On the Island | Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu

Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu is a personal blog series written by Maryland Artist and Photographer, Teresa Robertson. Gifted the opportunity to reside in O‘ahu with her family for 3 months, Teresa wanted to provide herself and others a way to not take this gift for granted and ensure that her experience was one to learn from, reflect on, and teach others. Through these words, she hopes to do just that.


 Portrait of the evening sky on the west side of the island.

Portrait of the evening sky on the west side of the island.

Someone once said to me, ‘Ah, the battered soul of an Artist.’ I totally get that.

If you’ve read along with my previous posts, I was genuinely (not forcefully) looking forward to multiple things we’d return to in Maryland. We have long searched for a place we loved, found friends, appreciated culture, and could be proud to raise a family.

But this feels like home.

Our family, with it’s travels, doesn’t really ‘do’ vacations. Last time we were in Oahu, we never even had a ‘beach day’. Read that again. No pedi’s, no rental gear, no shopping sprees, no massages.

Hikes, public bus transportation, local grocery stores, and hideaways? Yes.

In my first 24 hours, I’m not sure what to do with these feelings. I know what I’m ‘supposed’ to do: relax, have fun, carpe diem; But I know the heartache of leaving people and places I love all too well and the instinct to dive right in to places and learn day to day life routines is too strong.

In addition to learning the heartbeat of the island, it is such a welcomed relief and sense of peace to feel like I am in a place with like minded people with similar values vs. going against the grain. Desire to protect this land, assume good intentions in others, honor their roots are pretty common themes and understandings.

Yesterday one of my favorite quotes was from an older gentleman who was educating us after snorkeling, ‘Ah! You saw Parrotfish - male and female. Interesting fact: If the dominant male Parrotfish dies, the dominant female will turn herself into a male within days. In order to protect the nature of breeding and ensuring the community survives, she will turn herself back into a female if no longer needed. None of them gets all up in arms about it. They don’t have political debates. They just let each other be and work together.’

Like I said: Home.

xo

Teresa


Fast or speedy
— Wikiwiki

Set. | Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu

Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu is a personal blog series written by Maryland Artist and Photographer, Teresa Robertson. Gifted the opportunity to reside in O‘ahu with her family for 3 months, Teresa wanted to provide herself and others a way to not take this gift for granted and ensure that her experience was one to learn from, reflect on, and teach others. Through these words, she hopes to do just that.


 Sunset on the west side near Pōkaʻī Bay Beach Park.

Sunset on the west side near Pōkaʻī Bay Beach Park.

Only 2 more days of school! Only 2 more days of work! The countdown to the adventure begins!

Let’s GO! GO! GO!

xo

Teresa


Fast or speedy
— Wikiwiki

Ready? | Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu

Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu is a personal blog series written by Maryland Artist and Photographer, Teresa Robertson. Gifted the opportunity to reside in O‘ahu with her family for 3 months, Teresa wanted to provide herself and others a way to not take this gift for granted and ensure that her experience was one to learn from, reflect on, and teach others. Through these words, she hopes to do just that.


 Hiking through the island. O‘ahu, Hawaii

Hiking through the island. O‘ahu, Hawaii

Today is the first day it has really started to hit me that we are leaving and the ‘how am I supposed to sleep from excitement?!’ feelings have started creeping in. I find myself planning my work and social life beyond our leave date in Maryland, only to back up several steps to remember what is about to be our new normal.

I am hoping to be able to work a bit while we are on the island and plan some Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Q&A sessions to recruit a small team while I am there (side note: for those who have been following along, I am secretly thrilled that our New York City, DC, Atlanta, and Orlando speaking commitments for NILMDTS has been pushed to spring, which means I can still attend!).

What I haven’t done is stay true to my commitment to start learning more about the culture of Hawaii. I know I should give myself a bit of grace that I’ve been wrapping up clients, last minute birth and newborn sessions, prior commitments, packing, and...life. But even one word a day shouldn’t be so hard. Joining a local social media group, finding some hidden gems, local shops, etc.

