Family writing

There’s a First Time for Everything

On Monday, my mother called me to ask if I wanted to ride down to Bennett’s Point with her. She wanted to check on the place down there and cut the grass. She hadn’t been in a month or so and wasn’t sure my brother had been recently. After I rearranged some plans for Wednesday, I told her I’d go. As usual, I packed the necessities, including my camera gear. My gear IS a necessity!

We arrived at our destination only to discover that water was standing in the front yard and the back  yard. There would be no grass-cutting Tuesday afternoon!

We did go “sightseeing” Wednesday afternoon. We took Highway 17 toward Beaufort, drove through town on Carteret Street, crossed the drawbridge to Lady Island, circled around through Port Royal and headed back toward “home.” The camera was in the back seat the whole time.

This may be the first time I made the trip to Bennett’s Point without taking the camera out of the bag. There are NO pictures of the trip.

There are memories.

My mother is 83 years old. She is still in excellent health. SHE did the driving!

We talked. We remembered Daddy, who passed away three years ago this coming August.

We “solved” the problems of the world.

These latter things are not unusual. Because we lived way out in the sticks, I did not have a clutch of friends my age to hang out with. It was just me, my sister (who is eleven months my junior), and my brother (five years younger), and my parents and my granddaddy on my father’s side. Daddy worked out of town on construction sites for the M. B. Kahn construction company out of Columbia, so we spent our time with him on Saturdays and Sundays. Saturdays were “farm” days—working with him in the garden or the hay field. Gosh, I’ve hauled enough square hay bales to fill several barns! On Sunday, after church, we played, usually riding the horses all over Richland and Newberry Counties where Daddy owned land. Those rides often took us past the Counts place, and we would have to stop and visit with Mr. Pid, Ernest, and Willie Counts. Mr. Pid was elderly, and it delighted him for Floyd and his young’uns to ride up to see him. But Mama was more than a parent; she was also our friend and our confidante.  I never understood those girls I met in college who proclaimed loudly (usually after long, heated phone calls on the pay phone in the dorm hallway) that they hated their mother. Seriously?

Mama is still my friend and my confidante. She is my rock.

So, even though I did not get any pictures of this trip, no physical record of the road trip, I have the memories. Perhaps we’ll get another chance to go back together, just the two of us, and do more sightseeing and rambling to see what this glorious state of South Carolina is all about. And maybe there will be a second trip with no photographs. That’s okay. There are memories. There are precious times.

There will be no regrets.

Family Photo Projects

Words on Wednesday

I struggle with “branding.” I struggle with naming things. I took the easy way out when I had a photography business. I just used my first and middle given names, partly as tributes to my two grandmothers for whom I am named. Mama and Daddy gave me my grandmothers’ middle names.

Then I had to name my blog. And I thought and thought. I ended up with Telling Stories because I believe that our stories need to be told—the good ones, the bad ones, the funny ones, the embarrassing ones, and even the tragic ones. We have to tell our stories.

I use words and images.

Whether it’s because I am in the last year of my fiftieth decade (next year I will be sixty), or whether it’s because people I always believed would be around forever are passing away, or what, I am thinking about stories. Every so often I purchase one month of to dig more into my family’s history. I have discovered through the stories my parents have told me, and my grandparents, that I have great-great-great-great-etc.-grandparents and –uncles who fought in the American Revolution, the War between the States (aka the War of Northern Aggression), and every war through the Vietnam war. My father is a World War II veteran who was drafted near the end of the war and trained to serve in the Pacific theater. However, a week before he graduated boot camp the Japanese surrenders, and his ordered changed. He was sent to serve in occupation Germany with the peace-keeping forces. My mother’s younger brothers were drafted during the Vietnam era, but neither of them went to Vietnam. Uncle Lee served in Spain.

While I was poking around in Sunday night, I found the family tree that my first cousin is putting together. I asked if I could access her tree, and she graciously invited me in. She had uploaded the most wonderful picture of my maternal grandmother.

