Sunday, June 30, 2013

old photographs and new memories (or my exotic french lineage)

last week when we left ohio, we brought back not only my nephew ryan, but a trunk full of ancestors as well.


and don't think i didn't know what precious cargo i was carrying in the seats behind me:  six kids and at least 100 years of relatives jammed into this chaotic convoy.

aunt abbie
no, the ghosts from my mother's vintage-clothing-pink-guest-room did not jump into the backseat of the yukon when we pulled away from ohio.  (sorry to disappoint you.  THAT would have made for a much more interesting blog post). but, i did bring back a whole bunch of old photo albums chock full of ancestors who are now enjoying the after-life -- at least we hope they are.  (too morbid)?
aunt jenny
and i'm not just talking about some photos from the 1970s (though that would certainly be considered ancient by the standards of my children).  i am talking about folks from the 1870s!  yes!  that old.  that ancient.  that archaic. i think the oldest photo i had riding in the car with me was from the late 1800s. can you imagine? keep in mind photography wasn't even really invented until the 1800s.  tidbit: the first photograph recorded in history was taken by joseph nicéphore niépce in 1826 in france.  felix toumachon opened the first portrait studio in 1853 in paris.  by the way, these ancestors in this picture above also originated in france. (lutzelstein and alsace to be exact -- i know this because i unearthed in these old albums some documents explaining my exotic french lineage --  oh la la!  

okay, so maybe you aren't fascinated with the fact that i come from a french lineage or that i transported a hundred years of photos across state lines last week.  but i am.  i am absolutely intrigued, not with the transporting exactly,
(though it is rather funny to think about all these starch-shirted and stiff-collared progenitors riding back to minnesota along with their posterity: six kids, their ipods and iphones and country music blaring). i'm pretty sure the mother in the first photo up above wouldn't have put up with any monkey business in my vehicle. i certainly wouldn't have messed with her.  so though the transporting was interesting, what i am really charmed with is the fact that we have these amazing albums of family history.

the pages and pages of pictures are priceless.

priceless and interesting.  and maybe even a little humorous.

i mean, imagine this family...

hanging out with this family -- their direct descendants...

can you see the family resemblance?

so, times have changed.

and though, i'm kind of glad we don't do serious family portraits like that anymore, (can someone please explain to me why people didn't smile back then?) i like the fact that we have these pictures of those relatives who walked before us.  and i just find it kind of cool that though the resemblance is rather weak, we are all still, somehow, related.

while we were in ohio my mom had planned a little reunion of sorts with her cousins.  they had been very close growing up and have remained close.  so on saturday they all got together and brought along any child or grandchild they could wrangle up for the affair.  the morning of this little party, my sister and i sat with my mom discussing these relations.  some who we knew pretty well and some who we had actually never met.  "but how are we all related, mom?"  we kept asking.  my mother began her detailed delivery of the great family tree. (i won't go into all that -- you should  really thank me). but what we did glean from her thorough ancestral explanation is that every person who would be attending the party was somehow related to my great grandparents, herman and pauline vernick.

now we had a starting place. a beginning. something to build on.

meet pauline and herman vernick. (i personally wish she was perched on the handle bars of his motorcycle...but she doesn't strike me as the type).  anyway, there they are --  my great grandparents and the beginning of it all.

and that was all i needed to get going.  i knew there were old albums hidden away in drawers and closets around my parents' house, and, by golly, i was going to find them.  we were going to have a picture of herman and pauline at this party -- no matter what. had i been given an extra hour or so, we'd all have had laminated copies of their photo hanging by lanyards around our necks -- family reunion name tags.  well, the name tags didn't appear, but we did come up with an arrangement of sorts.

that morning i sat on my parents' patio pouring through these albums and marveling at the recording of life 100 years ago.  my grandmother, corinne, was quite the archivist and did a superb job organizing and preserving these treasures.  i have always loved old photographs, but to hold in my hands the pictures of my past is something else altogether.  even my teenage daughters were quite taken with the whole thing.  they looked over my shoulder oohing and aahing at the clothing and the hats and the serious expressions.  my oldest, emily, even captured the moment in one of her instagram posts.  the people in these photographs couldn't have even imagined something like iphones or instagram 100 years ago. but there we were taking pictures with our phones and sharing our history with the world wide web. sorry, but i am downright smitten with the irony of this collision between old and new. (i think i'm obsessing here.  sorry.  i'll try to regain my composure. deep breath, jody).