It’s not the end of the world or even something to stress about. I do think it’s worth noting, however, how easy it is to be so wrapped up in our own sense of ‘normal’ to forget to be educated on what exists beyond our bubbles.

Note to self: Remember to find out where the ‘Native Lands Matter’ shirt originated.

xo

Teresa


Good fortune, blessing
— Pōmaika`i

Suck it Up, Buttercup | Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu

Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu is a personal blog series written by Maryland Artist and Photographer, Teresa Robertson. Gifted the opportunity to reside in O‘ahu with her family for 3 months, Teresa wanted to provide herself and others a way to not take this gift for granted and ensure that her experience was one to learn from, reflect on, and teach others. Through these words, she hopes to do just that.


 My current favorite place on O‘ahu, The Kukaniloko Birthing Stones

My current favorite place on O‘ahu, The Kukaniloko Birthing Stones

3 weeks to plan a 3 month ‘move’ may seem like a short amount of time, but It’s officially sunk in that we may be spending twice as much time actually planning this that we end up being allowed to stay.

October 1st is when the government has a good chance of shutting down because of the disagreement over the border wall. And if the government shuts down, we will be required to come back home.

I’ve certainly been preparing myself for this but it comes with heartache, perspective, and humbleness. If we arrive in O‘ahu for 8 days and have to return, I need to remember that 8 days is far more than I ever would have anticipated having. Actually, now that I’m writing that out, I realize that my initial plan to ‘ease into things’ is not the way to go about this, but rather take a 8 day 'carpe diem' approach.

First week plans = No sleep it is!

I will be sad if our trip is cut short but need to remember that we have so much waiting for us back in Maryland. There is still a world of opportunity, love, and adventure to be grateful for.

 


But I really, really want to stay.

xo

Teresa


Ancestral spirit, family or personal gods
— ‘Aumakua

I'm with the Band | Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu

Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu is a personal blog series written by Maryland Artist and Photographer, Teresa Robertson. Gifted the opportunity to reside in O‘ahu with her family for 3 months, Teresa wanted to provide herself and others a way to not take this gift for granted and ensure that her experience was one to learn from, reflect on, and teach others. Through these words, she hopes to do just that.


 Rocks and Lava off the coast of Oahu

Rocks and Lava off the coast of Oahu

We are a family on the go. This has always been a part of our identity, engrained in both my husband and me. Our son moved schools every year until the 7th grade and the home we currently reside in is the longest I’ve ever lived in. I moved 5 states away when I was 17, so when it was college time for our first born it seemed totally normal that he go off and explore life a plane ride away.

Through our journeys as a family there have been times we’ve been together and times we’ve been apart. We’ve broken each others hearts due to distance, only to heal through inevitable reunions.

I’d forgotten that heartache.

I’ve been asked the last 3.5 months how things have felt with my son gone - was I sad? With many moves come many new friends, many of which don’t know most of our story. Sad? Three months in? That’s not a thing in this family.

Until my boy told me he was homesick 11 days before I was to leave for Hawaii.

My life has made a major transition since we’ve moved to Maryland. It’s been stable. It’s been consistent. And that has been a little (a lot) uncomfortable. It does seem a little ironic that as soon as we chose to make our life here more permanent, one of our children would pick up the pieces we had dropped and move on.

I never thought Hawaii would bring me a sense of belonging away from the island but maybe that’s the plan.

Tomorrow I'll be miles from here

Ain't nothing to me

Lord I was born with a suitcase in my hand

Living in a life that few could understand

Sometimes it gets so confusing that I don't know where I am

But I always know who I'm with

I'm with the band

xo

Teresa


Ancestral spirit, family or personal gods
— ‘Aumakua

Messy Blessings | Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu

Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu is a personal blog series written by Maryland Artist and Photographer, Teresa Robertson. Gifted the opportunity to reside in O‘ahu with her family for 3 months, Teresa wanted to provide herself and others a way to not take this gift for granted and ensure that her experience was one to learn from, reflect on, and teach others. Through these words, she hopes to do just that.


