Instant Ancestors

Not mine but somebody's great-grandma

Not mine but somebody's great-grandma

I was at an antique store the other day in my Fair City and stumbled across a collection of vintage photographs.  Not just one or two but an entire shoebox full of long-ago faces imprinted forever upon now-sepia paper.  Above the box some clever vendor had a simple sign, “Instant Ancestors.” 

I thought about that for a few minutes and it struck me both funny and a tad poignant. 

Here were somebody’s relatives from days gone by, dressed in their Sunday best, seated or standing for a formal portrait, most likely hoping to have their image honored for generations to come; that their stories be told from generation to generation, and that perhaps they would in some small way live on in their extended families’ homes. 

Yet for whatever reason, these charming photos instead found themselves stacked, sardine-like, wedged between who-knows-how many other portraits lost in time, collecting dust in a dim corner of an antique store.

What circumstances, I wondered, would cause a family to discard such an intimate keepsake?  It made perfect sense to find old Mason jars, vintage records, or pennants from yesterdays ad nauseum, but this was somebody’s mother, aunt, grandmother, uncle, father, son, grandpa, Nana, sister, or brother.  Why of all things was their carefully produced photograph tossed in with the other nondescript relics of days gone by?  Did the family forget when they went through the dearly departed’s estate and casually thrown the photo in with what they thought were useless trinkets?  Or did they have some sort of falling out and the remembrance had become too difficult to bear witness by facing the person every day within a picture frame?

Whatever reason led these photographs to languish amidst the chipped serving dishes and the rusty farm implements, it now seemed behooving on me to bring at least one of them home that day and honor their lives one more time.

I invite you to look at my “instant ancestors.”  That’s my new great-aunt Ivy on the right.

I think I look like her.

Great-Aunt Ivy liked to bike as well.

Great-Aunt Ivy liked to bike as well.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dawn – what a poignant article. Well done.

    I know that you walk the talk because I have been to your house which is full of beautifully framed pictures of ancestors.

    I am sure they are all looking down on your from Heaven and smiling that they are still remembered.

  2. Thanks, Corinne,
    Glad you liked the post. I’ve always been touched by these portraits and am glad to give a few a new home and a new “family.”


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