the girls and i loved this photo of my grandpa and his baseball team.  he's the one in the center of the first row.  a total stud, that grandpa.  we decided he looks a lot like leonardo dicaprio.  yes, we decided that.  just go ahead and agree with us. (obviously, still obsessing here. zero composure).

anyway, after pouring through the albums and finding all sorts of great pictures, we set up this table on the patio with photos of herman and pauline and their offspring.  during the party my mom was able to show some of her cousins and the great grandchildren and 2nd and 3rd cousins (once removed --what exactly is a 3rd cousin once removed?) pictures of the past.  maybe not everyone got quite the same kick out of it as my mom and i did, but that's okay.  no matter what the interest level, it is a wonderful thing to occasionally pause and consider the connections to our past.

we don't do that enough.

maybe that's why i am a bit.. um...over-the-top with my photography.  there is something about capturing a moment and knowing that someday it will again be viewed and maybe even a bit re-lived.  i know it is more important to live in the moment...but still...i'd like to think that occasionally we can do both:  live in it and record it well.

my mom had a big time of it with her cousins on saturday.  they sat around in the backyard telling stories.  i love this. i have always loved to sit and listen to their anecdotes.  especially with this particular group of relatives -- i assure you, there is no shortage on personality here  (must be the french lineage).  they grew up together running between homes and playing at their grandparents' house.  they shared holidays and picnics and
littler version of the same cousins above!
some rather crazy times.  they are now all in the their 60s and 70s with children and grandchildren, weak knees and arthritic hands...but no matter how many decades have passed, they are cousins and they have history.

speaking of cousins, i just have to share one of my favorite photos from the books.
 this my grandmother and her cousin, leona.  will you look at those bows.  just look at those bows, people!
in this same week, my own kids were surrounded by their cousins.  and i can't help but see the connection.  we live in a different time now days.  we are spread out across many states and we don't have as many moments together, but that's why it is so sweet to go back and re-connect.  even this week with my nephew ryan living with us, i can't tell you how many times i heard the kids say, "remember when we..."

and my prayer is that someday, my kids and their cousins might also have the chance and inclination to sit around in someone's backyard and talk also about the good ole days.  that someday ryan and tyler will tell the story of how they went tubing on lake minnewashta the summer they were 15 and 19 and barely survived.  maybe someday
they'll recount the crazy pilgrimage from ohio to minnesota when we were all piled tightly into the car for 13 hours...

who knows.

i know that a lot of families drift apart and don't have these kinds of memories or these kinds of connections.  things happen.  people change. but i don't think that changes the fact that it's important to know where you come from.  it's a privilege to know the people who share your past.  i think it does something important for us. it is certainly something worth working hard to hold onto.

and hard work it is.  i have sisters living on opposite sides of the united states.  it doesn't get any farther than new york and oregon.  i haven't lived in the same state as my siblings or cousins in over 15 years.  if there is one thing i grieve the most in all our moving, it has been the loss of time spent with extended family. i grew up with grandparents in the same house and cousins a few miles away. and i can tell you, i took it all completely for granted.  i hate the fact that rick's parents are 23 hours away and my parents 13. that's too far for grandparents to know their grandchildren and likewise.  you do the best that you can, but it's not the same.

and i'm not sure what to do about that.

i suppose it's one of the reasons i post (more than my share of) photos on facebook.  i guess what i'm saying in all those postings is, "here, here's what we're's where we's who we are...know us. please, please know us."  it's honestly been kind of cool since that whole social media thing got going.  i know it has a tremendous amount of flaws and issues and it can't take the place of face to face,  but i can tell you, i am better connected with my cousins and family today because of it.