 Hawaiian Lei

Hawaiian Lei

I swear, I’m not complaining. I’m not unhappy. But the last several days have been a rollercoaster of emotion and I feel like it’s ok to say that.

When I first envisioned this blog, I wanted to make sure I was mindful to write about the emotion of our experience in Oahu, not just the technicalities. If each day brought challenges related strictly to our adventure, I’m sure I could find time to do that; however, when you throw the ‘move’, The Hubs government work, my photography business, first day(s) of school, college kid drama, car breakdowns, and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep...it’s hard to find that ‘best moment’ to write.

So, I will say, emotions fluctuate greatly throughout the day - and if my words sound a little more like a manual, it was a day I was grateful to write at all. If you can feel the emotion in my voice, the day was a bit more calm.

Housing has been a little more challenging than we anticipated. If it were just The Hubs and I, living arrangements would be less of an issue. Living in Hawaii with limited budget, limited time, and The Girls makes for some slightly fine-tuned planning. Again, I will stress, nothing bad, we just want to be smart.

As for my feelings on leaving, I’ve been a bit surprised at myself. Getting back into the school routine has felt good and I find myself thinking through the day, ‘Aw, I think I’m going to miss this.’ As I mentioned previously, it’s such a welcomed feeling, though, knowing that I will be returning and making a mental note to myself to look forward to these things later down the line.

I can’t help but wonder if part of our purpose in leaving is to really know how much we belong where we are at. Which is awesome and unique and an extremely generous gift to have been given.

xo

Teresa


I am fine
— Maika‘i no au

Finding Purpose | Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu

Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu is a personal blog series written by Maryland Artist and Photographer, Teresa Robertson. Gifted the opportunity to reside in O‘ahu with her family for 3 months, Teresa wanted to provide herself and others a way to not take this gift for granted and ensure that her experience was one to learn from, reflect on, and teach others. Through these words, she hopes to do just that.


 Tree Branch in O‘ahu

Tree Branch in O‘ahu

The last several years have been a conflict of parenting, spous-ing, providing, and creating. While I am constantly trying to be mindful in life, I am simultaneously working to extremes just to simplify, and what love is leftover from my children, to my husband, to my volunteer work leaves my artistic soul depleated.

But Oahu.

This is my chance. This will be my breath. My rejuvenation.

xo

Teresa


Smart, Clever, Intelligent
— Akamai

72 Hour & Counting | Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu

Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu is a personal blog series written by Maryland Artist and Photographer, Teresa Robertson. Gifted the opportunity to reside in O‘ahu with her family for 3 months, Teresa wanted to provide herself and others a way to not take this gift for granted and ensure that her experience was one to learn from, reflect on, and teach others. Through these words, she hopes to do just that.


 Hiking through the Manoa Falls Trail. Honolulu, Hawaii.

Hiking through the Manoa Falls Trail. Honolulu, Hawaii.

I either fell asleep last night or woke up this morning thinking, ‘I wish we were there already.’ While there is certainly enough to take care of before we leave, I feel like I wouldn't mind knocking this out fairly quickly.

Mentally, I am fighting from checking out of our lives here completely; though, I will say, it’s been incredible to see some seeds already being planted for when we return. Lately I’ve been replaying the idea that God often will provide rest before work and have seen this at play in other scenarios. I wonder if the coming three months are another one of these gifts and look forward to resting, with purpose.

After our last visit, I’ve dreamt of volunteering in a way that would teach me more about the customs, land, and/or history, should we ever return to Oahu for a lengthy stay. One of the places I assumed I would spend time is the Bishop Museum, which would cover all of these. However, since it looks like we will be staying a considerable bus ride from that location (Drew will be provided a car to get to work but The Girls and I will be relying on The Bus, Oahu’s phenomenal public transit) I have tried thinking of other options.

We’re anticipate living near Hanauma Bay and therefore, being frequent visitors. With The Girls being such passionate lovers of the environment and my passion of the ocean, it seems to make sense to reach out to the Friends of Hanauma Bay where we can help care for a place I’m sure will feel like our backyard.

