I was going through my jumbled mess of decades-old photos and I came across this one of my mother’s two coworkers taken in 1969 in front of the LuAl dress shop where my mom worked as a sales clerk in Hoffman Estates where we lived. I’d seen the photo before but never, in all these many years, saw what my mother wrote on back of the photo. I think she may have enjoyed writing, but she died at 51 so she never had the chance after raising four children, and working outside the home, to find the time to write.
She died when I was 19, and I never had the chance to know her as an adult, how she thought, her feelings or opinions. There wasn’t a lot of time in my mother’s life for creative self expression, so her notes on the back of this old photo was her way of sharing herself, to herself, however small the space.
I get great joy just seeing the familiar handwriting of a loved one. Don’t you? Who even writes with a pen anymore? There is nothing profound about what she wrote, but reading this was special to me as it was an insight into my mother’s yearnings, those secret places within her that I never had a chance to know. It’s not just because she died early. Sometimes we don’t truly know our loved ones even if they live long lives.
She wrote: The gal in the white dress is my manager Joan. The other gal is my pal “Rita”. She is a real “Auntie Mame” Style–Always 8 rings on & every outfit has matching jewelry. She works part time for something to do — money no problem. Her home is 3 levels & beautiful. This is taken in front of the Lual by me.
At a used book store I bought this book because I always need help learning to let go whether it be clothes that don’t fit, relationships that I’ve outgrown, or my misguided attempt to control the world according to my standards because of course I always know best. As if! Anyway, it wasn’t until I purchased the book did I see someone had written in the opening blank pages. I’m pretty sure it was a woman. Either that or a man very in touch with his feelings. .
Dated 1992, the woman wrote about frustrations with her ex husband and her two grown daughters. It went on for several pages. I felt as if I was snooping into someone’s journal. I wondered why this woman donated this book, maybe she didn’t remember she’d poured out all her anger and angst about her family relationships and threw it in the donation box. Or she had died and it was just piled with other stuff. She was trying so hard to let go of negative feelings. I felt for her.
There is enough dramatic material here for a novel. I wondered if the two daughters she writes about would want to read what their mother wrote? Would it show a side of her they hadn’t known? It’s not all nice, and would it be too hurtful? I would find it fascinating to get a glimpse of the inner workings of a loved one’s mind. But that’s me. I’m sorta snoopy.
I didn’t know my mother wanted a three level house. I know she loved jewelry. We keep so much of who we are hidden. Nowadays with technology, I wonder where people are jotting down their feelings and thoughts beside just snippets on Facebook or other social media. And how truthful is what we post on Facebook? How tiring it can get to portray life as perfect. I’m guilty of it, too.
My long time friend, Chris Lewis, lost her husband in December. She was looking through his papers as she is preparing a dedication speech she will give when the emergency room in Boulder, Colorado is dedicated to Paul next month. He spent 32 years there as both a doctor and an administrator before his untimely passing. She found a short piece he had written about change many years ago for a management class which she showed me recently.
He compared our journey in life to a captain navigating a ship on a sometimes bumpy sea. Boy oh boy. Paul could have had a second career as a writer. I can’t do the piece justice through explanation. Finding it brought Chris some comfort, or so I hope. He wrote how change in life is inevitable and yet we must still go forth on the seas of life, beneath the stars, and move forward, keeping sight of the shore, yet looking toward the open waters. Something like that. I was inspired by the words he left behind because what greater change is there than death.
I so often hear people wishing their deceased relatives had written down stories about their lives. I wish that too. But, however small, I have these few words written by my mother and all those old photos to help keep her memory alive. I can’t let go of my old photos. Not yet. Someday.
On this one she wrote Christmas Lual shop. Aren’t they all so fashionable in the hot styles from 1970? Love that fringed vest.
On the back she said the woman on the left was Joan. We remember her. Betty with the bouffant is in the middle. . And then her dear friend, Rita, on the right. About Rita she wrote: My girlfriend. In her 50s. She has 6 grown children. One son in Vietnam. She wears 1/2 glasses.
In the corner of the photo she wrote: See the champagne bottle on the counter for Christmas Eve. I hope the gals enjoyed that bottle of champagne and made a toast to all the possibilities for 1970. And that Rita’s son returned home from Vietnam and that woman reconciled with her daughters and that Paul Lewis will always be remembered for his good works.
The stories of our lives matter. Keep sharing them.