and maybe that's really why i am so enamored with all these old photos.  it is something to hold on to.  something worth preserving.  the people of these pages had a special time and place where they were all doing life together. i want to protect that for them and i want to hold onto it for us.  not because we are to live in the past, but we are certainly able to learn from the past.

i've brought all these books back for a purpose.  i am not sure exactly what i plan to do, but maybe when winter comes again to minnesota (next month?), i'll find some time to figure out a way to take what my grandmother started and continue it. i'd like to take steps to preserve these photos and protect the past.  i'll probably scan a bunch of them into a shutterfly album which should be good for another hundred years or so...and then my granddaughter or great granddaughter can do the next technologically advanced thing.

scan. shutterfly. instagram.  facebook. email. texting. these are not words of the past, but they are words which will help to preserve the past and connect us in our present.   it's the meeting of the old and the new.  and it's good.  photography and photos and preservation has changed a lot in this century, but family is family.

and it's always worth protecting.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

as i've been pouring through these albums this week, i've noticed something else.  though times have changed tremendously, we do a lot of the same things today as they did back in the good ole days!  i found these old photos this week...while i was taking these new photos.  kind of funny.

my grandparents vernick hanging out in a hammock
my kids hanging out in their hammocks...we call these "enos" now.  
my grandfather and his brother with the catch of the day!
my son and his catch of the day this week!
brother-sister tubing (my mom and my uncle)!

brother-sister tubing (my kids - tyler and emily)!

here's a copy of my french lineage in case there are any doubters in the group.
 don't you just love that it dates back to 1640!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

because this is family

last week, i arrived in ohio with five kids, but pulled back into my minnesota driveway tonight with six.  these kind of things just seem to happen.  at least they seem to happen to me.  i suppose gaining an extra kid is better than leaving one behind. (not that that’s ever happened before...cough, cough).  and i guess it’s better than getting halfway home and realizing we forgot someone.  

or is it?

depends on how those children are behaving and that car ride is going.  there have been trips. 

a kid here, a kid there.  and all of a sudden i am driving back to minnesota with a half dozen children bunched up in the seats behind me.  and not an inch of room to spare.  this time we’ve brought home a rather big one: my 19 year old nephew, ryan, is along for the ride.  all 6 feet and 1 inch of him filling the extra space in our yukon xl.

you do things like this for your family. 

my kids were thrilled to invite their older cousin to come back with us to minnesota.  though they harassed me all the way to ohio complaining they were “dangerously squished” and “and near death as they lacked room to breath,” when the idea came up over the weekend of bringing ryan home with us, they all assured me “mom, there’s plenty of room -- space to spare. i'll share my lunch, my seat, my favorite video game! there's more than enough room.” 

because there always is for family.

the truth is, any one of my children would have agreed to ride up on the roof if it meant getting to bring one of their very favorite cousins back home for the week.  they adore this kid -- he's their cousin.

and you do these things in the name of family time.

you, rather spontaneously, decide drive your five kids across the midwest to your parents’ house for a quick weekend.  you listen (for 13 and 1/2 hours straight) to things like, “he’s touching me and she’s not sharing and i’m thirsty and when can we stop and what is that smell and mom, i feel like i might throw up and (the famous) when will we be there?” 

and you do it for just for the smallest sliver of family time -- for the mere blink of a weekend.

you do it for a game of cards in the
 backyard with cousins.

you do it to pick honeysuckle from grandma's garden.

you do it for a family softball game at the park.

you do it for a picture with your baba
(notice my dad copying emily's sorority pose of hand on hip).

you do it to catch a glimpse of grandpa and grandson walking down the street together

you do it for an awesome afternoon 
of fishing with the guys. 
(thanks for planning the trip uncle doug)!

you do it to watch man of steel 
and strike clark kent poses in the parking lot afterwards.

you do it to see if your younger cousin 
has passed you up in height (yet).

you do it to give your girls a tour of where you once lived 
 -- chagrin falls in the background here.

you do it to marvel at your mother's number 
of flower pots...and truly to see her love 
for something so beautiful. 
(though you are still mostly amazed at the number of flower pots... oh my)!

