I realized today that I have become the Family Archivist.
I didn't want the job. Didn't apply for it, it just happened. It sort of snuck up on me, slowly.
Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved looking at pictures. My Nanny...no, not that kind! Nanny was my Daddy's Mama. Nanny had a dresser drawer full of pictures. On rainy days, I'd sit in her front bedroom, and while she'd be laying out material for a dress, or skirt, or whatever material she was going to cutting out, I'd go through all the pictures, just looking at them. Some of the ones that were taken recently, I could pick out Aunts and Uncles and Cousins and friends that I knew. If Nanny was busy, I'd wait until I had a pile of pics and then I'd wag them over to her. "Nanny, who's this?" "Well, who's this?" And on and on, until I'd made her identify everyone in every picture in my stack.
Now, Nanny's gone. Twenty-two years gone. I still miss her. And Daddy's gone, two years gone now. I really miss him.
But my cousin M is around and living in Killeen. Her memory is most excellent, luckily for me. I went over to her place this morning with a stack of pictures and a pad of Post-it notes. She and I spent a couple of hours playing the "Who's this?" game. Only this time, I wrote down who everyone was.
Trust me, this was a treasure trove! There are shots of my Daddy as a toddler, a young boy, a teenager and a young Daddy. There's even a shot of me as a Babe in arms, my beloved GrandDad's arms. All of these pics are from my Nanny's side of the fam. It's her parents, sisters and brothers and all their children and lo unto the next generations.
In order to get the pics out of the bag in the box in the bottom of the hall closet, I had to Promise my Mom I'd bring them back. Well, I'm going to bring them back...after I put them in an album, and put labels beside each one identifying all the subjects in each picture. My children and grandchildren will NOT be pulling at their hair, grinding their teeth, growling, "Mother/Gram, WHY didn't you put something on these pictures to give us a CLUE who these people are?!?!"
Also, Thanks so much, M, until today, I never knew my Great-GrandDad Bishop re-married after my GGMthr B died. And, I was actually pretty proud of myself on some of the pics. My Nanny's siblings that I grew up knowing in Killeen, I could identify in almost all the pics. I had some trouble with her Baby-bro, but once he got a few years on him, he started to look like the man I remembered. But I found out he had been an MP in the Army. I didn't know that before. And her brother Lefty, I knew he had played Baseball for the Humble Oil Co. and that he was called "Lefty" because he was a Southpaw, but I either didn't know or had forgotten that he was a Pitcher. I do remember they hired him b/c he could play ball. The scout told him that they could teach him his company job, they were hiring him b/c he was a good ball player. Now that I think of it, there's a Baseball player on my Daddy's side of the family, too.
When his ball career didn't take off, he came back to Dallas and went to Law School. The Show's loss was the Bar's gain.
After my morning of identifying pictures with one cousin, I went to Belton and had lunch with a couple of cousins in my generation from a different branch of the family. The wife part of this couple was my friend since before school days. She is a talented photographer and was able to restore a family portrait of my Great-Great Grandparents. It's just amazing. And while my Cousin M didn't know who any of the people in it were, I can't help but hope the fiddle player was my Great-GrandDad Bishop. It would give some measure of tradition to my Angel Baby Girl playing the Double Bass, wouldn't it? But if GrandDad wasn't the Fiddle Player, then I hope he was the second boy from the right, the one with the mischievous grin. That grin that reminded me so very much of my own son's grin.
I take this job of archivist seriously. I want my Children and Grands to have a concrete sense of the People from whom they come. Like Caroline, the Wife and Mother who walked to Bell County, TX from somewhere in Arkansas immediately after the War of Northern Aggression. She had to walk, leading the mules who were pulling the wagon containing her convalescent Confederate Veteran Husband and five children. And Uncle Robert, the Veteran of the Texas Revolution, who showed up at the SanJacinto battleground, on April 22. But Ol'Sam found a job for him anyway. And Nanny, who was compared to Tabitha/Dorcas during her eulogy. They need to know these people. And I'm the very lucky woman who gets to pass these stories on to another generation.