s no longer early, and it’s officially autumn now—my favorite time of the year.
I had the pleasure of seeing autumn’s beauty on Sunday as I drove from our home in northern Illinois to Port Clinton, Ohio, to spend a couple of days with my 85-year-old mother.
Traveling along the Indiana and Ohio Turnpikes that were lined with the magnificent colors of the leaves of the oaks, maples, sumac, ash, and sycamores, I once again came to realize the true miracle that is nature in all of the faces of its changing seasons. Fall is really a spectacular face!
I try to make the six-hour drive out to see my mom at least once every couple of months, as she lives alone and does very well for herself. But there are always little “jobs” she needs tended to, such as getting the storage containers of many of her fall and winter clothes down from her closet shelf. And I’ve become quite adept at hanging her bedroom curtain rod with freshly washed curtains! Helping her clean out and rearrange her outside storage closet, getting it ready for the chill of fall and the onslaught of winter, is a pretty regular duty as well.
This time, however, there was another task that we had talked about and avoided jumping into for a couple of years. In a recent phone conversation, Mom dropped not-so-subtle hints that she would actually enjoy having the long and awkward plastic container—stashed away under her bed—emptied and something done with its contents. Inside that container were picture frames of all shapes and sizes, with photos still inside each.
The container was cumbersome and impossible for Mom to lift, but I slid and prodded and nudged it out from under the bed, and we spent a good hour removing the photos from the frames and then placing the empty frames in a box that we’d take to the second-hand store the next day. That was merely the first step in dealing with the sorting and placing of her vast collection of family photos into large manila envelopes.
I suppose most families can boast of having photos that go way back to when we were kids—younger and skinnier—and even those of grandparents and great-grandparents that have somehow been passed down from generation to generation. Well, Mom’s collection, which has been stored in old envelopes and small containers forever, is no exception. It was my goal to get the collection organized and into those clearly labeled envelopes.
After a quick trip to the second-hand store on Monday morning where Mom’s box of frames was welcomed with smiles and open arms, we set about playing the sorting game. I would grab one of the full envelopes and spread the contents out on the little coffee table where Mom would identify the “main” person or family in each photo, and I would place each photo inside the new envelope with the updated label.
Of course, this procedure was time consuming, and I had to return home the next morning, but we did manage to work through several of the random envelopes, leaving the rest for her to work on during the weeks ahead. The empty container that had previously housed those annoying frames was now the perfect place for her new and improved photo envelopes! She could easily get to them when the spirit moved her, and they were no longer lying about willy-nilly. With the weather promising rain and cold down the road, it will be a good activity for her to work on at her leisure.
I kiddingly told her that I expect them to be all placed into the appropriate envelopes when I next return in mid-November. She assured me that they would be. I’m not so certain of that, but at least we’ve made that first step, and those old picture frames are no longer bugging her!
As I drove back home, surrounded by fall’s beauty once more, I felt pretty good about the way our little project had gone ….CortlandWriter
13 thoughts on “Photographs & Memories–a trip to Mom’s…”
How nice that your mother is still able to live on her own, Mark. I’ve recently been doing the same thing with my parents, going through photo albums, etc. as they prepare to move.
You’re a good son! 🙂
Hi, Jill! Yep, Mom is still in pretty good health for someone who is 85, but there are many things that she needs help with, whether or not she wants to admit it! I figure that taking care of sorting and weeding out now, rather than later, will make things go more smoothly when “that time” arrives. Besides, it was kind of fun seeing photos I’d forgotten about or had never before seen. Have a great weekend! 🙂
Mark, someone in your family will one day bless you for helping sort those valuable photos!
Hi, Luanne! I’m not sure if my sisters or brother-in-law will “bless” me, but I’m hoping that this will have made things less hectic down the road. Have a wonderful weekend! 🙂
Nice of you to help your mother like that. Although we’ve worked to reduce our “stuff”, we still have a lot of photo albums. I don’t print out many pics any more–just leave them digital–but I often wonder about my shelves of photo albums. Will anyone care about them after I’m gone? On that grim note, I will agree that Ohio is indeed gorgeous in the fall. I love driving around and soaking in the colors. Even if I’m still grumpy summer is over…
Stop being grumpy, Carrie! Summer will return in due time. And, yes, your kids will probably get a kick out of those photo albums when the time is right. You’re right about the gorgeous Ohio (the whole Midwest, for that matter) landscape. Just in the past few days, the colors have really intensified out here in rural Illinois. Now, no more grumpiness….:-)
No grumpiness today. After all, it’s Friday. 🙂
You are a good son to drive all that way and help out – it can be hard for a woman alone to manage everything! I had a huge pile of old photos that were unnamed and undated and therefore a complete mystery to any of us. It is such a good idea to name and date and even note the place where old family photos were taken – one day someone will be interested in their family ancestry and will want to know.
Hi, Pauline! Thank you for your kind words. Oh, how I wish the folks of long ago and more recent times would have been more diligent about identifying who was in the photos, location, and date. Of course, half the fun the other day was trying to guess who some of the people and places were from my mom’s youth. And then there were those that struck a chord of memory, and I was transported back to the happy occasion of another time and place that had been captured forever in a faded photograph. You’re also “right on” regarding the interest in family ancestry, my wife’s avocation and passion. Actually, she’s the one who gave me the idea to use the manila envelopes, labeled with various family names, and the process worked out pretty well. I thank you for sharing your nice thoughts. 🙂
Oh I love Fall and am ashamed to say I am waiting for it with baited breath! I know it has ‘arrived’ but because coastal British Columbia is a rainforest not many of the trees have turned. When they do change though it is spectacularly beautiful as you say Mark. I have to echo other comments and say you are a wonderful son (I can only hope my two boys turn out to be as helpful and considerate). I also envy you having to sort through a treasure trove of photos! Something vital is lost in today’s computer age of ‘tagging’ people in photos and Facebook etc – I much prefer actual photographs and those black and white ones are the best!
Hi, Yolanda! I like your referring to all of those pictures as a “treasure trove of photos.” And I really agree that the digital stuff, while convenient, fast, and relatively easy, is lacking in the impact of a “real” printed photo. I guess I’m getting to be “that guy” who’s an old curmudgeon when it comes to holding onto the past–books and all things printed! Anyway, thanks for your comments. 🙂
What a wonderful person you are to your mother, Mark! I appreciate some of this, since I went through my Mom’s stuff about two years ago, placing her in a much safer environment across the street from my brothers and sister in law. I think what our parents did for us, we must return in kind. Your mother was a good person, I can tell from how you turned out! smiles!
Hi, Robin! Thanks. Mom is definitely a good person, and anything I can do to help her out–with the drudgery of jobs such as photo sorting–I’m all for. I’m just hoping that she has the remaining ones sorted and put in the proper envelopes upon my next trip out in November! 🙂