Moments of Discovery # 4: A Flash Bulb and a Doll

A snapshot of a baby boy dressed as a girl and an old flash bulb. Those are some of the items we find clearing out Mother’s house. Last October my sisters and I began the arduous task of sorting, saving, or recycling the accumulated store of her possessions having lived in the same house for over 73 years. You can read about it here.

BoxesPacked

Today’s post features snapshots, both photos and artifacts, from both Mother and Daddy with a surprising find at the end.

MOTHER: Some of what I found from Mother could be filed into 3 categories of nurturing:

Feed

Our metal lunch pails carried many a bologna sandwich, usually Baum’s Bologna from their shop north of E-town. After Mother pulled back the burlap, she sliced thick rounds for sandwiches on buttered bread – always butter . . .

Mother L_balogna sandwiches

Read

Every picture, every story seems familiar in this Bible Story Book with pages, crackly brown with age. Sniffing into the spine, I roll back in time to the little girl on her lap. I loved the art work then. Now I love its charm even more. Did Daddy read these stories to me too? Maybe so, but I can’t remember.

BedtimeCoverBedtime Preface

Remember

Cameras freeze time, preserving memories. Mother didn’t write in a journal, but she consistently recorded our family’s story over time. The old box camera is long gone, but here is a “flash” of memory possibly from her last camera . . .

FlashBulb

DADDY  Some of what I found representing my father was surprising:

Although I have several photos of Daddy holding me as a baby, my father was a man’s man: a tractor-driving, motor-fixing, field-plowing, deer-hunting guy. He even hammered on the piano keys. His work clothes were of black moleskin cloth, matching the grease he was in close contact with at the shop. I am certain he never wore pink. Yet here he is posed for the camera in a dress, flanked by his parents, Henry and Fannie Longenecker, my Victorian grandma not yet attired in Mennonite garb that would characterize the rest of her life. Daddy’s dress is not a christening outfit. There was no christening among Mennonites. I suspect that babies of both genders wore dresses to make diaper changing easier.

Henry and Fannie Longenecker with son Ray
Henry and Fannie Longenecker with son Ray

Needlework

Our scavenging took us to the attic chest filled with treasured quilts. My sister Jean and Mother tagged each one a few years ago, so there would be no doubt as to their provenance. Apparently, Daddy drew his needle through a white quilt, stitching animals in red. I see a camel, sheep, chicken, pig, duck, an elephant. Even an ostrich.

Here is just a teaser. (Look for Daddy’s full quilt on a later post!)

Quilt with animal stitching by my father, Ray M. Longenecker
Quilt with animal stitching by my father, Ray M. Longenecker

Nickname

Daddy’s nickname for me was Pocahontas, not so much because I looked native American, but probably because of my thick, dark braids and big eyes. When I found this doll, I decided it shouldn’t be given away, sold, or recycled. It now sits on the dresser in our bedroom with “strubbly” hair, not braided!

Pocahontas

Marian w braids_K-

Final Note: A Curious Find   On our first visit to Mother’s house in October after the funeral, we saw a wicker basket on top of a hallway chest with a poem entitled “Safely Home,” something we had never noticed before. Were we blind to it earlier? Having a premonition of what was to come, did Mother put it there for us?

SafelyHomeBasket

I am home in heaven, dear ones; / Oh, so happy and so bright. / There is perfect joy and beauty / In this everlasting light . . . .

 (Anonymous, Osterhus Publishing House)  . . . a mute but eloquent affirmation


Your turn: Are you holding on to something you treasure from a loved one? A photograph? A small gift? 

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42 thoughts on “Moments of Discovery # 4: A Flash Bulb and a Doll

  1. As usual, Marian, you give me so much to comment on!
    I love the photo of your grandparents holding the baby who would become your father. From your remark, I guess your grandmother was not born a Mennonite, or she became stricter in her dress later on? Both boys and girls wore dresses as infants (little boys in the 18th century wore skirts until they were older and “breeched.”) Pink was not considered a feminine color until post-WWII, I think.
    I also love the photo of you with your braids. Was that a school picture? I remember one of my mother’s friends calling me “Indian Princess” all the time when I was a teen and wore my hair in braids at the swim club we belonged to.

    The finding of the basket–wow, goosebumps. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for adding historical authority to attire in bygone days, Merril. Grandma Longenecker was not born a Mennonite; her family was United Brethren, a church whose older women were plain. Because she and Grandpa were not members of a Mennonite Church yet in the photo, their clothing was fancy, reflecting 1920s styles.

