Happy Mothers Day

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Happy Mothers Day to all the Moms, Grandmoms and Great-Grandmoms out there. I have been blessed to come from a long maternal line of strong women who filled those aforementioned roles for me. This Mothers day is the first without one making it bittersweet.

Its been nearly 4 months since my Grandmother died unexpectedly. There are some days I wake up still unable to believe that I won’t ever see her face or hear her voice again. How can someone who has been a part of my life since the moment it began (literally, in the delivery room) just cease to be there? Those days it feels like the gaping hole in my chest may never really fill itself.

One of the things I have tasked myself with is scanning all of the family pictures that were found in her home, dating from my Great-Grandmother’s youth in the 1930s to present day. These are photos I had never seen and many thoughts occupy my mind while I stare at the people in them.

My great-great grandparents with two of their 12 children, sons probably heading off to WWII

Technology Will Radically Change the Way Future Generations View Us

Besides stories passed down by word of mouth, these two-dimensional still black and white photos are really the only insight I have into what life was like for my young grandparents and great-grandparents. The smiling faces of the young people in them look like people I recognize. Some of the stories I have heard match the faces and places pictured, yet in many ways it is like there is an imaginary wall between us and those who lived 100 years ago. In some cases they lived without things that we today consider basic necessities like indoor plumbing and refrigeration, so how can we really relate or understand when we live in an entirely different world?

My young great-grandmother, standing on Fritztown Road outside her home roughly here in the late 1930s or early 40s.
My grandmother (middle) and her older sister and younger brother in front of their first childhood home in Fritztown the late-1940s.

It wasn’t until my adolescence that things were captured with a bit more clarity. I have digitized hours upon hours of my childhood from VHS tapes. Christmases, birthdays, recitals and every moment in between, which while grainy and sometimes out of focus is leaps and bounds forward from small black and white slips of paper.

Today, we take crisp high resolution photos and 4k video of damn near everything. My daughter’s great-grandchildren will be able to view her life in vivid dimension. While I have to rely on a decent amount of imagination while thinking about the posed, colorless pictured childhoods of my grandparents, her’s won’t have to wonder about much at all.

All four Meckley kids at their home on Columbia Ave in Sinky. (Shirley, Nancy (grandmother), Larry, Linda) 1953
Great-Grandmother navigating the busy sidewalks of Penn Street in the 1940s with my young great aunt and grandmother in tow

Beyond day to day human life, Google is constantly taking satellite imagery and street views of almost every corner of our community and planet. Not only will people 100 years from now be able to see the past landscape of the place they live, they’ll probably be able to use the data captured today to explore how it looks to us, now. Can you even imagine being able to virtually walk any street in Berks County a century ago?

Grandmother (left) and an unknown friend, pic likely taken at a photo booth along Penn Street in the late 1950s

Existence is Chaotic

While also staring at the faces of my young ancestors I think about all of the random circumstances beyond their control and choices they would have to make to ensure that the sequence of events would be set in place that I would even come to exist. And that those choices these specific people make aren’t even the only set of circumstances that contribute to my existence. It is kind of an anomaly that we come to exist at all, yet here I am typing words, with you reading them.

They are young and beautiful and have an entire life left to live at the moment the photo was snapped. It is kind of like reading the story you already know the ending of. An ending that didn’t leave you feeling great, but look at the photos long enough and you will realize a story is not simply it’s end.

Grandmother holding my infant mother 1961, Great-Grandmother looks on
Santa looks like he too contemplates existence while holding my aunt and mother on his lap in the late 60s.

The Revolving Door of Life

In our final conversation the day before my Grandmother passed, she told me she couldn’t wait to come home and see her four great-grandchildren again. I assured her that Eva and I would visit her as soon as she was up for visitors. Obviously that didn’t happen.

Grandmother and Mother on my parents wedding day 1989
Mom and me in 93

What I did not know during that last conversation, but wish I had so I could have told her, was that she would be getting another great-grandchild. As my spirit was in the throes of grieving a loss of life, my body had already began creating a new one. This time a boy who will be arriving in September.

It has left me with a lot of emotions to process on top of everything, along with the physical tribulations on my body as a result of growing a human, but has ultimately been the sweet to help balance the heaping portion of bitter I was served shortly after new year.

My daughter and I
Back to black and white…baby boy coming September 2021

It still pains me deeply to know she will never have the opportunity to meet my son, along with the fact that even my older daughter will likely never have tangible memories of the great-grandmother who loved her dearly. Yet these feelings also make me realize how lucky I have been to be born into the situation and family I have been. How fortunate I was to be able to know my own great-grandmother until I was nearly 20 years old. That being so devastated over the loss of that same opportunity for them only means I have been and continue to be a part of something very special. Something that makes all the bumps, chaos and contradictions along the ride worth experiencing.

The delicate balance between time and generations and how they come and go through a seamlessly revolving door leaves my current reality feeling poetic. Maybe we never really know or meet those to whom we owe our existence, yet we are integrally connected. Sometimes stories, memories and old black and white photographs just have to be enough to bridge the gap.

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Jake Dailey
Jake Dailey
2 years ago

Very nice essay for Mother’s Day!

ann marie murray
ann marie murray
2 years ago

Thanks for sharing your beautiful family history. The perfect day for it! Happy Mother’s day to you.

ann marie m murray
ann marie m murray
2 years ago

Thanks for sharing your beautiful family history. The perfect day for it. Happy Mother’s Day!

Nancy Keiser
Nancy Keiser
2 years ago

What a beautiful Mother’s Day Post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your family and seeing the pics. I identify not only because I knew (& loved) your grandmother, but also because I am of her generation. Thanks for sharing and also congratulations on your pregnancy. I am so happy for you, and yet it will be bittersweet. Happy belated Mother’s Day!

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