Thursday, September 18, 2014

Eighty Years of Photos

            “So, Dad,  your eightieth birthday’s coming up. How do you want to celebrate? I’m not giving you a surprise party.”
            “Y’all surprised me for my seventieth birthday.”
            “We did?” I listened as he reminded me of the time he found the family in the rear of a restaurant, waiting to commemorate his seventy years of life.
            “Oh, yeah, that was fun, but what do you want to do this year?”
            After very little discussion, he decided that he just wanted a low-key family dinner: no cake, no candles, no singing, and I’m sure he meant to say no gifts. I’ll have to check. He called Sno’s to set it up and since I’ve had nothing to do for the big day, I decided to gather photographs for my daughter and son-in-law to put onto a DVD.
            Ever go through eighty years of pictures? It was an emotional journey through time as memories lured by snapshots swam to the surface of my mind. I have relived my grandmother’s birthday parties, (figuring her age by the approximate ages of the children in the pictures), weddings, graduations and so many ordinary days when someone thoughtfully picked up a camera and captured a moment.
While I’m grateful for each and every photographer and family member who has held on to these printed memories, I wish names and dates had been written on more of them. My family spent the past week pouring over pictures and  guessing identities and ages, but speculation was unnecessary when it came to the photographs of two dogs. Yes, dogs. I turned over the picture of the first one to find “DASHER”  printed neatly on the back and “taken by Eula Duhon” right above it. A name and a photo credit! The picture of the other dog was also labeled: “Skippy,” three and a half months, 3/12/43. Name, age, date. If only the succeeding generations had followed this lead.
The project of collecting pictures for my dad’s birthday DVD was fun and led to another one: little by little I will write information on the backs of pictures for my granddaughters to one day read.
I’ve even thought of a project, but it’s one my dad has to work on. I want him to record his stories. Maybe I will get him a birthday gift after all. A digital recorder sounds nice.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Go For It

            It was a Friday afternoon at the beginning of 1991. I sat in a gym waiting for Monique’s dance class to end, Operation Desert Storm dominated the national news, and I announced to my friends that I was expecting my fourth child.
As excited as I was about the new baby, the round-the-clock television broadcasts of the war concerned me. I wanted to welcome a baby into a gentle world free of conflict. Only when I remembered Jeremiah 29 did I find peace.
A portion of the letter Jeremiah sent to the captives in Babylon instructed them to “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters.” God used a message written over 500 years before the birth of Christ to tell me to go on with my life and keep moving forward even when life was not perfect.
Calm and quiet Elise Ann was born in September of that year and has grown into an independent thinker with a stubborn streak marbled throughout her sweet soul. I’m not sure how she acts when I’m not around, but I was proud of the way she held her tongue recently while we shopped.  
Elise grabbed my purchase to carry to the car and I said, “Don’t worry, it’s not heavy.”
She laughed, “Not for you. I’m the one carrying it.”
A passerby said, “That’s what wrong with your generation. Y’all are lazy. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
I was too surprised to respond and Elise kept walking. It would have been pointless to stop to defend Elise and her generation. Given a do-over, I’d question the stranger’s decision to label an entire generation with one word and ask if encouragement might be better than judgment.
Do I have any concerns about this generation? Absolutely. And the last one and the next one. I’ve never lived in a perfect time or place and won’t until Heaven. Until then, I will keep praying, moving forward and encouraging others to do the same.
I’d like to look forward to the future with the same excitement as John Erskine. Once an English professor at Colombia University and president of Julliard School of Music, Erskine was also a writer, composer and musician. His wife wrote, “He was a good teacher because of his own excitement for learning and his trust in the future.” He would tell her: “Let’s tell our young people that the best books are yet to be written; the best paintings have not yet been painted; the best governments are yet to be formed; the best is yet to be done by them.”
To Elise and her generation, I say, “Go for it.”