A few years ago, I wrote a blog post talking about my wonderful grandmother Josephine, or as us kids all called her, Nana. She had turned 87, and I took her out for a portrait session. She LOVED those pictures, and our family has really enjoyed having them.
The incredible matriarch of our family passed away peacefully and surrounded by family last fall, having stayed on earth long enough for us to give her a 90th birthday party. So many people came, we ran out of food despite elaborate preparations beforehand. At the funeral home for her visitation, it was standing room only. People I'd never heard of were coming up to the podium to talk about how sweet and wonderful she had been to them-- people of all ages. One guy was in tears recalling his memories of Mrs. Klotz from childhood, and delicious lemonade she made for the neighborhood kids.
After she had left her home for the last time, I went in with my camera because I had a deep-seated need to get pictures of things in her house just as she left them. Her wish was always for the house to be sold once she passed, and it was inevitable that many people would be coming through, moving things, rearranging, and preparing it for sale. This little blue house at 6632 Rodrigo, near Memorial Park, among the beautiful high dollar town homes of recent construction, had been "home" to all of us. My grandma and grandpa purchased it for about $8,000 in the early 1940's.
I was there for hours, and took hundreds of pictures. I adored being here, among all her things. It felt special, like being with her, knowing that hen you walked in her door you always got a smile and a hello. Believe you me, there were things. She threw away NOTHING. Every little scrap of material, every prayer card, every newspaper clipping, coffee mug, Happy Meal toy, church bulletin, every recipe clipped from an Imperial Sugar bag... it was all there. All of the history that made this huge family. All of the insignificant familiarities. I captured the ones that meant the most to me.
This Christmas, I wanted to find a way to share them with my family. I made notecards from 13 of the images (trust me it was difficult to narrow them down!). I kept my project a secret from everyone, it was so hard not to share it with my mom, my aunts, my sister, my cousins... but I wanted it to be a special moment when they opened those boxes.
Yesterday, the family closed on the sale of Nana's home. A developer will eventually level it and build a couple of very nice town homes, and my hope is that they're just as full of life, love and family as 6632 Rodrigo ever was. I can't even explain how much love there is in the dirt at that house. How many little periwinkle sprouts she grew in the front and back yards. Truly, there is love even in the dirt. I hope that a family there feels the residual warmth and hope that was always there for our family.
Here are some of the images I captured from her home. Enjoy : ) We can't keep her home there for all time, but at least we can preserve and share our memories of it.
|Where it all began. I don't know how long this house number hung in the front yard, but I can tell you it's longer than 36 years.|
|Her hand-cut, made-from-scratch sugar cookies... a staple at every family event, and in her cookie jar. You couldn't leave after visiting her house without a baggie "for the children".|
|I have no idea where this came from, but I always like it. It hung on the wall in the kitchen.|
|Periwinkles! She always had gardens full of them, and would root and plant more. She adored pretty flowers and bright colors.|
|Lots of Catholic prayer cards from were stacked around her sewing basket, with its familiar peachy plastic flower material on top.|
|The stove knobs in her kitchen, worn from wear, operated by touch. So many delicious pots of chicken noodle soup, goulash, and Polish sausage were prepared here.|
|Her cute little copper measuring cups, and the worn countertop.|
|No reputable Catholic's garden would be complete without St. Francis.|
|Every grandchild snuggled in cool, clean cotton sheets on a feather pillow with this bear. He was the resident favorite toy (in close second was the sock monkey).|