The Eyes Tell The Stories

The Eyes Tell The Story

The eyes stare at me from the photograph, beckoning me to explore.  I turn it over, determined to learn more.  If I’m lucky, I find a name or date to lead me to the story.  If I’m really lucky, I get more-a narrative, a nugget of information, a description of the subject’s outfit.  Regardless, I file the image and search for more clues.

This summer my husband and I are spending hours digging into our family histories.  After inheriting 27 boxes of loose photos, albums, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, letters, and assorted memorabilia, we are determined to put it in order and discover the untold stories, hoping to add to a long legacy left in our hands.

We start by searching for names and likenesses.  Two generations back-no problem.  We remember the Christmas celebrations, the Easter egg hunts and hilarious outfits of the sixties and seventies.  Recaptured vacations to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite amuse us.  We still visit the same houses and sit on the furniture, eat at the tables and sleep in the guest rooms.  Letters to our grandparents, thanking them, are sprinkled amongst the images.

Three generations back-yes, we knew some of them.  Distant memories from our childhoods stream through our minds like an old filmstrip in elementary school.  The cracks and blurriness only delete fragments, allowing the stories to flow in bits and pieces.  The old Model T and beach cottage.  The Oakland homestead, now a shopping center.  The softness of her lap, and the heartiness of his laugh.  The eyes of those who died before our birth, only remembered through those that they left.  Skiing, really?  Yosemite Falls looked the same then.  Letters from the war are tucked in between.

Digging deeper-four generations.  The path sometimes stops abruptly-a widow?  An immigration, or perhaps one shunned by their family?  The photos are black and white now, the images lacking much detail or expression.  The dress is formal, the postures upright.  The proud automobile owners pose with smiling eyes.  The doll house stands in front of the Christmas tree, ready to be treasured.  The newspaper clippings tell us of his college athletic statistics, proudly preserved by a mother.  Letters explaining the death of a loved one, far away, gather in a box.

On and on the stories go, some now limited to names and dates we eagerly find and place on our pedigree.  Bits of stories gleaned from documents and treasures fill in some gaps, and create new tales in branches otherwise unknown.  A sea captain, a wagon train, a sea voyage, a football escapade.  Immigrants from Canada, Scotland, Germany, England, and those who have been right here, in America, since the beginning, come to life. 

As we sort and search their eyes bore into my mind, driving me to open the next box, read the next letter, search for the next clue to our history.  What I’ve learned is that their eyes stare from the same places, although time separates us.  These people celebrated the same way, valued the same possessions, and wanted to share the same stories that we do.

What I’m still learning are their stories.  I smile as I think of all that I have yet to discover within these boxes, and open another.  Another set of eyes gazes at me.

Will we ever learn them all?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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The Friday Photo – Time for Thoughts

I was thinking today that sometimes as I’m moving around in my day, an image gets stuck in my head that I can’t shake.  Sometimes it conjures up a memory, a feeling, or provides an impulse to do something.  Often, though, I just see something that I want to capture in my mind for no particular reason-it just speaks to me.  I’d like to offer these images up for ‘thought contributions’-as a way to generate a community of ideas together.  So….here’s my first ‘Friday Photo’.  What does it make you think of? Please share your stories, memories, or just what comes to mind when you look at it.  I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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The House of Learning

When I was younger, I spent heaps of time at the Yolo CountyLibrary on 14th Street.

I wasn’t an overly outgoing child, and frequently found a refuge in the children’s room.  Walking in felt like entering a beige space of tranquility and organization.  Built in 1969, it had a feel of neutrality, newness and comfort to my elementary sensibilities.  I remember during the summer months the librarian- Mrs. Sekerak, the lovely white haired figurehead- used to prepare a reading challenge.  There weren’t any fancy awards, or large cash prizes-what I remember is it was a place to record what you read, and challenge yourself to push ahead.   And she was always there, ready to lead us in the right direction.

Naively, one summer I believed that I could start at “A” and read all the books in the children’s section.  How many of us have done this?  Systematically I would pull the books, write my name on the card and hand it to the librarian for check out.  Nothing to scan, beep or navigate under a laser-just a simple index card that promised I would return.
Needless to say, I never made it all the way around to “Z”. I don’t recall quite where I got sidetracked, but I’m sure it was along the lines of ‘Betsy-Tacy”, “Misty of Chincoteague”,  or “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” (yes, it was a book before a movie).
As a young adult, my trips to the library mostly involved sequestering in the carrels of  Cal at Moffitt Library, deep into my required readings.  Emerson, Byron, Bronte, Hawthorne, Hemingway, Morrison, Walker filled my days and nights.  Occasionally I would venture towards Hargrove Music Library for a change of pace-the thumping of African drum beats and strains of choral music added to the aggregation of themes running through my brain.
As a parent, I’m back in Davis, although not much about the library is as it was in the 1970s.  The architecture of functionality of 2011 involves the sophistication of the times.  Patrons are delighted with cool color tones, textured surfaces, and sparkling digital stations.  Divisions are established for children, teens and adults, each space catering to delight the occupants with comfy chairs, computers, performance stages, and study areas to match any style.  Rowling, Riordan, Westerfield, and Meyers have arrived, supplementing the classics I loved so well. Long gone are the index cards, returns run by automation before one even walks through the doors.  Librarians-yes, they’re still there-now more as ‘troubleshooters to technology’.  Sadly, I don’t think my kids nor I even know their names.
Circulating through this space, I think about how much libraries have meant to me.  I think of the stories, the comfort, the learning I have received and still rely on as a highlight to my day.  I watch the children balancing stacks of picture books, smiles on their faces.  I watch the teens on their laptops, reading and studying.  I watch the grownups searching for the latest DVD or CD to take home on a Friday night.  I watch the newcomers to Davis searching for the best learning tools.  I watch the homeless looking for a cool place to bide their time or browse the internet.  I watch myself as a young girl, believing that if I just started at the beginning I could automatically make my way to ‘z’, with nothing to stop her.
What I’ve learned is that life doesn’t operate on a Dewey Decimal system.  Beautiful, frustrating, and magical things disrupt us over and over again.  And that’s OK.  What I’m still learning is that the learning happens, no matter what system it’s assembled in.
Would we want it any other way?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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The Plunge: Taking A Dive Into Life