      Yes, my photo is a school picture, I think. (Pocahontas and Indian Princess – quite a pair!) Thank you for pointing out that pink very recently has been thought of as feminine. My grandson Ian won’t drink out of a pink plastic “Dora” cup because he thinks it’s too girly. Ha!

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  2. Oh my…my sister and I had long braids just like those in the picture! Is that you? I have several treasures from my parents and from a second cousin, who had no siblings. A newspaper with headlines telling WW I was over! WW II was over! My dad’s butcher knives from his ‘chef’ days! My mother’s baptism dress as an infant! Many more treasures! Thanks for reminding me of my treasures! 🙂

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    1. You’re welcome, Anita. This post has done its job if it evokes images of treasures you’ve kept. Do you ever use your dad’s butcher knives? As I recall from your blog posts, he was quite a colorful character.

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      1. I didn’t use my dad’s knives and I began to wonder what would become of them when I’m gone. I showed them, one day, to my daughter, Pam, and son-in-law, Gene. Gene seemed very interested in them. He does the cooking in their home so I asked if he’d like to have them. Oh, that was a stupid question! He took them home, cleaned them up and I’m quite sure he uses them often. So I’m pleased!

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  3. Marian, you are so blessed to have so many great memories to share with your children and all of us. Great treasures. I have a doll from my grandmother. She collected dolls and I asked for one. My daughter’s red shoes that she loved so much and a few other things. I have Mom’s green guest book and some pictures of all of us. Best of all great memories of time together. I was blessed to have a great grandmother and a blessed spiritual Mom that I know her prayers kept me close to God. And a wonderful Mother that is building bridges and memories today for our tomorrow. You look so beautiful in your braids. You look do much like Mom.
    Gloria

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    1. Great idea: counting your blessings in memories – and touchable stuff like dolls and shoes. I like your phrase “building bridges and memories today for our tomorrow.” Thank you! It’s always good to see you here, Gloria.

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  4. Oh my, what a find. What a “poke” from heaven and your mother. I have no doubt she left it there for you all–not necessarily as a premonition, just a recognition of the inevitable and maybe even with a whimsical (not morbid) thought, “I’ll just leave this here for them, someday.” And the photo of you and your dark braids is beautiful, just very special. I can see your smile!

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    1. I like your take on my mother’s motivation for leaving the poem – recognition rather than premonition. None of us saw it in August at the time of the funeral, but there it was in the basket when we started clearing out things in October. Appreciate the comments, Melodie.

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  5. Lovely post Marian thank you! Treasured photos and the Pocahontas doll. No doubt you’ll find other treasures.

    I’ve kept photographs of my parents and our childhood. Some china, my christening mug and spoon, letters from both parents, a handkerchief, letters from my husband when we were courting and he was doing a residency in London for a year while I was in Johannesburg. All pictures, notes, letters etc from my now adult sons –

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    1. You’ve piqued my curiosity – letters from your husband when you were courting! The other letters would take you back as well. We are beginning to look at missives in the mail the same way we think of vinyl records and land-line phones at least I do. You always enrich our conversation. Thank you, Susan.

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  6. Marian, more treasures and each one holds a precious story! The one treasure within our family , beyond the old photos, is a collection of letters ,bound as journals with construction paper covers, written by my paternal grandfather to his daughter, my aunt, when she and her husband were stationed in Texas during WWII. He titled them “Paul’s Epistles: A Father’s Letters to His Favorite Blonde-Haired Daughter.” They capture the people and times for a four-month period during 1943. Capturing them in a book is on my bucket-list. 🙂 Love your post, as always!

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    1. Paul’s epistles – what a perfect title! The writing genes are deep in your DNA obviously. You can put me on the list for buying that WW II book! I value your contribution here, thank you!

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  7. The picture of your dad in a dress is precious. My aunt and I dressed my 3 year old brother in a dress as we needed a bridesmaid for the wedding in our play. He has never forgiven us! One of my treasured items is a letter my dad wrote to my mom when I was born.

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    1. Your 3-year-old brother in a dress – now there’s a blog theme if I’ve ever seen one. I wonder if you’ve ever shared the contents of your dad’s letter with your readers. Yes, that’s a treasure too.

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      1. Perhaps I will share my Dad´s letter one day. I also have mom´s letters to him when they were courting. I don´t think she would like me t share those but I found them very special and a bit telling. They sure did love each other.

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  8. Marian — The photograph of you with your hair in braids is my absolute favorite! Just look at those inquisitive eyes of yours!

    The timing and placement of the “Safely Home” poem gives me pause to wonder about what your mother may well have known in advance (premonition / precognition) on some level.

    You asked your readers, “Are you holding on to something you treasure from a loved one?”

