Our lives in pictures: Carrying on a tradition

My grandmother’s house was an interesting place to visit. She had an old piano in the

My grandkids at a recent birthday celebration. (photo by Cynthia Petersen)

corner that was off-key for as long as I could remember. She had an old clock on the mantel over the fireplace that was never used. Her furniture consisted of a mismatched greenish-blue sofa, a red velvet easy chair that my grandpa sat in, a very old television set, and an old cluttered desk where she sat and played solitaire for hours.

Her house also had an attic that was fun to explore in and held boxes and boxes of old photographs. There were many times when I visited that she would bring one of the boxes down for me to look at. I spent hours pouring over the black and whites (and sometimes colored) pictures of my father’s family at every stage in their lives.

The photos told the story of the Depression through my family’s eyes; my grandpa’s little corner grocery store at various stages of its existence, activities of the many members of the family, the trips they took to Michigan, Chicago, Hawaii, Israel, Mexico, and other places. There were even pictures of the yearly trek to the Marengo cemetery to put flowers on my grandfather’s grave, which they always made a day of.

My grandmother had taken so many pictures that I could see the story of my family’s life unfold in front of me. Marriages, new babies, birthdays, and other special moments that made up their lives.

I didn’t realize the tradition I was following when I picked up the hobby myself when I was a little girl. I was thrilled when I got my first Instamatic and Polaroid cameras and spent hours just taking pictures of those things I found interesting. Needless to say, I have also accumulated boxes of pictures over the years.

I recently received a Canon Rebel camera for Christmas and have already taken almost 7,000 pictures, an easy task when I take nearly 100 at one time.  (It’s also much easier with a digital camera. You can delete the ones you don’t want.)

I’m not sure what it is that drives me to take so many pictures but I’m sure it has something to do with capturing that moment in time. We can look back and remember what made us the happiest, how we felt, what we were experiencing at that exact moment.

My kids used to complain that I took too many pictures. “Just wait,” I told them. “Someday I’ll be famous and you’ll be happy that I took so many.”

Well, I’m not famous yet, but I still think they’re glad that I always have my camera with me.

Paying tribute to the Ghost of Christmas Past

I had some great Christmases through the years. Though some of them didn’t always turn out the way I would have liked, they were all great. But then again, when you’re a kid, they’re all great just because it’s Christmas.

Santa Claus arrived in a fire truck Dec. 6 in Hiawatha-a little early, but no one seemed to care. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

My first memory of Santa Claus was when I was 4 or 5. My big brother told me all about how Santa Claus would come down our chimney when we were asleep and bring us all kinds of presents…if we were good. I spent that whole month before Christmas so worried that I wasn’t being good enough. But my fears subsided when I awoke Christmas morning with lots of presents to open from Santa.

We would always be reminded later that morning that the real meaning of Christmas did not lie in how many presents we received, but in why we celebrate the day at all; the birth of Christ. The story of the nativity kept me in awe, as we sang hymns and watched the story being played out by members of our church. As a 5-year-old, I had a hard time trying to figure out how the two symbols fit together. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that the two symbols represent love in its highest form; unselfish acts of giving.

As I grew and reality stole my belief in Santa Claus, I tried to keep the feeling of wonderment I felt as a child. The excitement of Santa Claus may be gone, but it has been replaced by a more sincere and realistic view of why we celebrate Christmas. The feeling I get when someone I love opens a gift I know they appreciate, is the only gift I could ever ask for.

Some of the highlights of my Christmases Past include hearing jingle bells and looking out the window just in time to see Santa Claus (really our neighbor Mr. Ward) walking up a snow-packed street, shouting, “Merry Christmas!”

Another wonderful memory include my dad reading, The Night Before Christmas,” to us as we gathered around him in the living room on Christmas Eve, hanging our socks up on the mantel for Santa Claus to fill.

I remember sneaking up to my mom and dad’s closet with my brother and finding the gifts they had bought us, not wanting to believe that they were Santa all along.

Some of my favorite things at Christmas are:

The TV Shows:

The Music:

The Commercials:

I love Christmas. Not for the presents, or the parties, or the awesome sales, but because people are just nicer this time of year. People decorate their homes and pay their respects to the real reason for the season, Jesus Christ.

Because that’s what it’s really all about, Christ, and all that he represents.