Tip of the Day: Details Matter

I took another box of mixed media from the house, the house my father last lived in.  Most of the holiday cards I threw out, their messages meaningful only to Norman.  Many of the photographs were ones I had sent him, or copies of pictures he had snapped and sent to me years ago.  Several letters from my uncle I sent on to my cousin, sure that she would appreciate the insight into her father.  Letters from my grandmother, Florette, I saved for a rainy day read.

Methodically I sorted the box’s contents, pausing now and again to hold a memory tight.  And then, just as I thought there was really nothing new here, I came upon an envelope postmarked 1985.  Pearl Freeman had shared a few photographs with my father.  Without annotations or a note of explanation, I don’t know the relationship but apparently this stranger was sharing adolescent memories.

To date the photographs I pulled out a few key details that my father had shared about his high school years.

  • Norman, like his three brothers before him, attended Chase City High School, in Chase City, Virginia.
  • Chase City High School went up through eleventh grade.
  • Norman graduated in 1945.
  • My father began to smoke at the age of 17.
  • Chick, as my father was known by his pals, drove one of his father’s school bus routes.


Norman is front row, third from left. These teenagers appear posing in their best outfits, in front of a brick building that may be the high school, with adults milling around in the back. I suspect that this is the Class of 1945, posing after Chase City High School’s graduation ceremony.
Norman Strickland and friends
Here Norman sits on what appears to be a bus’ fender, reveling in female attention. His peak bus driving years were the mid-1940s.
Norman relaxes.  The cigarette dates the photo as around the time he graduated, at 17. 
Norman Strickland, Car unidentified
I am still researching the make and model. Because this capture was included with the other photographs, I am betting that this smile is of teenage-driver Norman.

If Pearl Freeman, or a descendant/friend, is reading this post, I hope you will leave a memory in the comments!!!



Sorting Saturday: Life’s Remains

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

I will forget what my grandmother Kerma said to me during childhood. I will forget more memories of what she did during our visits.  I will always remember the way I felt Thursday morning as I left her Health Center room.

“Who are you? Oh, yes, you are Kay.  Marilyn’s daughter.  And you are Caitlin, Kay’s daughter.” In spite of having to cite this familial connection at least six times, my grandmother’s smile lit up her corner of the world throughout our forty minute visit.  After we hugged goodbye, she leaned back on her pillow, put her hand to her chest and coquettishly admonished, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”  To which I replied, “Leaves me a lot of wiggle room, Grandmother!  All I have to do is smile and I will get away with anything!”   Such a belly laugh, coming from a tiny 105 year old lady, prompted everyone within earshot to join in!

My grandmother Kerma taught me the value of a smile and so, as I sit among the contents of six boxes-worth of her life, I harvest the way this brown-eyed lady made me feel–grateful, happy, content.  The sorting and storing somehow seems less onerous; the sadness at her decline and estate dispersal remains in check.

I gathered blank address labels–some small and some large–and a pen. Three different sized clear containers stood ready for the storing.   The 14″x11″x3″ rectangle will hold the old photographs and large clippings; the 14″x7″x5″ box will hold letters and small clippings; the 11″x6″x3″ container will hold small photographs.  I have three containers of each size labeled either 1900-1954, 1955-1984 or 1984-2010.  These time frames correspond roughly to the three generations of mementos that I have before me.

The letters have been studied and grouped by date, and sometimes read one more time before being nestled in the appropriate box.  Photographs have been examined, and notes made to find out just who is the man in the second row, third from the right.  High school graduation programs have been poured over to spot Grandmother’s name and a hush fell in my brain when I touched my parent’s wedding invitation. The vases, plates and odd items have been unwrapped, inventoried and wrapped again, and returned to the moving boxes–which now bear labels declaring their contents.

When my siblings arrive for Thanksgiving we will be able to choose where we start remembering.  Treasures can be dispersed yet again as my brothers return home. Then all of us will have tokens of Kerma’s life to help summon up the way she made us feel: content, happy and grateful for a smile.

Do you know the value of a smile?