I’m also relieved to see that there are not one, but two, YWCA’s (yes, ‘W’...if you are not aware of this organization, please, please, please, just visit their main page) on the island. (No, there shouldn’t even be a need for this organization, however, since there is a need, I’m thrilled that there is a presence.)

Having said all of this, it’s been such a welcome change to not only look forward to what immediately lies ahead of us but also what awaits our return. For the first time, it feels like I’m not running - I’m being purposely guided. What an honor and exciting time.

xo

Teresa


Land, especially Hawaiian ancestral lands
— ‘Āina

48 Hours with Aretha Franklin & John McCain | Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu

Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu is a personal blog series written by Maryland Artist and Photographer, Teresa Robertson. Gifted the opportunity to reside in O‘ahu with her family for 3 months, Teresa wanted to provide herself and others a way to not take this gift for granted and ensure that her experience was one to learn from, reflect on, and teach others. Through these words, she hopes to do just that.


 Rainbow, sandwiched between water and sky. Māmala Bay (off of Waikiki Beach), Hawaii.

Rainbow, sandwiched between water and sky. Māmala Bay (off of Waikiki Beach), Hawaii.

  • Home found.

  • Home partially secured.

  • Family and friends notified.

  • Clients contacted.

  • Packing begun.

  • Volunteer opportunities recognized.

  • Birthday weekend started.

  • Stevie Wonder and Jennifer Hudson live.

I am amazed at the amount of people who have stated, ‘I am so excited for you!’ As we’ve notified them of our sudden change for the next few months. Enough to make me question in the past if we’ve had this much support in general or my anxiety/skepticism from previous relationships still haunt me. Regardless…

Nesting, (non pregnancy related), is thriving and well. We think that we’ve settled on a home that will meet my desires of living near locals, learning more about the culture and environments, having easy public transportation while Drew is at work, be flexible with our ‘city’/residential/private adventures, and volunteer as a way to give back to the island and its people.

One thing that struck me this morning was talking to a friend who said, ‘For completely selfish reasons, I already can’t wait for you to come back!’ To which I reminded him of our last week-long stay in Oahu and how the after effects haunted me for months. Coming back to a project is both welcomed and appreciated.

While I have longed to return to the island, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at my security knowing I will return to our Maryland home. Despite previous yearly moves (and this specific house being the longest tenured I’ve yet to live in my life) this move feels different; needed, but not without ending. We will take advantage of and enjoy our stay, we will come home, and we will feel secure.

This weekend holds the funeral of Aretha Franklin in Michigan (my birth state), John McCains arrival in Annapolis, and my ‘baby’s 6th birthday. As Miranda Lambert sings from our southern home, we got roots, though far apart, and we got wings.

 

xo

Teresa


No problem, no trouble.
— A‘ole pilikia

24 Hours | Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu

Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu is a personal blog series written by Maryland Artist and Photographer, Teresa Robertson. Gifted the opportunity to reside in O‘ahu with her family for 3 months, Teresa wanted to provide herself and others a way to not take this gift for granted and ensure that her experience was one to learn from, reflect on, and teach others. Through these words, she hopes to do just that.


 Surfers off of Waikiki Beach in O‘ahu

Surfers off of Waikiki Beach in O‘ahu

  • Homeschooling options? Check.

  • Washer and Dryer accommodations? Check.

  • Clients cared for? Check.

  • Public bus route confirmation? Check.

  • Colleague and Industry peers accounted for? Check.

48 hours ago I had been working on what I felt was one of the biggest compliments I have ever received: being asking to teach a Photography and Lighting workshop on behalf of Now I Lay Me Down to sleep in New York City, D.C., Atlanta, and Baltimore. What an honor. What an amazing opportunity!

Fast forward - or, at this point, backwards - 24 hours: My family has been gifted the chance to go and live in Oahu, Hawaii for three months. In two weeks. 10 days into the new 2018-2019 school year.

