I have been out of town for the past few days visiting my family in Hawaii, it’s been a little over a year since I visited last. When I stepped inside my grandparent’s home a wash of memories came over me as I looked around at all the artifacts and photos that made up my childhood. Since my parents worked a lot, my mother’s parents played a huge part in raising me. I can honestly say that I have more memories of being at “grandma’s house” than even at my own.
When you walk into my grandparent’s home it is like there is a preserving veil that has gently been placed over everything to make tiem stand still. My grandma has had the same mustard yellow placements for 20 years, the porcelain figurines are always in their same place in the vitrin (Hungarian for display case) and there are photographs everywhere! My grandparents fled Hungary in 1956 as refugees of the war and made their way to America when my mother was just three years old. They came with one suitcase, didn’t speak English and knew no one. They have very proudly worked in the typical Eastern European way of slowly accumulating wealth and creating the life they now have. About 7 years ago they got fed up wit the traffic and smog of Los Angeles and uprooted their lives once again to join my brother in Hawaii. They still hold on very tightly to their Hungarian roots, and in addition to speaking Hungarian (English was my second language since my parents thought “hey, she’ll learn English in school eventually!”) they have also taught me the traditions and delicious foods of their youth.
So, as I walked in to their home that looked exactly as it had when they lived in L.A and exactly as it had the last time I was there – my eyes kept being drawn to the photographs on the walls. My grandparent’s wedding photos, my great grandparent’s photos, professional family portraits, and then many of my brother and I as well. My family frequented JC Penny for out portraits, and my grandma laughingly told me while pointing at one of my portraits that I had just gotten my hair cut, and that was reason enough to go and get some new photos. My mom even has her token Galmour Shot prominently displayed in their living room. Yes, these photos are super cheesy but I am so thankful to have them.
Photographs, preserving memories, creating memories have all been such an integral part of my childhood that it is no wonder I became a photographer: I LOVE photographs! My entire family loves them – and it is no wonder that everyone does. My mother, grandmother and I crowded around the fridge pointing at old and new photos, laughing at funny hairdos, my grandma lamenting her lost slim figure and remembering “when.” These photographs become our memories. We only remember when we look at these images that trigger our memory. If there is no photo, it is so easy to forget.
We were recently at a photography lecture by the famous Gary Fong, and he said “to be a photographer is to create time travel.” How lucky we all are that photography exists and they have the ability to transport us back to those treasured moments from our past.