Moving On

Scan 1When I was seven, my father decided to enroll in seminary to become a minister,  which meant that our family moved from a four-plus bedroom house to a five-room campus apartment.  The apartment was tiny, and had an odd layout because it had been pieced together from single-student dorm rooms.  Our bathroom was dormitory style, complete with a toilet stall, and our kitchen had no sink.  We lived there four years, and for that whole time, my deepest desire was to move back to my old house.  Even now,  I still have fond memories of living in that house, and feel a twinge of longing whenever I’m in my old neighborhood and drive by it.

So when I heard that my old house was going for sale, my first thought was that I could actually buy it now (if I could talk my husband into it) and move right back in.  For a while, it was exciting to realize that I was finally in a position to make one of my strongest childhood dreams come true.  But it wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t really want to move back there anymore.

It’s still a wonderful house, with bright and spacious rooms, hardwood floors and lots of original woodwork, and it’s going to make somebody a fabulous new home.  But I’m no longer the kid living in a cramped apartment and longing to return to her former home.  I’m all grown up now (and then some), and am quite happy in the house I’ve been living in for the past twenty years.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that moving out of that house wasn’t quite the tragedy I remembered.

It was tough to downsize as drastically as we did, to have to give our beloved dog to family friends, and leave my familiar neighborhood behind. But moving to seminary housing meant I had a huge campus to roam, and a constant stream of new friends (sometimes from other countries) as the families of new students moved in.  And after my dad graduated, we moved to rural Kansas were I learned first-hand what small-town life is like.  That was a hard adjustment at first, but it was also where I finally got the horse I’d always been wanting and where I made strong friendships that have continued to this day.

I have moved many times in my life, sometimes through choice and sometimes from necessity.  And there was a time when I thought my life would have been so much better if I had just stayed in one place, and been spared the pain of leaving friends, family, and familiar surroundings behind.  But I have come to realize that there was something good that came from each move, and that each and every place I have lived has helped shape me into who I am today.

Life is often referred to as a journey, and I believe that is a good description.  Sometimes my path has been smooth, and sometimes it’s been rocky, but either way, it has led me to exactly where I am now.  From the hard times, I learned that I was much stronger and more resilient than I had ever realized.  From the good times, I gained beautiful memories that will always be with me as I forge ahead.  All of it had a hand in shaping the person I have become, even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time.

ScanThrough a series of happy circumstances, I was invited to visit my old house the other day, and got to walk through all the rooms I remembered so well.  It was a wonderful, if slightly surreal, experience.  I still love that house, and I think I always will.  But I won’t try to go back to it.  It’s someone else’s turn to live there now…..

A Picture of my Life

I just spent a happy morning at my computer, putting the finishing touches on a photo book of my daughter’s wedding.  Of course I have lots of pictures of the wedding, which are  either framed and displayed around my house or tucked into a huge photo album I bought especially for the occasion, and I’ll be getting a copy of the official wedding album from the professional photographer.  But I wanted to make a photo book using only the photos I selected, and doing it on-line means that I can easily shrink or enlarge the photos, and rearrange them until I am happy with the result.  Plus, photo books are much smaller and lighter than regular photo albums.  They’re so easy to take along when I’m visiting friends or relatives whom I’m sure would like nothing more than to look at at the photos of my daughter’s wedding one more time.

I know lots of mothers are a bit overly-enthusiastic about their daughter’s wedding pictures, but my enthusiasm (aka obsession) isn’t limited to the wedding photos.  I have thirty-one albums filled with photos, seven scrapbooks with pictures pasted in, and I keep my extra photos neatly labeled and organized in eight separate photo boxes.  I always keep some empty photo albums, just waiting to be filled, including the large one bought for my son’s upcoming wedding.  And just in case my print photos should be damaged in some kind of natural disaster or a house fire, I also have full photo cards in my safety deposit box, and keep copies of the pictures on CDs and stored on my computer.

Oddly, I’m not a skilled photographer and have never owned anything more complicated than a simple point-and-shoot camera.  I love photographs, but I don’t have the same passion for actually taking the pictures.  I think what I love about photos is that they remind me (a person with an absolutely rotten memory) of all that I have done in my life, all the places I have been, and all the people that I have known.  I’ve never gotten the hang of keeping a daily journal, but in a way, my photo albums are my journals.  The pictures in them are arranged in chronological order (of course), so if I’m having trouble remembering something from my past, all I have to do is get out the photo album from that year and look it up.  And it’s amazing how many memories come rushing back when I take the time to look through my old pictures.