It was just like that: Ahola came calling.

 

xo

Teresa


Gift, present
— Makana

Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu

Aloha Calling - A Limited Life in O‘ahu is a personal blog series written by Maryland Artist and Photographer, Teresa Robertson. Gifted the opportunity to reside in O‘ahu with her family for 3 months, Teresa wanted to provide herself and others a way to not take this gift for granted and ensure that her experience was one to learn from, reflect on, and teach others. Through these words, she hopes to do just that.  


 Manoa Falls is a 150-foot waterfall located in the Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Manoa Falls is a 150-foot waterfall located in the Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Aloha and welcome to my journey. It feels like a dream that we will be 'moving' (though only for three months) to O‘ahu, I am hoping to make this trip much more than that. There must be a reason God is calling us back and I want to honor this gift that's been given to me. I hope to use this blog as a way to remember our time, learn from our actions, and inspire others to do more. 

xo

Teresa

Love of the land; to nurture and care for the land.
— Aloha ‘āina

When the Best Isn’t Good Enough

Typically I sit on my blogs for a bit before posting, just to make sure I’ve put my thoughts into words the best of my ability. This post, however, is being typed and presented with only moments to spare before I pack up my truck and head to Columbia, MD where I will be handing in my first ‘Print Case’ for our Professional Photographers of America state print competition.

I have such an amazing bundle of nerves and excitement, just like back when I was submitting for finals, back in my college days. Is the paper right? How about the image? Did I edit it correctly? Should I have entered something else? What if it doesn’t score well? What if it does?! 

I’ve had plenty of people ask me, ‘What does it mean to enter a competition? What does it do for you?’ That’s actually a bit of a loaded question and I’m sure. You’d get a different answer with everyone you asked. 

For me, I wonder, ‘Why win anything? Why be the top of you class or the first chair in band? Why be the team captain or try for that chili cook-off?’  Personally, because I want to be The Best I can be - and then be better. I want to be challenged, I want to learn more, I want to pick myself up when my ‘All’ wasn’t good enough, only to prove to myself I had it in me. And if that can be passed along to my clients in the work I provide them, I want them to be proud that they’ve acquired an intentionally perfected piece of art, reflecting their life. 

 Well beyond the click of a shutter, image, paper, and presentation selection are incredibly important in print competition.

Well beyond the click of a shutter, image, paper, and presentation selection are incredibly important in print competition.

So, as I run out the door, that’s my ‘Why’. I’m sure I’ll think of more later (as I always do) but for now, wish me luck, some thick skin, and an open mind. 

I’ll keep you posted! 

Xo

  

‘Tis the Season

As I mentioned before, if something needs to be done, I do my best to accomplish it, no matter what time of year it is. However, towards the end of 2017 I had a wonderful idea that rang true to me and allowed me to set some pretty lofty goals for 2018. 

Those who know me personally will tell you that volunteering and philanthropy is near and dear to my heart. I have been fortunate to photograph for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep for over 2 years (as a Photographer and serving on the Leadership Team as a Trainer), partner with an organization in Haiti, participate with the YWCA’s annual fundraising gala each year, and contribute to other local & national organizations my family and I have been affected by. 

I’m often thinking of ways photography would be beneficial to others, both long and short term. While it’s a fine line of telling and boasting, I feel strongly that caring for others should be a common conversation that is had, in order to hold one another accountable and inspire each other. When volunteering, giving, or just loving on others becomes taboo, I think that can creep into dangerous territory. 

It’s for this reason that I chose to post about these goals: so that I could find out how to better serve others, gain some inspiration from you, and maybe encourage you to find your own passion in giving. 

 Previous auction ited: The coastline in Haiti, printed on Fine Art paper, oil painted, and presented on coffee soaked cheesecloth. Proceeds went to  Child Hope International.

Previous auction ited: The coastline in Haiti, printed on Fine Art paper, oil painted, and presented on coffee soaked cheesecloth. Proceeds went to Child Hope International.

  Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep  is a worldwide non profit organization introducing remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with a free gift of professional portraiture.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is a worldwide non profit organization introducing remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with a free gift of professional portraiture.

For the next 12 months, I am going to do my best to either donate, serve, or financially support a non-profit organization in our area, and I would love if you had any suggestions for me. Personally, my husband and I love finding different organizations in our community and learning how they are making a difference. If I can be a part of that in some small way, I would love to. 

I have a small list going but would still love to hear what you are passionate about. It’s there a specific need you know of that could use a little attention? If so, let me know! Maybe we can work on something fabulous in the New Year.  

Xo

Behind the Scenes: Imaging USA

It’s always a little hard to explain to people what goes on behind the scenes in Photography. On the one hand, I certainly don’t expect non-Photographers to understand, the same way I don’t know everything that goes behind the scenes of anyone else’s career. There’s almost always a bit of shock that more would involved than just buying a fancy camera and clicking the shutter button. 

One thing that I really love to share is the work that goes into being a part of the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), especially attending the annual Imaging USA convention. For 3+ days each January, Professional Photographers from all over the world join together to catch up with friends in the industry, going through a pretty intensive class schedule, discover new ways to serve their clients better, and just plain join in community until the next year rolls around. 

This is the 3rd year in a row that I’ve attended and this year specifically has been an incredible time of reflection. Since my re-entry into the photography world, it’s incredible to see the education leaps and bonds I’ve created in the last several years. I remember my first trip like it was yesterday, sort of sticking to myself, an observer, and being in awe over what was going on around me. This year, it was like watching myself in my own movie, realizing how much I had grown and achieved. 

Sitting on the airplane, flying back to D.C. / Maryland, I am slowly trying to figure out how I’m going to organize, execute, and display what I’ve absorbed over the last 3 days in Nashville, TN (the convention changes location - watch for it in the D.C. area 2020!). There’s just so much wonderful things to put in place and provide for others. Similarly to act of kindness, I don’t feel the need to display every small piece of the puzzle - but with my business and my art, I would love for you to know that despite the incorrect assumption that Photographers only work when they are behind the camera, that this is one Photographer, at 7:43pm on a Tuesday night, flying through the Midwest, is not only thinking of how I can better myself, but better myself for you. 

Xo

New Year, New Beginnings

I know I’ve mentioned this before, having a hard time keeping up to date on happenings through social media. It seems that so much happens, so fast, and there is always so little time to write it all down. Not to mention my brain has long left the ‘I gotta post this on Facebook / Instagram!’ instinct. 

While I’m not ‘into’ resolutions, I am incredibly fortunate to attend one of my most favored events at the beginning of each year, Imaging USA. Packed full of education, inspiration, and motivation, this is a time reserved for me to reflect and pursue. This year, as I fly over the Chesapeake Bay complete with a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge, I realize I have so much growth to reflect on - and I’d love to share that with you more. 

 Flying over the Chesapeake Bay / Bay Bridge in Maryland.

Flying over the Chesapeake Bay / Bay Bridge in Maryland.

The truth of the matter is, I don’t know that you will be impressed with where I go, what I do, or what sessions I have...nor do I expect you to be. But to keep you informed on changes, community events (I have a pretty amazing goal for 2018!), bring a little joy to your day through art - it does nobody any good to keep that all to myself, now does it? 

So I hope you’ll follow along with me this year and maybe we can meet up, share stories, and share a glass of wine or coffee together. Because as Mara Scott has said, "When you're sharing, it offers the opportunity for someone to help you." And growing is always an option. 

I look forward to going through this year with you! 

Xo

 

DECLARATIONS: THE HIDDEN STORIES OF PRINTED PHOTOS (GMA LIBBIS)

At the time of writing this, it's been several months since I considered this series wrapped up.  I am currently working on some future projects and had taken my annual break during the summer when I leave everything behind, let my creative mind reset, and bring my camera along only for 'emergencies' - like this one. 