Gramma Wessinger when she was really young!

Grandma, Georgia Olivia Helmley Wessinger, was born in Rincon, Georgia, the thirteenth of thirteen children. She had nephews older than she was! (Can you imagine that in happening in 2017?) She learned to make tatting when she was six years old from the school teacher who boarded with her family. Grandma tatted until she could not longer see the fine thread and knots she made with her shuttle. Her work was gorgeous! Absolutely beautiful! When I was growing up, my sister, and later my brother, and I would spend a week with Gramma and Granddaddy. During those summer weeks, I don’t think I ever saw her wear anything but cotton print shirtwaist dresses, even when she went out to work in the garden in the mornings. And she never wore blue jeans! My other grandmother wore long pants and pedal pushers when she worked out in the yard, just like my mama. But never Granma!

So, who is that pretty young lady in the picture? That is my grandmother when she was single, living in Rincon, in the 1920’s. One of the stories told about her is that she drove the car for her pastor because both he and his wife were elderly. One day, he wanted to take his brothers and sisters to Tybee Beach in Savannah. His nephew had driven his aunts and uncles to visit their brother. When it came time to go to Tybee, the pastor, as was his habit, asked Georgia to drive one of the cars as there were too many to fit in one vehicle. Well, Frank Wessinger was one put-out young man. He fussed about his uncle inviting “that old girl” to drive!

In January 1930, Georgia Olivia Helmley became Mrs. James Franklin Wessinger. Frank married “that old girl,” and they lived happily for almost fifty-one years. Granddaddy passed away in January 1981, a few days before their fifty-first anniversary. Those fifty years were not without sadness. They lost their second child, a boy named Henry, who had been born with hydrocephalus. Granddaddy was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1979. He was in remission when he died.

I wish now that I knew more stories about the young Georgia.

This is why it is so important to tell the stories. I hope that you will discover the stories of your family. You might find an unexpected flapper in your family!


Storytelling and Photography

Today, I read Carol’s comments in “Focusing on Life” on the importance of telling our stories. She cited Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, which I still want to listen to. I am thinking a lot about this idea of telling stories and how I can do that through photography.

Yesterday, my home church had the annual Homecoming Sunday. It is a time for those who have moved away to come home and worship with family and friends. It is also a time for us to honor the Golden Agers of our congregation, those members who are seventy-five and older. And of course, there is the picnic on the grounds after services.


I did take my camera with me to help with the photography of the event. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I spent as much time talking and visiting as I did taking pictures! I did take the group picture before church and a few pictures of my family as they sat together in the pews. There were a few more of the golden agers fixing their plates. (Oh my goodness, the food on those tables. Yes, the tables groaned under the weight, and so did I after I finished eating!)

Ryan and Rhett

This is my nephew, Ryan, and my great-nephew Rhett. It’s not hard to figure out these are father and son! Unfortunately, Rhett’s twin sister was not in the mood to have her picture taken!

Golden Agers

There are some dear friends in this group of Golden Agers. Mr. Tommy is my surrogate father, a retired construction worker like my father was. He is always available to help neighbors. He had a serious heart attack a few years back and lost significant heart function, but that has not stopped him. He is a font of wisdom. Ms. Biba is one of my newest friends. She is a widow who took care of her invalid husband for several years. She inspires me. There are also others: my parents-in-law, my husband’s aunt, Pastor Lyerly, and so many others.

golden agers 2

The image above was one of my test shots before the actual picture. See the lady waving? That’s my mother-in-law, and that captures her personality! She is always glad to see her friends and family. I don’t know who she is waving at, but they cannot help but feel welcome!


(The lady above is my husband’s aunt, Miriam.)

Each Golden Ager (or couple) receives a print of this image. These pictures will be part of each family’s story, a story of faith, perseverance, and, most importantly, love.