There’s a photo that hangs on my office wall that was collected from the local newspaper’s archives during a community history project. It’s an old black and white, probably taken in the early 70’s of a group of older women, sitting in their lawn chairs, purses in their laps, laughing and waving as they wait for a fall parade to pass by. Visitors to my office usually look over my shoulder and notice it immediately because it’s such a unique image. I love asking them to take a closer look, stopping the business conversation and asking them which one of the women they suspect they would’ve been or who bears a resemblance to anyone in their own family. Is it the lady in pearls with the brooch on her coat? Or the one waving at someone she knows? Is it the one in slippers and a housecoat or the one in her Sunday best quietly smiling taking it all in? I learn a lot about my friend by just learning their answers. How they admit which one they probably would be or as they smile knowingly and say “This one, would’ve definitely been my grandmother.”
My husband’s grandmother was the family historian. She would always have a story to tell about a great uncle or a great great someone at every visit. She would famously laugh so hard during one of her stories, that the listener was often left laughing along satisfied with an incomplete version of the event. To this day, if someone starts a story they can’t finish because of the laughter, we’ll yell out her name “ROSE!!!” as homage to the storyteller that made the telling just as interesting as the story itself. Afterwards, she would lean into my husband and tell the rest or gather a newspaper clipping to show him, so he would always know the ending.
My husband was the heir apparent Keeper of the Stories. The one that would become the history teacher that continues the tradition of storytelling in the classroom every day. Maybe it’s a throwback to my old yearbook days, but I’m the one that keeps the photos. Not so much the ones that are the stoic faced student photo from the 20’s or the 50th anniversary pic taken with someone’s shaky Brownie camera—but the ones where the subjects are caught off guard or unaware of the photographer. The ones where they are laughing and holding hands, or working at the big church picnic or probably talking to their brother about cattle prices next to the old farm truck. The ones that remind me that their lives were not as black and white as the ink that portrays them.
I’m getting out more photos these days. Enlarging the tiny prints so I can walk by and see the stories behind the faces. It’s comforting to know that they’ve lived through sunny and dark seasons. That they have laughed and loved and celebrated. They have worked and survived economic disasters and personal loss. In this brief capture of a moment, I feel them telling me, “You’ll be just fine… Just like I was.” And I walk on a little stronger and prouder knowing the family and friends that would’ve thrown their arms around me and asked me to pull up a chair to listen to just one more story.
A long-time friend of Erin and Ben’s, Lisa still enjoys the stroll to the small-town post office to mail an old-fashioned letter -- while texting in line. She’s a mother of four that works in the corporate world, but loves her farmer and maker life. You can follow the adventures on Instagram @FarmHandMadeCo