Tags: conservator, family research, joy, photographs, preserving photographs
I have been pulled in so many directions and left feeling like there is never enough “me time” and that leads to feeling so selfish that I want to be left alone to indulge in my personal passions. Working nights on twelve hour shifts 3 or 4 nights weekly means days spent sleeping. During my off days I work on all the normal family tasks of keeping a house running smoothly and get to relax with my personal projects only in small increments.
One of those selfish projects is scanning all the old photo albums from my own childhood, my children, and any other photos I find laying around. Most of our photos were labeled and stored in albums fortunately but I do have the usual unlabeled ones that take research to learn who those people were/are or where that one was taken and when. One copy of a photo is saved to a file of similar photos and each labeled properly and completely – then the file is both burned to CDs and saved to an external hard drive. CDs will be given to each son along with his own albums of the actual photos. (This cleans Mom’s house in the process too – ha ha) Hopefully it will mean the photos will last to hand to another generation someday and preserve that much more family history.
My dad used to be a part time photographer around WWII era. He would take portrait photographs of the children in the area, my mom would then hand tint them with color in the style of that era – using a delicate hand to bring the photos to life! He then sold those photos to the parents. By the 1950’s he no longer was selling his work but enjoyed the hobby and passed that love and skill on to his daughters.
My grandmother was the family photographer as I was growing up. Everywhere we went, she held her Brownie camera – an old box camera – in her hands taking photos, posing everyone at every chance. Family would be so frustrated as she made each stand for their picture to be taken – sometimes alone or sometimes in groups. They dreaded those photo sessions at every family gathering. I recently realized that is probably what caused me to avoid taking many photos of people. Mostly I have enjoyed photos of places and things, with people only incidently there. Or my real passion has been candid photos of the people taken without intruding, without posing. Instead I love taking photos of people being themselves. My request to our wedding photographer had been to take candids, not pose groups of people.
It is these bits and pieces – candids in time, or a flower, a tree, a mountain,or a landscape, or an object that for me evoke an emotion, a feeling, a memory. It is these photos that speak to my soul, that call to me to be taken. Yet, recently I have found another call to my spirit, a call to photograph faces, expressions, eyes. There is a need to save those snippets, to preserve the emotions shown there. Now it remains to be seen where this new urgency takes me.
Tags: courage, famiglia, family history, family research, starving, WWII
Courage of Our Women
Watching news reports of the missiles and bombs in Gaza has been leading me to reflect on the women of our family and how remarkable they were. Regardless of whether one is pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, one would have to be made of stone to not have compassion for the women and children of both sides caught up in the current hostilities and wars.
My own mother faced my father going off to the South Pacific in WWII with the American Navy. She was left home to work and care for their infant daughter. Cell phones and Internet email were not options then. Regular mail – handwritten (or the occasional typed) letters were slow to arrive and usually blacked out in many lines by the censors.
My mother-in-law saw the same war as a victim of location. She lived in Itri, Italy – a small town at that time located midway between Roma and Napoli. That meant all armed forces no matter whose marched through and bombed their way through Itri just as they had since before the Romans! The family home was in the old part of Itri up the slopes near the castle and the old church, Santa Maria. Fortunately during one of those bombing raids, Concetta heard the planes approach, and ran outside to the archway of the church when the bomb struck, destroying the house and leaving her with concussion deafness. Family along with several other families moved to the cave near her farm. It was safer for the families than the center of town but even with the farms, families were starving. Finally Francesco (my father-in-law) was able to sneak to a German encampment after one of the bombing raids. There he found horses killed by the blasts and butchered them, taking the hind quarters back to the caves to feed the families.
All the years growing up, Valentino rarely heard his mother speak of those times. I certainly did not hear the stories from her years later either. She never complained that life was unfair. It was a fact of life that she had to deal with at the time and she did what was necessary for her family to survive. No televisions crew came to televise their stories, no reporters wrote glowing words to invoke reader sympathies. There was no UN food team or Red Cross clothing drive. She kept the family together and fed them and took them to church and gave them the values of God, family, and Italy to carry through their lives.
I walked the bombed out ruins that linger abandoned today in Italy. The rough edges are softened by wild vines and grass and moss clinging to the rubble everywhere one walks. I visited old family homesteads and an ancient concentration camp further north in Italy. I read poignant tombstones in local cemeteries. And I was dumbstruck at the sight of rows of white crosses at Avellino. So much loss and heartache on all sides. Would I have been able to be as strong and courageous as Concetta? Could I have faced what she did and still have enough love and hope to care for, nurture, and encourage my children? I wonder? But I am so grateful she did.