Much of today was no picnic.
But somehow, in spite of all the long hours of work, we did what most families do when gathering for an extended-family picnic — we visited, we remembered, we laughed and we enjoyed wonderful picnic food. Foods like fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, deviled eggs and pimento cheese sandwiches. And an assortment of home-made desserts like chocolate cake, banana pudding, fried pies and cookies.
The kids ran and played and looked for ways to help their elders, who were busy sorting through years of life left behind by my parents. We stirred up the dust with our brooms and by the time the dust settled, two dumpsters were filled with remnants of my parent’s life — and more than a few of us carried home treasures of our own.
Some would call my mother a hoarder, though she wouldn’t have seen herself this way. Mom instead viewed herself more like a fairy godmother, turning junk into treasure with a little pixie dust. And I think Mom would be pleased to know some of her treasures ended up being treasures for those she left behind.
One of my treasures is an old family photo album that belonged to my great-great grandmother — she is known as “Grandma Morrison”, but in the days before she married, and had children who had children, she was just herself, Eliza Jacoby.
Knowing a little about my maternal grandmother’s history, I’m guessing this album dates back to the 1870’s. Most of the old photos are unidentified relatives, though a few have names written on the back of the photograph in the hand of my Great-Aunt Blanche, who gave the album to my mother.
The other treasures I gathered included some old family films, taken by my parents in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Until I can investigate whether these images can be digitized, I’m keeping the film canisters in an old King Edwards Cigar Box I scavenged upon in my mother’s former shop. Like many children of my generation, I always thought empty cigar boxes made perfect storage for all sorts of prizes.
The last treasure I brought home for myself was one of my father’s old VHS movies. In honor of a day of this family picnic lunch, I chose the movie Picnic, which was released in 1955, the year I was born. Picnic was one of Daddy’s favorite films, kept with all other favorites in the drawer of his television cabinet.
My father viewed his movies in conjunction with the season; Daddy watched Yankee Doodle Dandy around Independence Day, State Fair when the fair was beginning in September, and A Christmas Carol in early December. Most likely, Picnic was shown around Labor Day.
It’s sobering to see my parent’s lives together come down to us sifting through the rubble for treasures to keep, give away and sell. It’s a reminder that our time here is brief — that someday, not too far in the distant future, a few of the items we treasure may also be found worthy to keep by our own descendants.
And like me and my newly acquired family photo album, they may not fully know what treasure they actually possess. For now, it’s this same way with Dad’s video of Picnic. But I’ll make amends come Labor Day.