Bernard and Martha_0013 (2)

I suppose what I’m really doing with my photos is documenting my life.  The old family pictures of relatives who died before I was even born remind me of where I came from,  and that I am a product of families that have been around for a long, long time.  All the photos taken after I was born chart the path of my life, both the good times and the bad.  (Note to self: home permanents are a really, really bad idea.)  Prominent people, of course, don’t have to document their lives, as others are happy to do it for them.  But for the rest of us, those who just muddle along doing ordinary things in ordinary ways, photographs work just fine.

Welcome, Summer!

IMG_1315I know the calendar claims that summer doesn’t officially start for another three weeks, but I have always considered summer to be the season that begins with Memorial Day weekend and ends with Labor Day weekend.  And I have always been so very glad when it finally arrives.

When I was a child, nothing beat walking home from the last day of school year, carrying a year’s worth of desk supplies with me and trying to wrap my head around that wondrous fact that I didn’t have to go back to school for weeks.  Summer meant freedom from my school schedule, long days of bike riding and playing with my friends, family barbecues, ice cream and popsicles, and frequent trips to the municipal swimming pool.  What wasn’t to like about all that?

Now that I am decades (many, many decades) past my childhood, summer is still a special treat.  These days, summer means nights spent sitting out on our patio, eating a meal or simply enjoying a glass of wine while the day fades slowly into a comfortably warm night.  It means all of my favorite fruits are in season, so I can enjoy fresh and locally grown strawberries, cherries, watermelon and peaches.  This is the time of year when a simple bacon and tomato sandwich, served with fresh corn on the cob, is more than enough for dinner.

IMG_1318Summer means that my yard is carpeted with lush, green grass and pots of flowers spread color everywhere.  The warm weather means I can happily pack away all my coats, gloves and boots, and dressing to go out usually means nothing more than changing into a dressier pair of sandals. Although most of my regular routine remains the same, there’s something about summer that feels slower, simpler, and more in tune with nature.

Of course I know that it’s early days yet, and that by mid-August, I will probably not be enjoying summer quite so much.  I’ll probably be sick of the flies and misquotes that seem to grow steadily in number as the summer progresses, and that my once lush lawn will be withering a bit, struggling against both the heat and the weeds that invade each and every year.  I’ll be tired of doing so much yard work, of having to water my flower pots almost every day, and of shaving my legs each morning. (I know I could wax them, but I tried that once and it hurt.  A lot.)

I’m sure that when the Labor Day weekend is over, I’ll probably be looking forward to fall, with its cooler evenings and beautiful colors.  There are definite advantages to living in a climate that has four distinct seasons.  But for now, at this particular moment in my life, all I can honestly feel is “welcome, summer!”

Precious Memories

Martha at EasterThe church I grew up in and attended when my children were young is closing at the end of this month, and today they had a special “heritage” lunch as a final gathering for everyone.   It was enjoyable, if somewhat bittersweet, to spend time with so many old friends, and see people I knew as little children all grown up with kids of their own.  They had five tables filled with old photographs that people could take if they wanted, and I spent a lot of time sorting through the photos, searching for pictures of my family.  I was thrilled to find lots of photos of my kids, but I was shocked by how many people either didn’t look at the photos at all, or picked up a photo of a member of their family, looked at it with mild interest, then put it back down again, knowing that all the unclaimed pictures were going to be thrown away.  How could they not want those pictures of their grandparents, their parents, their sons and daughters?

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand people not wanting to bring home more “stuff.”  By the time we’ve reached middle age, most of us already have more material possessions than we need or want, and our main problem is how to get rid of it, not how to add to our collections.  But in my opinion, there is simply no such thing as too many photos of family and friends, and the older they are, the better.   I may fill a donation bag with clothing every time my closet gets full, but if I run out of shelf space for my photo albums, I just know it’s time to add another shelf.  Because photographs are a recording of my life up to this point, and that’s not something I’m willing to let go of.

Martha Mollenauer (2)The way I look at it, that’s my history in those photo albums.  Those old family photos remind me of where I came from, and just who I came from.  The pictures of me growing up remind me of all the different stages of my life.  The photos of friends remind me of how many good people I’ve been lucky enough to share my life with, from the time I was a small child right up to today.  And the photos of the pets I’ve had, the houses I’ve lived in, and the places I’ve visited are all reminders of my own life’s journey .

I don’t keep the photos because I’m trying to live in the past.  I’m perfectly happy living in the present, even with my middle-aged face and body.  It’s just that I sometimes enjoy looking at pictures of family members who are gone, or pictures of my children when they were babies.  It brings back memories of a different time in my life, and those memories are special to me. And I believe that they’re certainly precious enough to keep.