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Jun 1, 2012
Capturing Summer in a Picture Box
Childhood vacation memories of porch conversations with grandparents, filled with plenty of Coke and Cheez-Its – and precious family photos
My favorite summer memory actually spanned over the course of many summers. It all started when I was 7 years old. I loved spending time with my mother's parents: Grandma and Grandpa Riske. Summer visits were always peppered with many long talks on the front porch while consuming numerous Cheez-Its and bottles of Coca-Cola. Sometimes, we would sit next to an oscillating fan playing rousing games of gin rummy.
But other times, if I truly begged, I was allowed to look at the picture box. The picture box was from J. L. Hudson's. There was always such anticipation as I slowly removed the white cardboard top with the fancy green H.
Upon lifting the lid, I would find many photographs: Daguerreotypes, tintypes, carte de visits and more – snapshots of my relatives. I would pick up each picture, hold it and ask my grandparents to share the story of the person or people in it. No matter how many times I heard the wonderful stories of years gone by, I would sit and listen for hours. The most amazing thing was how my grandparents never ceased to tell me the stories. I especially enjoyed making up my own names and events for the mysterious people of my past. Oftentimes, I hoped that if I stared long enough, the stoic subjects would crack a smile. Such a different time, but such a true experience of history and family.
Every summer (and sometimes during the school year), I journeyed back in time with the picture box. In fact, I continued the tradition throughout my childhood and into my adult years.
It has been over 10 years since my grandma passed away, and the same amount of time that I have not opened the picture box. I suppose I cannot imagine experiencing the past without her present.