Island Living | 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.


Someone recently asked me why I haven’t been posting as much about our time in Oahu as originally promised.  The truth is, it’s often on my mind but because I’m not a ‘Writer’, part of the reason is my intimidation, knowing I won’t do the island, and its people, the justice deserved.

 Jen Dombrowski speaks during the first annual  Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month Walk  on Magic Island, Oahu.

Jen Dombrowski speaks during the first annual Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month Walk on Magic Island, Oahu.

We’ve been fairly busy out here, much more than I’m sure I give us credit for. Pretty on par for what I would be doing on the mainland. The first few weeks were honestly a bit hard for me to get my footing, as I wrestled my unrealistic ideas of what daily life would be like here with 2 additional people depending on me, trying to tackle my personal goals at the same time, and live a bunch of life in as little time as possible, only to be stalled by limited transportation and my own frustration that I haven’t been ‘enough’.

The biggest reason for not keeping up has been forgetting my who my audience is and why I intended to keep up this blog in the first place. It occured to me shortly after we arrived that what I would be doing here is exactly what I would be doing at home - mom-ing, working, volunteering, investing in human interest stories, finding out more in regards to people’s culture, how policies and laws have protected and destroyed precious land, resources, and heritage.

Basically, everything that I am asked, told, or ignored for talking about. So why continue a series of writing that no one will read, anyway?

 Locals strike for reasonable pay and healthcare.  https://www.unitehere5.org/

Locals strike for reasonable pay and healthcare. https://www.unitehere5.org/

Because someone will. And it matters. If there is one thing I am becoming aware of here is how much I belong and my voice is still needed, my children will be able to do more than me if I guide them and we deserve to feel nurtured in our calling to love and support others. Maybe one of you would like to join us, as well.

xo

Teresa

 Lei making class with the talented Meleana Estes http://meleana.com/

Lei making class with the talented Meleana Estes http://meleana.com/


Aloha au ia ‘oe
— I love you

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

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.

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

It should be clear by now that I love hearing stories of people's past and the small details that make such a big difference in life. I know not everyone has the same passion for the past but I'm always a little curious when I ask people to tell me about something years ago and they reply with, 'Nothing special'. 

There are so many 'nothing special' things that we've dismissed in our culture over the years that are so important today, some even lost arts. I love hearing about the 'little things' because they would be considered such big acts of strength, love, or talent today.

  Ms. Mable, resident of Crofton Care and Rehabilitation Center, and her dog 'Woofie'.

Ms. Mable, resident of Crofton Care and Rehabilitation Center, and her dog 'Woofie'.

Ms. Mable treated me to a bit of the day to day she had in her childhood. Even with few details, I can imagine such a different life and upbringing she must have had, with the same common goals that I try to raise my own children with.

"I have 2 boys and 5 girls. I grew up in Atlanta, GA near a farm. My grandmother taught me how to cook and sew – she was a wonderful grandmother, she taught me everything, I loved her very much. My father, he would put me on his knee and had a pipe, Captain Black. Smelled real good. I loved that, those days, good memories. I have a picture of me and a black and white bear with a tea pot. I used to put sand in it and pretend I was cooking.

When I met my husband, I worked at a 5 and dime place. He kept coming in but he didn’t have the courage to ask me out. So one day he asked me out and he took me to a restaurant. Now, this man had on a sweater - he put his pipe [too close to it] and I had to smack it – it started smoking! Laughs One of my favorite memories is my husband on our wedding day."

 

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

Ms. Edna is feisty - which, trust me, I love. I've had the opportunity to visit her several times since we last met and she always gets me laughing with her unapologetic opinions and emotion. I am so glad to have seen this side of her often since on our first day, she was feeling a little 'under the weather'. 

Ms. Edna was just entering her room the first time we met; I introduced myself and tried my best to see if she was up for talking. I always want my conversations with people to be comfortable and I understand not necessarily feeling up to an interview from someone I've never met. 