It's an interesting time for me, as both my husband and I have sets of relatives downsizing and passing along family keepsakes. Of course, many of these include photographs, exposing us to roots we didn't know we had and stories that haven't been told for years.

While visiting my in laws this past summer, I was surrounded by photos and family, trying to piece together the best I could who was who and how I may have been told about them in previous conversations. 

On the table, I saw two portraits, one of a beautiful young woman and another of a handsome sailor, images taken well before this couple was known as 'Grandma Libbis' and 'Grandpa Pete'. Not only did the photos catch my eye but the handwriting on our young grandmother's photo, clearly to a gentleman she had fallen for - presumably, the man we know as Grandpa.

  Grandma Libbis telling stories of her many suitors and how she finally met 'The One'.

Grandma Libbis telling stories of her many suitors and how she finally met 'The One'.

I had heard many stories through the years of the love they had for one another and what a strong couple they were (unfortunately, I had never met Grandpa Pete but I am assured I would have been equally in love with him). I realized I had never really heard how they had met, so I started asking questions.

'I had a sweetheart (Marley) from the time I was 10 until about 15.  He was  went away to Japan and that's when I met my husband. 

I fell in love with him the moment I saw him. He came in Momma's grocery store when I was back in the kitchen, because we was making fudge. Momma came came back in there and said, 'You've got to come in here and see this guy.' I told her, 'Momma, I've got three boyfriends already, I don't need another one.' So, anyway, when I went out there and saw him - he was something else. When would go out on a date, Mildred was 3 years younger than me, she would date his first cousin because Momma wouldn't let me go off Pete by myself so Mildred would come, too. What was so funny was when Marley came back from Japan me and Pete had gotten married. We had only told our house and the guests that were living with Momma and Daddy for awhile. Well, every time we'd go up there, Marley would be there with Mildred. Pete would say, 'Well, the only reason he's dating her is he wants you to be jealous.' laughs

  Grandma Libbis holds her signed portrait and an image of her loved husband.

Grandma Libbis holds her signed portrait and an image of her loved husband.

'Did you actually send this to him? You sent this print to him, you had signed it, and you got it back?!'

tries to read

'It says 'I'll love you always, Elizabeth.'

Pauses. 

'I think I sent that to Marley.'

whole room laughs

'I never went without a boyfriend'

DECLARATIONS: THE HIDDEN STORIES OF PRINTED PHOTOS (MS. WRIGHT)

Mr. Ernie’s room is quiet, still, and calm. Though I haven’t had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ernie before now, at the time we meet, his demeanor is the same.

Memories are displayed for him to see across the room but the space directly around him is minimal – with the exception of a single framed photo looking over him.

“Mr. Ernie, this photo must be very important to be so close to you and displayed. Is this your wife?”

He nods.

“What is it that you remember when you look at this photo?”

“It was a very happy marriage.

I was a firefighter. It was a great job, the excitement. [My wife was a] stay at home wife. We had a very good life together and we just got along good together. Our kids are great – four children. She did a beautiful job with that.

  Mr. Ernie, resting with a photo of his wife.

Mr. Ernie, resting with a photo of his wife.

We went to Ocean City every year. What I loved most about my wife is that she put up with me – I was rough, I’ll tell ya. [laughs] We got along well together. It doesn’t seem like that long ago. She’s passed away.”

One of the things that will always amaze me: How much life can be held in a single ‘pretty picture’ and the wealth of memories that can come from them. 

  Mr. Ernie's display of family memories and recent cards.

Mr. Ernie's display of family memories and recent cards.

 

DECLARATIONS: THE HIDDEN STORIES OF PRINTED PHOTOS (MS. NINA)

When Ms. Nina speaks, you listen. The kindness in her eyes combined with the matter-of-fact tone she uses when she speaks gives her an air of comfort and confidence – as though she’d be the first one to give you a hug when you walk through the door and then set you straight for however long it took until she was sure she had set you straight (for the record, I absolutely adore women who possess this unique quality).

