Mom Was a Shutterbug

This weekend I broke out the shovel and started scooping up mounds of memorabilia, which have been gathering dust in the back bedroom since my mother passed away in March.

Mom was a shutterbug.

There are lots of family photos, which I’m putting in a shoebox. I may even have enough to fill two shoeboxes. I also have photos of cats — cats rolling on the lawn and strolling on the roof. Photos of trees and horses, of picturesque buildings in the Gold Country, of ships and boats, of the Christmas display my father put in our front window in Bloomington, Illinois, in 1958. Out-of-focus shots of birthday cakes, and of a scuba diver in a tank at the Monterey Aquarium (or at least that’s what it looks like).

After my father died, Mom started doing pastels. She went on week-long pastel workshops — and here are the photos of the other workshop participants at their easels. Here’s a photo of a deer. Groups of people standing around. Those photos I’ll toss, without regret.

And here and there, a photo that brings back amazing memories. I found a photo taken on a camping trip in 1968. The lumpy-looking 12-year-old boy in the photo is Dan Borenstein, who is now a columnist with the Contra Costa Times. I haven’t spoken to Dan in more than 40 years, but I scanned it and emailed it to him. Why the heck not?

Half a dozen photos of my grandmother’s casket, before they buried it. A nude baby picture of my sister, age 3. Many photos of Mom’s card-playing friends. Photos of me when I had a mustache. I had forgotten about that too.

On some level I’m grateful to have all this stuff. But going through it takes both time and emotional energy. I can’t throw anything out until I’ve looked at it. There was a whole box of memorabilia left by my father’s cousin Rosalie. Rosalie was a piano teacher in Chicago, and she never married. My father was her only close relative. She died in 1984 or ’85, and my parents went back to Chicago to take care of her estate. I have her tax return for 1984 and some really old photos, including one that’s probably my great-aunt, Laura Crockett. Also Rosalie’s college diploma and a three-ring binder in which she wrote down reminiscences of her mother. I’m keeping the binder, though I don’t imagine anyone will ever read or care about it; the tax returns will go.

Rosalie grew up in Tulsa. I have snapshots of downtown Tulsa taken after the race riot of 1921. She would have been 11 years old at the time. Imagine that.

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