I have never dived off a high dive, scuba dived, sky dived or ski raced.  I don’t like heights, and can’t imagine anything worse than freefalling through space.  Aside from never having a career as an astronaut or stunt woman, it hasn’t really impacted me that much.  That is, until I saw my children taking WAY more chances than I ever have or anticipate doing in my lifetime.
My kids like to go fast and get to the top of things.  Since they were independently mobile they have consistently sought the highest point and the quickest route to get there.  My son has no fear.  I would say that it’s a boy-thing, but his sister is usually right in front of him in line for each adventure.  When Lily was very, very small she entertained the parents watching their young swimmers at Community Pool by decisively jumping off the high dive.  I think she was all of three or four years old, and she just jumped.  I nearly fell off the concrete steps, but she just popped right up and the crowd cheered.
My daughter started gymnastics at age 2 and continued for 12 more years, defying gravity and making me hold my breath at every competition.  She only stopped recently to focus on ski racing and proudly texted me in May when she was clocked going 60 mph on a radar gun.  On skis.
This week I watched her brother dutifully complete his swimming lessons each day at Community Pool, knowing that when the whistle blew he would be able to satisfy his yearning to fly.  Eagerly he scurried up the high dive ladder, trotted along the diving board and flung his body towards the lifeguard tower, only at the very last moment dipping his head down and diving into the deep end.  As if time was suspended, I flashed back to years earlier when his sister performed her own defiance of gravity, and held my breath until he surfaced.  Over and over again he jumped, soared and dove, each plunge pushing him further and further towards his goal of reaching the lifeguard tower, each leap delineating the courage that I will never have.
Watching my children dive into life, I have learned that I need to trust that they will be ok.  They might try different moves, from different altitudes, at different speeds, and sometimes they might even surface sputtering and out of breath.  But they keep pushing forward, determined to take it a little bit farther each time, and that makes me shine with pride.  What courage they have-courage that I’m still learning.  That, and how to not pass out from holding my breath until they come up for air.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Treasure Hunting: Geocaching for Memories

Sometimes, taking a walk with my son Cameron and my dog Cola is just the best thing to do.  We’re lucky in Davis to have a multitude of options for our journey-from our place in central Davis we can really head in any direction and find something to see.  After discovering geocaching a few years ago, our walks have turned into moments of discovery.
Geocaching is a game of high tech hide and seek.  It’s kind of like treasure hunting, except typical cache treasures aren’t worth much in monetary value-it’s all about the hunt.  “Cachers” find the thrill is in trying to solve the mystery and find the box, can, or whatever creative container has been hidden using coordinates from a GPS.  Personally, I like the geocaching app I downloaded on my iPhone-it has allowed us to hunt and seek for treasures everywhere we go, in any city or state.
As Cameron, Cola and I stroll along on our hunts we start to notice things we haven’t before-even in our own neighborhood.  We pay attention to the little details around us as we search for clues to the mystery.  We talk and walk, and when we think we’re close we check for ‘muggles’-(cache-speak for those who aren’t part of the caching community).  After we log our find it’s on to the next, and the next, and pretty soon it’s dark, and we head home.  We’ve cached all over Davis- the Arboretum, old North Davis, CommunityPark, Covell, Northstar and Stonegate.  We’ve climbed bridges, dug around in dirt and spiderwebs, and even stumbled across a large roosting bird of some sort out by the freeway.  There have been moments when I was ready to give up, and suddenly Cameron would pop up with a huge grin on his face and the cache in his hand.
What I’ve learned is that stuff is hidden everywhere.  For me, geocaching isn’t about finding the capsule, or logging the visit.  It’s the journey we take to get there.  It’s the wild turkeys roosting in the trees, or the geese in the bird sanctuary.  It’s the turtles and peacocks at the Arboretum and the yellow roses blooming along the Toomey Field fence.  And mostly, it’s the stuff that my son and I discover about each other along the way.
What I’m still learning is that it’s ok to get lost in the moment, and to slow down and notice the stuff.  The memories I log in my mind are the most valuable treasure of all.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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