My life has been like a book with many pages.
It had a beginning, then numerous chapters dedicated
to my life which blossomed, I thought, with marriage and
the births of four sons. As I grew older and found many
different interests to capture my attention, my life became
–I thought–like a tree with many branches–branches
representing the births of grandchildren, my varied
collections of books, collection of recipe boxes
(especially filled ones, with some one else’s collection
of recipes inside) another collection of cookie cutters.
yet another collection of cookie jars (you may think you detected a theme here–but no, I just branched off to other acquired interests–in particular a collection of photo albums that now number over one hundred. That collection is my pride and joy, housed in a linen closet that I converted into a photo album closet. I like to think I came by my interest in photography honestly-my parents took scads of photographs, starting back in the 1930s when my sister Becky was their firstborn child. Fifteen months later, the first grandson in the Schmidt family was born.
For years I thought my mother was the one with the keen interest in photographs–until one day, while going through an album I had an aha moment – it wasn’t my mother who took the most photographs – it was my father – how else to explain my mother’s presence in virtually all the family photos?
Another thing I know about their photographs — in the beginning my mother pasted their photos onto pages of my Grandpa Schmidt’s mens’ tailored suits catalogs–These were large catalogs of men wearing suits (what else?)
My paternal grandfather, my father’s father, was a well known tailor whose reputation spanned countries. Grandpa spoke seven languages–fluently–including but not limited to Hebrew.
How else to explain a letter Grandpa received one day (probably in the 1940s) addressed to Peter Schmidt, Tailor, Cincinnati – I don’t remember where the letter came from–
I do know that it reached my grandfather’s mailbox. Well, I digress. I have often wished that my mother had not attempted to improve the family photo collection pasted on catalog pages–after WW2, my mother removed the family photos from the mens tailored suits catalogs and mounted them in regular photo albums with black pages.
No one knows what happened to the original mens tailored suit catalogs. I think a new catalog was issued every year. A potential customer would go through one of Grandpa’s catalogs and choose the tailored suit he liked most.
Well, when I was thirteen or fourteen, I bought my first photo album – and I began going through my mother’s collection of photographs–in particular, I would sort through negatives which my mother kept for decades. I would remove negatives of family members (in particular, negatives in which I was the child being photographed) – but also with SO many photographs of my siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins – eventually I began taking photography classes (black and white) with a girlfriend at work. One night at a photograph class, I asked the teacher – “If I have a large collection of negatives, many of them large Brownie size–could I reprint them in class? Of course, said the teacher – you just need to use some of the other negative holders that we have in class. Well, I was off and running–reprinting the negatives I HAD kept when I was a teenager. Then – a flash of insight –I called my mother one night and asked her “Mom, what did you do with all the boxes of negatives that you had?” silence at the other end.
“Oh, Sandy, I think I burned all of those when we moved to Florida.”
This woman, who saved every margarine tub, empty lipstick tubes, every rubber band, piece of string, plastic bags, pre-used aluminum foil–everything imaginable, she saved (shades of her growing up during the depression when everything possible was saved or reused)
I was crushed (OMG, the silver content in hose negatives, alone, had to have been worth something).
Well, needless to say I have saved all of the negatives from photos I have taken, spanning decades–and then once I had a macro lens and a tripod – I began copying all the old photographs in my sister Becky’s or brother Jim’s possession.
So, much as I love to cook and bake – I think my #1 collection has been my photographs (which my son Steve will inherit when I am gone)
Sandra Lee Smith
Sandy’s last note–I shouldn’t complain about the things of mine or that I would have appreciated having–which my mother disposed of (if it was in her basement, she considered anything there fair game)–which is how my brother Jim’s collection of comic books and baseball cards–disappeared into one of my mother’s bonfires.
Originally titled “Many Pages”
dated January 27 2015, updated July 18, 2018