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.

Beginning a new tradition

It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Every year I watch from a distance at people camping at local stores with hopes of getting the one TV that was advertised at a ridiculously low price.

Traditional Thanksgiving meal

This year was worse. Instead of waiting for the traditional Black Friday “unofficial” start to the holiday shopping season, many stores decided to open Thanksgiving night or very early Friday morning.

For years, I have been complaining (and I’m not alone on this one) that retailers are taking away from the true meaning of certain holidays, such Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, by pushing their merchandise any way they can. Holiday displays appear in store months before the holiday actually takes place. What whose fault is it really? Don’t consumers set the pace for their buying practices? I don’t think it’s fair to put all the blame on retailers. After all, they’re just trying to make a living.

My one and only experience with Black Friday happened more than 25 years ago when Cabbage Patch Dolls were the rage. I stood in line with a friend to get one of the last dolls available anywhere in Cedar Rapids. Was the 4-hour wait worth it?

I think, as a new mother, it was, but I never did it again. I’ve since realized that there is more to life than Cabbage Patch Dolls and low-priced TVs. My Black Friday morning will be spent with my grandchildren, something that can’t be bought in a store. There will be enough time to buy the gifts I need before Christmas, but for now, I just want to reflect on how thankful I really am.

In a side note, my 23-year-old daughter cooked her very first Thanksgiving dinner in her new home, which I was honored to attend. Among the dishes that were served included the traditional green bean casserole, turkey, and stuffing, but an Asian favorite was added; crab ragoons.

Traditional Thanksgiving meal, with crab ragoons!

Who says you have to follow every tradition? Maybe it’s time to start a few new ones.