By: Jane

Aug 04 2011

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Category: Uncategorized


Focal Length:3.85mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:iPhone 4

I’m heading to Maine before too long to visit my brother and his family. That’s him on the left. Of course, neither one of us looks too much like that now. The picture is well over 50 years old. He asked me to bring some old family photographs along, so I’ve been digging through boxes of memorabilia that my mother collected.

I like thinking about the past, so much so that I have a subscription to It’s amazing that what would have taken travel and painstaking research just 20 years ago can now be easily accomplished in the comfort of your own living room. I’m really curious about who my great greats were, where they came from, what they were like. Do I look like any of them? Are there gestures and mannerisms that I would recognize, were I to somehow meet one of them?

Sometimes, you may not be trying to do research, but just remembering, and you find that it can easily be done in the comfort of your own basement.
I opened the mildewy box of what I thought were photographs. I’ve always known where my pack rat tendencies come from. In recent years I’ve thought of those habits as a hindrance; a flaw in my personality. One of my greatest frustrations is my own disorganization, which is largely caused by my inability to throw anything away. But tonight I see the value of hanging on to some things, not for myself, but for those who will come after me. Maybe someday my grandchildren will open a box and see the picture of me and my brother when we were little. Perhaps they will read the letters that I wrote to my Dad while he was away on some trip or other.

“Dear Daddy,
In school Mrs. Vantrease came back today.” (That puts me at 8 years old. Mrs. Vantrease was my 3rd grade teacher.) “I’m fine. how are you? Are you having a good time? My piano lessens coming along fine.” (Original spelling unaltered.) “We our watching tv right now. Right now Ray is watching an army picture. ” (When was the last time you heard a T.V. show called a “picture.”) Mommy is knitting. We all miss you. You are a nice daddy. Come home as soon as you can. Ray is being a good boy. Mommy just put Ray’s pajamas on him. The name of the tv show we are watching is combat.” (Raise your hand if you remember “Combat.” Can you sing the theme song?) “Now mommy is reading to Ray. We all love you. Love, Jane Bedford.” (Like he wouldn’t have known which daughter named Jane wrote the letter.)

Next I found the program from one of my piano recitals, not too many years later. Dated June 24, 1964, it says that I played “Scherzo” by Haydn. Honestly, I can’t even remember how it goes. I know who else was on the program…I remember them well. Some are still with us, some not, but I have a piece of paper that says that on THAT night, June 24th, 1964, we were all together in the high school auditorium in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

She kept things from my childhood, right through my own kids’ childhoods. There are birthday cards with their childish handwriting . One little card just says, “Dear Grandma, thank you for teaching me how to knit. Love, Mikey.” More proof…another paper that says there was a grandma. There was a Mikey. I can’t talk to either one of them now. But one day, 25 years ago or so, she taught him how to knit.

The little book in the picture is a special treasure that I didn’t even know existed until tonight. It’s not my baby book. It’s HER baby book, and everything in it was written by her mother. My grandmother, who I can barely remember. It’s amazing to me to look at old handwriting and consider that there once was a person who, on a specific date, at a specific time, wrote and left behind…..proof. There were people in the past. People who mean something to me, even though I didn’t know them. There’s a small picture of my baby Mom in the front, before anyone knew that she would grow up to be a loving, dignified, capable, strong mother. In my lifetime everyone called her Helen. But this little book says that her name was Helena Carolyn. She was delivered by Dr. Brock. Because it was a home delivery, the nurse who assisted the doctor was….Grandma Galousky. My Great Grandmother. It says the the father, my grandfather, was an American named George Steffen, aged 27. The mother, my grandmother, was a Lithuanian name Carolyn Amelia Galousky, aged 23. I was 23 when Stevie was born, too.

For some reason, all this just gives me great pleasure. They were real, and I can prove it. I wonder why that’s so appealing to me.



5 comments on “Memory”

  1. Jane, you just took me to a past that I was not a part of, and left me feeling as though it was my own. You are an amazing writer. Awesome!

  2. Jane, this is really neat family history. I love family history. Did you know Chuck is the 5th generation to own this house? We’ll have to swap stories some time…

  3. Good old Grandpa Steffen! Old old Tante (Aunt) Helena! Good old Uncle Ray! I remember that pic of you are “Armen Peeper, Pooper, Popper”. Love, C

  4. Oops, I meant “Good” old Tante Helena, NOT “Old”, Old !!

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