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.

Week 11–the heart of a journalist

I had a busy week, mostly taking pictures and making videos. I’m starting to get into the back-to-school mode and trying to tie up loose ends before I make the plunge back into homework and deadlines.

One thing I have noticed in the past few years since deciding on a career in journalism; I see everything as a potential story… everything. It has taken me practice and know-how to determine exactly what kind of story it will be, but a story, nonetheless.

I walked into the Mount Mercy University bookstore today to say hello to a friend and ended up leaving with information about a jewelry display on their counter. I never noticed it before and I asked Janie Mills, the manager of the bookstore, if it was new. She told me no, but it had been in a basket at the end of the counter, and they just decided to display it better. The jewelry sales, she continued, is raising money for cancer research, and was started by a local girl whose mother was dying of cancer. She was 12 years old when she started, and Janie said didn’t know much more about it, but said the bookstore is selling the jewelry to help them out.

That’s all I needed to know. It was the start of a story. I’m still not sure what I will do with it, but I’m sure something will come of it.

That’s what I mean. I just have it in my blood, I guess. I find so many things interesting that sometimes it gets me into trouble and I end up with so many things on my plate. I have to learn to decide what things are more important.

This weekend my grandson had his Su Kwan, a Buddhist blessing, which I blogged about earlier. I saw a story there, too. I really did try to just enjoy the celebration, as any grandparent would, but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to get just the right angle for pictures, just the right spot for the video. I just kept thinking to myself, they’ll thank me some day. And I did enjoy it, just not leisurely. I think everyone is getting used to seeing me carry a camera around everywhere I go, snapping pictures, looking for the perfect photo opportunity.

My 5-year-old granddaughter spent the night with me last night and she started telling me about her day at a rinky-dink zoo in Manchester, Iowa, which was at a lady’s house. She was so funny that I had to stop her and go get my camera to record her. “OK, now tell me again about the animals you saw,” I told her. I didn’t have to encourage her too much; she’s a natural!

I used to think it was strange of me to see a story in most everything I heard and saw, but now I don’t think it’s so out of the ordinary–not for a journalist, anyway.

Su Kwan Video

Zoo Video

The Hiawatha Advocate