Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 2, 2010

Sliding into the past

Sister Gaila and her family are here for just a few weeks every summer, so we try to cram as many things into that time as we can. She married Humberto, a Bolivian lawyer, 25 years ago, and she often jokes that one of her pre-nuptial agreements with him was a guarantee that she could come home to Kansas every summer. So far, she's only missed the year she was seven months pregnant with her youngest daughter Larisa and her doctor wouldn't let her fly.

Although each summer is different, several activities have become traditions - going to at least one new movie, traveling to our hometown of Burns, spending one "Sister-Only Day" together, having a slumber party with our mother and daughters, and working on at least one major project.

The project for this year has been to go through our family photo slides. We nearly lost all 25 carousels of them several years ago when the water heater in Mom's basement "let go," spewing a stream of steaming water onto the floor. The leak wasn't caught for several days. By then, the moisture had damaged walls and floor tiles and ruined games, furniture and many other items. Luckily, the boxes containing the slide carousels had been stored on high shelves. We moved the boxes upstairs to let them dry and Mom then meticulously wiped each slide. Since then, they've been sitting in her bedroom closet.

About two weeks ago, we borrowed a slide viewer and set up a spot near Mom's computer. Gaila's job is to take each slide from its carousel, number it, put it into the viewer and then return it to the carousel when we are done with it. Mine is to create a computer document containing the number Gaila assigns to the slide and to identify its contents, including when and where it was taken and any people who can be identified. Mom sits nearby, helping with the identification process.

When we are finished, the plan is to take them to a local store and have them converted to digital format.

Since the earliest slide was taken in 1967 - the year I was 14 and Gaila was 12 - and we estimate there are somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 of them, the process is tedious and time-consuming.

But it's entertaining, too.

"Look at our HAIR!" Gaila exclaimed, checking out a slide from the "big hair" days of the early 1970s. "And our clothes? What were we thinking?"

We both broke out in laughter.

Another was of Mom in her big-hair period.

"Oh, my gosh!" I said. "She looks like June Carter Cash!"

More laughter and more questions and comments followed:

"Why did we wear plaid pants? How ugly they were!"

"Why did we choose bright red carpet for our bedroom? And look at the green shag carpet!"

"Oh, I remember that dress! I made it as a 4-H project."

"Look at Dave (our brother)! He was so skinny!"

Youngest daughter Katie and Larisa, now both 17, occasionally pop in to see what the giggles and comments are about. It's hard for them to imagine their mothers being younger than they are now.

There were also slides of Gaila and me going off to and returning from our first jobs. In one, we had just arrived home from a hot day detasseling corn. In another, I'm in the uniform I wore when I worked as a nurse's aide at the Peabody nursing home. In yet another, Gaila is in her waitress outfit she wore when she worked at the Hilton hotel in Garden City.

Others showed weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, summer picnics, winter snowstorms, graduations and little folks who are now not so little.

Going through the slides and literally watching the years go by has also been a little bittersweet as well.

"Ah, look at Grandpa Mostrom with Paul," Gaila said.

The baby in the image is our now-35-year-old nephew, and Grandpa has been gone for nearly 30 years.

"Neither of my girls knew any of their great-grandparents," I said, wistfully.

So many of the people in the images are now gone - Dad, Uncle Bob, Aunt Hazel, Uncle Bud, Grandpa Nels Mostrom, my first husband Jerome, Gaila's college roommate Reinette and others.

But that's much of what life is about - the sweetness of laughter and the sadness of things passing. And when this time is over and Gaila returns to her home, these hours we spent together will be one of the things I'll remember from the summer of 2010. Taking a cue from the ubiquitous television commercial:

Family slides inventoried: 2,500.
Hours spent documenting: dozens.
Money spent getting the slides digitized: $500.
Memories: priceless.

Left, Mom, Gaila and I cataloging a slide. Right, a slide with Dave, Gaila, Dad, Mom and me next to the windmill on our farm during the "big hair" and horn-rimmed glasses period.

2010 Index