Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Look what I found!

Researching my family history - digging through documents, paging through old photo albums, surfing the 'Net, and recording my mother's stories is a long, sometimes tedious process. But it has its rewards.

I have found new information, clarified and expanded old stories, found photos that I knew existed somewhere but hadn't seen in many years, and have learned details related to many photos that I was unaware of prior to beginning this process.

Some of the information describes circumstances and activities that my children and I only know of through museum displays and history books. It describes a way of living that we can no longer relate to; and yet it was lived by my parents.

My mother has photos of every house that she lived in except for where she was born. Her father was moved around many times because of his work, which took his family from East Frisia to Upper Silesia to Bohemia, back to Upper Silesia then to Austria and then back to East Frisia. They lived in 3 different houses in one village in East Frisia. As I scanned these photos my mother would reminisce, relating details faster than I could record them. (I've now taken my mom's photo album to my desk where I'm scanning the photos I want and when I'm done I'll go back to her  and get the related stories).

The other day I was sitting at her dining room table, scanning more photos when I came across a picture of my sister and I playing a duet at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre in 1965. We were playing at an annual recital of music students from the music school where we were taking violin lessons. My sister was 9 and I was 11 at the time. It was the first public performance for either of us - one of countless more. I never knew this picture existed until I saw it in my paternal grandmother's photo album when I was in Hanover, Germany in 1984. Apparently the only two copies of this photo were sent to each set of my grandparents in Germany. Now I found it in an album my maternal grandmother had put together for my mother.

After scanning the photo I emailed it to my sister, but when I talked to her about it several days later I had to explain to her when and where the photo was taken, and an unforgettable (for me) incident at the recital.

The Music School had invited the very young band The Guess Who to appear as guest performers, which enraged my extremely anti-rock n' roll father. He went storming backstage and had he found my sister and me, he would have pulled us out of there before we even had a chance to play. At our next violin lesson my dad pulled us out of that music school and signed us up with a different violin teacher. (When I think about it now, the whole thing was so ridiculous that I can only shake my head and laugh. At the time is was embarrassing.)

My sister usually remembers more people, details and events than I do so I was surprised she didn't remember anything of this event. Interesting what we remember and what we forget.

I like to put together photo collages so I sifted through my image files and found 2 other pictures; 1 of me playing at a friend's wedding in 1977 and a fragment of a picture of me playing at a family Christmas gathering in 1991. We always sang a lot when we got together as a family and here we were singing Christmas carols. My son was about 13 months old at the time and he climbed up onto my lap and sat there while I played. He did that whenever I played my violin or viola. When I played in the worship band at church he would toddle up to the front of the gathering, climb on my lap, put his hand on the bow, and quietly sit there while the music went on. I enjoyed this activity with my son and only stopped doing it when he decided he wanted to operate the bow himself.

 I wonder what other memorable gems I'll find as I dig through these old family photos.

Of all of our inventions for mass communication, 
pictures still speak the most universally understood language.
~~~ Walt Disney

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