you do it to share a glass of wine with your 
mom and sister in the garden.

you just do it for family.

my parents downsized about 10 years ago, and let me tell you, though their house is absolutely perfect for THEM, it is not exactly set up for all of US. (my dad will tell you that’s by design).  my sister, jess, and her family came back for this weekend as well.  and between her crew and my brother’s family (who live close by) and our gargantuan group...they had quite a house full.  my poor mother and father who enjoy their cats and their garden and their coffee and tea on the porch were unmercifully thrown into the wildness of finding extra pillows and sheets and spoons and bandaids.  this quiet couple in their 70's found themselves with grandchildren sleeping at the foot of their bed and a pile of shoes tossed at every door.  they found themselves having to wait in line for the bathroom and tripping over random toys and wondering where all of the cereal has gone. they found themselves closing screen doors and picking up wet towels and running the dishwasher 17 times a day.

because this is what you do for family.

the sleeping arrangements are always funny when we're there.  this week, my sister and her family were up on the summer porch.  summer porch a.k.a. summer sauna. (a heat wave hit ohio this weekend).  a grandchild on the floor in my parents’ room.  grandsons in tents and hammocks tied to trees.  granddaughters on air mattresses in the middle of the main room. one girl on a couch.  bella and i sharing a bed in my mom’s extra room which really belongs to her collection of vintage clothing.  between the old pictures hanging on the walls and the old white lace dresses hanging everywhere else, my children are convinced this room is haunted. ghosts or no ghosts though, i was just thankful to have a bed. by the way, next visit, i’m planning a family picture with everyone dressed up in my mom’s vintage clothing. no one seemed game this trip.  

anyway, we make it work.  a sense of humor always helps.  everyone kind of has to give and take a little.  the teenagers who could sleep to noon quickly realize, come morning, they’ll be stepped over by older people looking for coffee and younger people hunting for cheerios.  there’s no place to hide. we try to whisper and tip toe around them until a decent hour.  we try to whisper and tip toe around each other in general, when we can, but inevitably we have moments where we clash and collide in our ways or words or ideas.  we step on those toes we thought we were carefully avoiding and we infringe on feelings.  we talk over each other and under our breath.

because that happens in families too.  

it is wonderful to all get together for a weekend, but we all come now from different lives and different places with different experiences and different ideas.  my three siblings and i were raised in the same home by the same parents but when we scattered near and far, some of our similarities scattered a bit too.

jess, doug and me.  missing our youngest sister, nicole, (she lives in oregon).

we’ve stretched ourselves into different people than those we were growing up in each other’s bedrooms and in each other’s daily business.  we don’t love each other any less, in fact, i’d say we love each other more, but we realize change happens. even in families.  even in our family.  and weekends like this remind us all, that though we’ve stretched, we haven’t severed.  the ties that bind us to each other as sisters and brothers and children and parents are well intact. they are strong. they sometimes can be pulled beyond what seems possible, but they are resiliant . and these ties are exactly what brings us back.
because this is family.

we make room for each other when there’s little room to be found. 

we travel long distance when it seems too far and too fantastic.

we laugh a lot because it’s probably the best ingredient in any family.

we choose to let go of the petty and hold close the important.  

we remember the love which ties us together even when we are far apart.

this is family.

this is our family.

this is my family.

and i love them. 

some more of my mom's garden...

see that table with old photos in the background?  posting on that next!

 love this one of my sister, jess, and her two guys!

 and this one of doug and his daughter, taylor.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

photos, father's day and a full quiver

my family would tell you that not every occasion or holiday requires a full on photo shoot.  they might, in fact, attempt to passionately persuade you of this opinion -- but they are wrong. simply mistaken. because...of course it does! holidays and occasions and celebrations were specifically designed to give women and men like me the opportunity to pull out our cameras.  

you cannot argue this with me.  

it's my blog.

anyway, that's what i did last sunday -- father's day. i took me some pretty good pictures of my kiddos and their awesome dad. let's be honest here, y'all know i did it for rick.  because we all know that every man wants nothing more than to pose in front of his wife's camera multiple times a day -- father's day especially.  it was my gift to him.  i knew he was much more excited about his photo shoot than he was to watch the masters or drink a beer or play with his kids in the pool or read a book on the porch.  you're welcome, honey! 