Sitting down with Ms. Nina, she let me know quickly of her plans to stay at the facility: ‘I won’t be here long. I’m not staying. Just getting my hips fixed and then I’ll be home.’

After a brief discussion on the operations of the facility (what was working and what needed to be fixed), I asked her about some of the photos on her wall. She may not have plans to stay long but the great care she took to display several professional, well-framed images was impressive.

“That’s Jason and Jasmine, they’re twins. They’re 14 years old and now Jason is six foot (Jaz is a normal size). Those are my Grands. When Jason was born, the Doctors said, ‘Here (makes a gesture holding out her arms)’. So that’s my little boy! Jaz was 3 lbs., so she had to go into the NICU. When I looked and saw her…(hushed) I couldn’t hold her, I couldn’t touch her. She was so small, had pins and needles all over her.

  Ms. Nina, resident of Crofton Care and Rehabilitation Center, with her Grandchildren.

Ms. Nina, resident of Crofton Care and Rehabilitation Center, with her Grandchildren.

"She had reflux very, very bad and I didn’t know what to do with her. We would hold her, burp her, put her in the swing…and she finally outgrew it. She always went hand to hand but I always held on to Jason. I have 3 boys and – (eyes wide and bright) it’s boys! To this day he still listens to me.

"I talk to them every day, I call at 10 to 4 and make sure they’re in the house. ‘Get something to eat and do your homework. Until someone comes home, stay in the house.’ I know it’s repetitious. They’re on the honor roll. I keep pushing them like a shovel.”

Like Ms. Nina, her beautifully displayed photos are well dressed and properly displayed. There’s a formality about them that could make it easy for outsiders to simply take a quick, appreciative glance at them and not dig a little deeper to find out the gem that’s hidden beneath. But Ms. Nina knows and if you stick around a little longer, she's likely to treat you to more than just a pretty smile. 

DECLARATIONS: THE HIDDEN STORIES OF PRINTED PHOTOS (GMA ROLES)

Sitting on 80 acres of land previous owned by Indian tribes, around the large wood table built by my great-great relatives, my childhood Saturday nights often took place in my grandmothers 60 year old home, filled with adults playing Eucre and kids watching Hee-Haw. In the summer time, we would be left to play unsupervised in the fields & creek, and in the winter I have a distinct memory of us discovering that when we turned on the ceiling vent in the bathroom, snow would start blowing down on us.  We were an extended family of great laughter and little wealth.

As a young married couple, my parents had us move quite a bit in effort (and success) of building and providing a good life for us but in the center of it all stood the stability of my grandmother’s home. From it came stories of my father as a baby climbing out to the barn and up the rafters; my aunt being Homecoming queen; marriages starting and ending; babies being born. And in the middle of it all, my grandmother’s high school senior portrait would hang, smiling down on all of us.

  Maryland Photographer, Teresa Robertson, with her grandmother's HIgh School Senior Portrait.

Maryland Photographer, Teresa Robertson, with her grandmother's HIgh School Senior Portrait.

 

I loved to study this portrait of a young woman that, at the time, had such a full life waiting for her. As a young girl, it intrigued me to see how different she looked back then – yet have the same kindness & determination in her eyes. To think, when she had the portrait taken, none of us were even born yet! To have this reminder of my grandmother at a time when we didn’t know her, to see the same beautiful smile she would give us when we came to her home, was almost a sweet declaration to me, saying, “So much came before you, to guide you and shape you. I was a young girl like you, too”. This simple, hand painted portrait let my mind wonder so often to how much more we were connected to one anther, despite the years.

My grandmother’s portrait now hangs in my own living room now. I still think about what she was like at my age, if I received any of her personality traits, and if I will pass them to my own children.  I love the opportunity to share small snippets of stories with people who ask, “Who is that a portrait of?” and smile, knowing that she would be proud to know the woman I am today, the women I am raising, and would more than likely shrug off the suggestion that she had anything to do with it – let alone her high school senior portrait be a token of security, roots, and inspiration to generations ahead.