The week before the quarantine, I visited Mom’s new apartment. It’s smaller than her former one, so she wanted me to take her collection of photos. She was afraid something would happen and they would be accidentally thrown away.
I happily agreed, but that was before I knew there were four boxes of photos. Four large boxes. There are numerous albums, shoeboxes stuffed with photo envelopes, and letters from family all over the nation labeled, “photos enclosed.” There is even a sleeve of slides (try saying that aloud three times) and a reel of film from the fifties.
If we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve probably already seen some of the pictures I found in Mom’s collection.
My mom has a very interesting family who managed to spread out all over the American West. I feel very blessed to have known them, though I didn’t get to see them in person all that often. When I was a child, we tended to pass through on the way somewhere. We’d plan our trips with a night in Amarillo with the twin uncles, a night in El Paso at Aunt Goldie’s, a stopover in Blythe, California at Grandma Cain’s (my great grandmother), before arriving in L.A. to visit Grandpa.
Mom’s sister lived in Oregon and then Idaho. Their half-brother lives in Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, and they have cousins in Seattle, Washington, Butte, Montana, East Texas, and who knows where else.
So, when I discovered the 1939 Packnett family reunion photos from the ranch they called “The Canyon” in New Mexico, well, I practically jumped up and down. These beautiful black-and-white photos document a rare (for them) family get-together long before I was born.
I had always heard about the ranch and Mom’s “cowboy cousins,” but I’d never seen these photos because we didn’t have them until they were sent to Mom by the little girl in this shot.
I look at these faces, most of them so familiar to me, and I’m in a sort of awe. I haven’t seen them in years, yet I can almost hear their joyful voices.
Mom’s family kept in touch and visited when we lived in Southern California. The man on the left in this photo (my Great-Uncle Marvin) married the young woman next to him, and they later settled in Seattle.
My Great-Uncle Ruford on the right, moved around a lot. He used to write letters to my mom. She called him “Uncle Rufie.”
My grandmother is back left in this photo of all the Packnett women. She died when I was two, so I don’t remember her. But I feel as though I know her. She was one of the first to hold me when I was born. And somehow, I know I loved her.
Years later, I would stand beside her grave in Seattle, Washington, surprised by tears and the unexpected emotion of that moment. Seeing her beautiful face in these photos gives light to her existence and helps me know her better.
Great Grandma Packnett (back right in above photo) later became Grandma Cain when she remarried. We visited her house in Blythe (CA). I remember her house, and that they had grapevines in their backyard.
The lovely lady on the right was my Aunt Goldie. She and her husband lived in El Paso, Texas. Their daughter, Carolyn, is the one who later sent the pictures. We visited them often over the years.
The woman front left is Aunt Edris. I don’t really remember her.
The photos below are my grandmother. I think she must have had a lovely visit with her family before she returned to Seattle with her daughters (Grandpa stayed behind, probably working).
Is it odd or strange to love people you never really knew that well? There’s a strong bond within me to the folks in these photos, though I grew up thousands of miles away from most of them. Mom kept that alive through her lifelong communications with them. Communication she shared with her children so, when we came to this point, we’d know them and love them as she did.
That’s an important point to make in our present circumstances. Though distance and protective measures keep us parted, we need to keep the lines of communication open so that our children’s future will include their extended family. I can’t imagine my life being as rich if I hadn’t known or known of this wonderful family.
To be continued…