we'll see if he reads this.

anyway, i liked what we captured (it's a joint effort, i assure you).  this first one of the oldest literally melts my heart.  i think it is my absolute favorite picture of them since she entered her teen years. 

this picture is, in my humble opinion, the very essence of father's day.  

yep, i said that.  

the very essence.  

i mean just look at the love between them.  look at those smiles.  and if that's not enough, at the very least, marvel at the fact that she is the spitting image of her daddy.  

one friend on facebook commented, "it looks like he made her all by himself."  

well, er... exactly.  i need more than photo credits here folks!  if i remember correctly,  it seems i had a pretty substantial role in the moment of her arrival.  but truly, good grief!  they could enter and win a father-daughter look alike contest.

does one exist?  (i'm kind of hoping no).

then there's oldest son. i had to snap this photo of rick and tyler late on sunday because he had been gone for the weekend.  ty had traveled to northern minnesota with the awesome verdoorn family to their cabin.  fishing, shooting, four-wheeling, motorbiking, campfires, fried fish...pretty much his dream weekend.  he made it back in time to assemble his dad's new grill, install a fishing pole wall rack in the garage and enjoy a cookout with our family on sunday evening.                    

i snapped this one of middle daughter and rick at dinner saturday night.  we took the family to lola's, one of our favorite restaurants on the water.  it was a picture perfect evening at the lake.  this photo is pretty picture perfect too! all those brown eyes. sarah elizabeth loves her dad!

and then there's connor. i could just eat up this little guy's smile. he moans and groans a bit when the camera comes out -- what 10 year old boy doesn't?  but i'm sure glad he cooperated and we didn't have to photoshop him in to the family.

i'm not sure if bella will ever not look tiny in her dad's arms.  she's just such a peanut! she may be an itty bitty thing, but this girl has a huge amount of love for her daddy, that's for sure.  for father's day she made rick a book (multiple pages hole punched and tied together with ribbon...filled with items she had cut from magazines).  in addition,  she made him a "special meal."  this meal consisted of froot loops, sunflower seeds and some kind of unidentifiable ingredient she claims to have found in the pantry. rick ate it. (well, sort of...)

typical in our home, we usually have an extra kid or two around.  father's day was no different. emily's friend, maddie, from atlanta, is spending the week with us -- so she celebrated father's day too.  we didn't make her pose with mr. mcnatt,  but i did get a few pictures of these two sweet girls.  they are a whole lot more willing to cooperate for my camera.  lovely girls, inside and out.

i know it was father's day, but thanks to maddie, i got to sneak into a picture with my girlies. love, love, love my daughters and i don't need an occasion or a holiday to feel grateful for the gift of them! girl power!

okay, final picture.  this one we had taken the week before father's day to frame for rick's office.  he needed an updated family photo.  between the dogs and the rain drops, it was a dicey photo shoot to say the least, but we did it!  thank you diana rouse for balancing precariously on a chair and making this work. mcnatt kids, thank you for finding something in your closets which sort of matched and for brushing your hair at 4 o'clock on a summer's afternoon.  minne and cooper, you were amazing.  i can't believe how well the dogs did with this. 

seriously, this picture kind of reminds me of psalm 127.

you know the verse:

"behold, children (and dogs?) are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.
how blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;" ~ psalm 127:3-5

i'm not sure about rick's quiver, but my kitchen is certainly full of them! 
and i can't exactly say they resemble a bunch of "arrows in the hand of a warrior"---  but  maybe that's because i know what "the behind the scene" looked like on this photo shoot day.  oooh baby.  i know what it took to get these kids moved into position for this ambitious father's day photo,  and let me tell you, i could have definitely used some arrows and a warrior or two to help me get this quiver in line.  no, they may not be perfect arrows, but they certainly are a gift and rick certainly is blessed. and camera or no camera.  pictures or no pictures, we certainly had something to celebrate last sunday.