    A minimalist by nature (I’ve had this frame of mind/heart since I can remember), I don’t have many “things,” but by golly I’ve collected a passel of wonderful memories.

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    1. Your big heart is your ample basket spilling out with wee packages of inspiration and encouragement to all your readers. And you respond to everyone – multiple times – you amaze me!

      Thank you for your take on our finding the poem-in-a-basket.

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  9. My Mum was a worrier. She had a lot of mental heath issue,grante, but she would fuss and worry about the simple little things like had I got a cardigan on when I was about 40. So I bought her a worry doll …have you seen them Marian ?
    I just wanted something simple to help her stop worrying. When she died, like you and your sisters, we, my sister and myself went painstakingly through her possessions and found the worry doll in one of her bags. It made my cry to think she had kept it.
    I put it in my handbag and there it stayed till one day it disappeared. I like to think she had it with her in heaven and she doesn’t have to worry any more.
    Cherryx

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    1. Cherry, I love your worry doll story, especially the ending. I believe your mum kept the doll because to her it represented your love and concern.

      No, I haven’t seen a worry doll, but I have seen worry stones and worry balls for worriers to manipulate to vent the tension, I suppose. Thanks for stopping by today.

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  10. Perhaps the most precious of things I keep and some of them in a safe deposit box are handwritten letters from my my grandmothers, father and dear, dear aunt.
    I love the photo of baby “Ray.” His father shyly looks with admiration and his mother is such a natural beauty.
    Such beautiful eyes and long thick hair you had.

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    1. Yours are more secure than mine which are kept in a plastic box under the dresser. It’s interesting to read what others say about photos that are so familiar to me. Victorian austerity persists in these pictures, I think, but Grandpa Longenecker is obviously proud of his firstborn son. Thanks for peeking in today. I know you’ve had a busy week.

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  11. It’s hard going through the possessions of a loved one after they’re passed away. Doing this recently in my Father In Law’s house has made me think about the things I’m leaving behind for my boys to find.

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    1. I had the same impulse when I came back from clearing out Mom’s house. I immediately started throwing things out and recycling. Now that I’ve gotten immersed with other stuff, the feeling has wanted. Yes, like you, there will be things to find, some precious – some not so. Who knows what value they will put on things.

      Fortunately my pack-rat husband has taken up the gauntlet as you can see on my Facebook page.

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  12. You are so blessed to have so many wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing them. This Christmas I inherited my grandmother’s wedding set. She’s worn her wedding ring since 1938 & up until the day she died (Grandpa died in 1976). I feel slightly guilty that it isn’t with her now, but my aunt decided she wanted the set kept together and that I should have it as her only granddaughter and her only “kid” (since she didn’t have any of her own). I may look peculiar wearing a set of wedding rings on both hands but I feel like I am carrying a part of her with me.

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    1. You are right – I am blessed and for most of my life I didn’t realize it! It makes perfect sense for you to have that ring set and to wear both proudly. I imagine your hand jewelry has been a conversation starter at times.

      I feel the way you do about wearing my mother’s watch. Looking down at it has the same effect – “part of her with me.” Thanks, Jenn!

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  13. This is a beautiful tribute post to your parents, and it’s so nice you share with us what you found that brought back memories. I was with my parents when we sorted items at my grandma’s condo and it brought back many fond memories. Your post reminded me of that time.

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    1. Thanks for following my blog today, Christy. I poked around in your blog too and left a comment. Love the sensory title: “poetic parfait,” suggestive of both seeing and tasting.

      You have had first-hand experience with sorting through a loved one’s belongings too. Thanks for your comment. I wonder if you found something you wanted to keep. Again, welcome to my blog – hope to see you again soon!

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      1. Hi Marian,
        Thank you for stopping by Poetic Parfait and for the comment you left me. It was great to see you there! Ah, yes, I found some teacups that my grandma and I used to use and now I have them here in my house. It is one of the things that I cherish from her. ❤

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  14. Marian, how kind of you to invite us into your personal past. The items you come across are priceless in memory and time. And wowww, I don’t even know what to say about your finding that ominous poem. It gave me goosebumps. 🙂

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    1. You phrase it so well: inviting you all into my personal past. Indeed, that is what is happening here. I realize my blog posts and the exchanges they evoke are helping me cope with my grief which doesn’t seem to be diminishing any time soon. By the way, I have started reading Words We Carry on my KindleMac. You are actually doing something similar in your own book.

      Thanks for stopping by today, Debby.

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      1. They say writing is good therapy! And yes, I write raw and honest. All my books are my truths and experiences and looking at life through glass half full and overcoming. I hope to inspire others with my stories and sharing. Thanks for reading Marian. I look forward to your review 🙂

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