I posted this picture on Instagram yesterday and more than one person called it treasure. That is totally how I feel about it too. I love nothing more than vintage papers: cards, postcards, letters, certificates, diaries, etc... These are the things that tell our personal stories and document our lives in real ways. They contain the details. If I am ever in a second hand store or yard sale, that's where I go, to the paper. And anything I've ever found has been beautiful, but it has not told a story that I was a part of.
When my Grandma died, I didn't expect much, there was a stainless steel cream and sugar set that I loved and reminded me of her and a glass dish that my Grandma's dill pickles would be served in at Christmas time that I really wanted, but that was it. I spent some time at my Grandma's house with my Aunt, helping to sort through a lifetime of belongings and support my Aunt with the massive task of dealing with it all. There was a good amount of stuff, two small rooms full I suppose. I'm sure some people leave more things behind, but what really interested me was not the stuff. It was the paper.
I wondered if there were love letters between my Grandma and Grandpa and if she had kept a diary. What stories were hidden in the boxes and among the newspaper clippings? My Aunt and I found so many amazing things that day; cards, letters, baby books, cook books, calendars and more, but it wasn't until my Aunt emailed me a few weeks later that I got really excited.
She was going to give most of it to me.
I cried a little, at the responsibility of owning my Grandma's personal papers, but also at the amazing opportunity and privilege of being able to spend quality time with these things. You know that I will be photographing them, and sharing them with you. I'd love to make a book, to share with her family at the very least, but it might be an interesting enough portrait of a life lived in the 40's to share with a wider audience too.
There is a sublime level of detail with all these things together. Along with my Grandma's marriage certificate from 1943 was a receipt for her wedding bouquet. It was $5.00. Her diary from 1942 details her courtship with my Grandpa. The first entry on January 1st tells about her family's New Year's turkey dinner and a dance she attended, in a black taffeta formal dress. She danced with ten men and the last one was my Grandpa. A defining moment that set in motion all the things that would lead to my own life.
It's a strange feeling, looking at a single sentence in a seventy year old diary and wondering, without that sentence would I even exist? I felt like I was in the movie Back to the Future and without that sentence, my image would just slowly fade away from the picture. It's so weird.
That moment did happen though, and now here I am reading about it. Three weeks later there is an entry, "Saw Eddie downtown. Don't know whether he knew me or not" and then another week after that, "Eddie at the dance. He walked me home. Crazy!!" I can just feel her excitement and I wonder if he kissed her. My Grandpa starts showing up regularly after that. In September and October there isn't a lot written, but I did find this on Sept 23, "Letter from Ed today. No hope of seeing him for a time yet."
It's just awesome. Sweet, wistful and exciting.
Obviously more to come. Stay tuned!