Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Sept. 24, 2010

Mission accomplished ... and more?

Every two or three months, I take Mom to Council Grove to see her sister - my Aunt Edith. It's only a 40-minute drive and it takes us through one of my favorite expanses of land in the world - the Konza Prairie. Our trip last Friday was particularly pleasant because the green hills were dotted with goldenrods, black-eyed Susans, purple thistles and sunflowers.

I stopped to take a few pictures, but quickly moved on. The purpose of the trip that day wasn't to do nature photography. I had another mission.

Edith was waiting for us outside her apartment building. We ate lunch at the Trail Days Café. While the food is always tasty, it's often served with a slice of history too, and Friday was no exception. The café owner told us about the "Voices of the Wind People" pageant that was to be performed the next two nights. He would be playing several parts in the re-enactment of a period in Council grove's early history involving the clash between two cultures - that of the Native American Kanza and Euro-Americans.

After lunch, Mom, Edith and I returned to Edith's apartment to work on my project. Edith's daughter Linda made a digital slide show for Edith's 90th birthday in May. I had recently copied those images to my laptop, but I wasn't sure who some of the people were. I also had some older photos I had come across, and I wanted the two sisters to identify the people and places in them.

I suggested we sit at Edee's dining room table, but she thought her sofa would be more comfortable. So I moved it forward a bit to reach the power outlet behind and plugged my laptop charger into it. Then we settled in - me in the middle and a sister on each side.

One by one, I opened the images on my laptop. Those with only one or two people went quickly, but family group shots often took some time.

The sisters agreed most of the time on who was whom. But there were occasional disagreements.

"That's Uncle Joe on the left and Uncle Gustav on the right," Mom said.

"No, I'm pretty sure it's the other way around," Edith said.

The similarity between the Carlberg brothers was striking. Only by checking another photo of Joe wearing a hat were we able to determine that he was on the right because he had the same hat on his lap in the photo in question.

We continued documenting the photos and checking Edith's family group sheets over the next couple of hours. It was fun seeing Mom and Edith mature from chubby babies to gangly young girls to glamorous young women to mothers and grandmothers, all in a matter of minutes.

Just as we were finishing, Edith's friend Eva stopped by. They chatted a bit and then Edith told her what we had been doing. "But she wore us out!" Edith said, laughing.

Eva said she thought it was a good thing that we were spending time on family history. "I wish I'd asked my Grandmother questions," she said. "She knew everything."

What family historian hasn't heard that before?

And autumn, more than any other season, seems to be the time of year to reflect upon such things. Last year at this time, husband Art and I were traveling through Upper Michigan. For years, he had heard the stories about how family members had made countless trips there to collect thousands of cases of blueberries as part of his grandfather's produce business. But that was before the times Art can recall. Then, two years ago, he realized that only three people remained who had been involved and so we set out to document the details.

I come by this interest naturally. My Dad was very interested in his family as are Edee and Mom. And like me, Mom feels others should be too and so she suggested to Eva, "Now you can start with your family."

The day with Edith and Mom - just like the trip last year - was fun, yet tiring. But if someday our daughters or their children or some more distant relative finds something of value in these things, it will be much more than a mission accomplished - it will have been time very well spent.

Left, Mom and Aunt Edith "mugging" for the camera. Right, the family picture in dispute.

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