Photo Journal writing

Telling Stories, Part II

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Last night, we have a summer storm—wind, heavy rain, sharp lightning, thunder that rumbled for minutes. And it lasted for nearly two hours. I confess, I am not one who particularly enjoys storms, meteorological or otherwise.  And last night, I stayed awake throughout the whole storm from 2:45 a.m. until nearly 6:00 a.m.  I roamed the house from window to window to see if I could see what the wind was doing to the trees that surrounded the house; I even turned on a local TV station to see if the weather crew were covering the storm.  I will probably be doing something similar this afternoon, if the forecasters are correct in predicting another band of severe storm coming our way.

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And yet. . .

This morning, there is sunshine.  There is a freshness to the air that will be gone in the summer heat and humidity.  We will be grateful for the air conditioning, and some of us will be wondering how we did without it when we were children.  Though I grew up in a modern home with the conveniences of dishwasher, in-house washer and (gasp) dryer, baseboard heating, we did not have central air conditioning.  Only when my grandfather moved in with us did we have get any kind of AC—and that was a window unit to put in his bedroom.  It wasn’t too much longer when Mama and Daddy bought one for the family room.  I was married when they finally put in central heating and air.  To write this makes my childhood seem almost primitive, but then I didn’t think so. 

This morning, there is sunshine.  My husband is out cutting the grass around the house and probably later around the ponds as the weather permits.  I took out the camera to see this freshly washed world.

Jume 22

Honeysuckle, blackberries beginning to ripen, daylilies, vinca, daisies, Rose of Sharon—in bloom, leftover drops of rain in the petals.  Leaves torn from the trees scattered over the front yard. . . .

Remnants of the storm and the beauty that remains afterward.

Had I walked longer and farther around the pond, I would certainly have found more beauty, but for the moment, this was enough—enough to remind me of other stories: sipping the nectar from honeysuckle blossoms with my brother, sister, and cousins at Grandma Wessinger’s house during that week we spent with her and picking blackberries in the pasture behind the house and the blackberry pies that Mama would bake (with the gritty seeds of those wild berries). The rose of Sharon tree with its scars on the trunk from the fire eight years ago, still blooming, still standing, though transplanted, resilient and strong. Daylilies from Aunt Miriam, Granny.

These all have stories.

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Picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes, for me the picture gives me the thousand words to tell the story.

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!