Megan, the Activities Director and wonderful person aiding me in this project, helped start the conversation as she helped guide Ms. Edna towards the photographs in her room.  

Why do you have pictures in your room do you think?

[confused] “Do I? I don’t think I do.”

Miss Edna, look at these – see your photos? Why do you think you keep these photos?

“Is this my room?”

This is your room.

“I don’t know how long they’ve been there.”

Miss Edna suddenly spots a photo of her husband. You see her eyes brighten up and she sits up  straighter. She finally recognizes something familiar to her.

  Ms. Edna, resident of Crofton Care and Rehabilitation Center, with photos of her husband.

Ms. Edna, resident of Crofton Care and Rehabilitation Center, with photos of her husband.

"…Because that’s our wedding day. Can’t you see? That’s my husband."

You have a lot of pictures of your husband.

“Because we loved each other!”

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

As much as I'd like to say each day and conversation I had with people featured in this series were filled with joy and fond memories, I would be telling the truth if there wasn't a little heartache here and there. Thankfully, none that couldn't be chalked up to a bit of a down day, which we all have from time to time. However, those moments simply amplified the love that was held for the memories and people I had the honor of 'meeting' through my talks. 

I absolutely adore Ms. Madeline - and not just for her soft spoken, gentle English accent (her voice makes you wish you had a recording of it every night reading a storybook as you drifted off to sleep. It's really that lovely.) There is a sweetness to her demeanor mixed with matter-of-fact statements that keep you on your toes when she speaks.

Though our first meeting together was on a day that was more wistful than most, I am happy to say that each time we see each other now, it's clear that our initial conversation just happened to be a moment of missing. I am always greeted with a genuine smile and positive update on how her days have been, which makes me so glad. 

"My husband and I were introduced through friends while he was stationed in England and we married in ’52.

My mother and husband didn’t like one another but they would hold each other in high regard. She called him once at 2 o’clock in the morning to fix something. He got in his car and went right over. Of course, he grumped the whole way over and she called him every name under the sun. My mother would say, ‘You really are well taken care of. If you ask him to do something, he’ll do it.’ And I would agree. She would call him ‘Bastard’ and he would call her ‘Old Bollocks’.

We moved to the states in ’65. It broke her heart. My brother didn’t like him – felt he was taking me away [from family]. We were able to visit 4 times. But when my mother passed away, I wasn’t there. There wasn’t time. It broke my heart."

  Ms. Madeline, resident of Crofton Care and Rehabilitation Center, with some of her favorite memories.

Ms. Madeline, resident of Crofton Care and Rehabilitation Center, with some of her favorite memories.

DECLARATIONS: THE HIDDEN STORIES OF PRINTED PHOTOS (Ms. Linda)

"Just wait until you see Ms. Linda's room," I was told. "This is probably exactly what you're looking for."

Sure enough, even from the hallway, you could start to see that Ms. Linda's room was a little different than the other spaces we had passed. 

Ms. Linda can be seen all over the facility: delivering the daily paper, taking part in activities, or visiting with others. Her willingness to engage with others comes with ease but should you need a reason for more, just come see the well thought, lovingly created mural of family photographs and personal achievements displayed throughout her room. 

"I love photographs; I this [wall of photos] made."

We go over several of them and I learn about her life and loved ones. 

"These are my cousins children and I helped to raise them. I babysat for their mother while she worked. We're a close knit family." 

  Ms. Linda, resident of Crofton Care and Rehabilitation Center, is always active in the facility and most proud to have completed a 60 mile walk for Cancer.

Ms. Linda, resident of Crofton Care and Rehabilitation Center, is always active in the facility and most proud to have completed a 60 mile walk for Cancer.

It's clear how proud she is to show off the life she's been surrounded with. I wasn't sure if she would be able to narrow down her favorite when I asked if she could choose just one.

“[My favorite picture is] my walk and the picture of the kids up there, the big one. I did the walk for cancer, 60 miles. I’m 70. I had breast cancer and I’m cancer free."

[It makes me feel] happy. I spend a lot of time looking at them.”