|My paternal grandmother and my father, 1928, Ventspils, Latvia|
A couple of events recently have opened a vein of curiosity and even a need to go back in time. One was an email that showed up in my inbox a couple weeks ago with the subject line of "Aloha Zinta." I had no idea my cousin was now living in Hawaii. How had we lost touch? So long since we had seen each other, yet we had been inseparable in our childhoods, spending all our summers together as little girls. Her father was my mother's much beloved brother.
Odd, that I've visited at some point all 49 of our 50 United States, but never been to Hawaii. Now, she lives on the island of Oahu. Will this at long last be my reason to make the long journey to our 50th state? I find myself giving it serious consideration.
Meanwhile, she is planning to visit the Midwest sometime this September, and we are now planning to spend some time together at Z Acres. She can stay at the Cottage on the Hill, and we can catch up on all those lost years ... and vow to never lose time like that again.
Time passes so quickly, so quickly. The second event that inspired me to wax nostalgic and feel once again a deep appreciation for family was my father's recent health issues. He's recovering nicely, but it was a scare. My sister came out, too, to check on him. With the help of visiting nurses and therapists, we are on the road to recovery ... and it is we, not just he, because when one of us ails, all of us care.
Family. How to put into words its importance? Last evening, my sister and mother and I gathered around the kitchen table in my parents' home and opened boxes of old photos. My father rested in the next room. I couldn't get enough. Many, if not most of these photos, I'd seen before, but some were a fresh discovery.
|My paternal grandparents|
|My grandparents and my father|
|My father, holding the leash to the pup, with his cousins in Latvia|
|My paternal grandmother|
And still in me.
I peer closely at the old photos of my father as a child. Already serious. My grandmother pushing him in a wonderful white child cart, laughter on her face. I see him on his first tricycle, my grandfather watching over him. Fathers, always initiating their sons on first wheels. I see my father holding the leash of a tiny white dog with one black eye. The brothers, then, four of them. More family members, growing years, graduations, then photos of my parents' engagement, a few wedding scenes, unposed. There I am, an infant in my parents' arms. My sister, her long blonde braids, and the two sisters already forming their bond.
|The four brothers, my father the eldest, and my grandparents|
|My father's graduation from Art Institute of Chicago|
|My mamma in bobby socks|
|A candid photo at my parents' wedding, Chicago, 1951|
"Tava Vecmamite," my mother smiles. My grandmother, her mother. My grandfather I could recognize more readily. Oh, how I had adored them ...
|My maternal grandparents|
|My maternal grandmother|
|My grandmother in Latvian folk costume|
|My father on his first tricycle, with his father|
|My maternal great-grandfather|
|My mother and her brother|
|A bombed-out house in Germany where my mother's family, with many others, found shelter in refugee years|
|My mother in Germany|
Eyes not so unlike mine. I am looking into mirrors. A little hint of me here, a spark of me there. All come together, and then somewhere in there is me, and then after me, my children. On it goes, the passage of time and the passing of the family flame across generations.
|My family in our first house in Kalamazoo (I am in my father's arms)|
|That would be me|
|At my confirmation, age 16, with my father in background|
I take a large envelope of photos, begging them off my mother, pondering how I might display them in my home. These beautiful photos don't belong in dusty boxes, tucked into a dark back corner of a closet. I want to see them, look deep into them, again and again, and let them live with me in my every day.
I don't ever want to forget the gift of these faces and the lives behind them, making mine possible. This is my family. This is me, and who lives in me now.
|Left to right, my mom, grandmother in front, uncle Aivars in back, my then husband, me, my father|
|My grandfather, writer Ernests Aistars|
|My baby girl in our Kentucky home|
|Z and Mama|
|My sister at left, and me|
|Z and my cousin Ray|
|Z in chair, sister Daina with doll|
|My son in his great-grandfather's arms, his two great-grandmothers|
|My daughter's first day home, with our cat Podzina|