Reunion in New Mexico

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.


Hello, Thursday Morning readers! I am so happy you’re here. I hope you’ll join me for a cup of coffee, or your preferred morning beverage.

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.

Carolyn (child in front) sent Mom these photos.

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.

Marvin, Evelyn Brobak, & Ruford

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.”

The Packnett Ladies

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…

Who Are You?

(I started to title this post, “Who Am I?” —but I already know the answer.)

coffee, cup, laptop, memeHello, Thursday morning readers, and Happy March! I hope you’ve had a wonderful week so far. Will you join me in a cup of your favorite morning beverage? Mine, of course, is coffee, lightened with a small amount of organic half-and-half.

Who you are may depend on the following facts:

  • Who your parents are/were.
  • Where you’re from.
  • Where you’ve been.
  • Education.
  • Vocation.
  • Attitude.

Yes, that last one is important. No matter what the answer to all the other points are, attitude is a game-changer.

One of the gold-medalists in this year’s winter Olympics, an American woman skier, has a tattoo on her wrist that reads, “I am.” My first impression when I saw it: Wait, that’s blasphemous. That’s the name God gave Himself when He spoke to Moses. “I AM that I AM.”

But when she told about the tattoo, I realized what it meant to her. The small gesture had helped her push through a difficult season and continue to pursue her dreams. Yes, for me, it would border on blasphemy, but for her, it meant something entirely different.

Her attitude has to be one of great self-worth. She has to remember who she is, where she’s come from, what she is able to do (because she has worked hard at it), and where she wants to go in order to succeed. If that looks egotistical, so be it. This is the attitude that sets many athletes apart and pushes them onward to victory.

So, I ask again, Who are You? Who do you think you are? Where have you been, and where are you headed? Have you worked at something to improve yourself?

Sometimes I take my eyes off the horizon, the place I want to end up, and I get lost. I’m confused. I lose focus, which results in loss of hope. So, I need to refocus. Reflect. Reorder. Redirect. Whatever it takes to get myself back on track.

The problem with this is, I’ve lost valuable time in the process. Let’s go back to that skier. She has to stay the course. She has to keep the finish in mind from the beginning of her race. She has to stay focused, so she doesn’t miss a gate, or overshoot a curve. Any one of those things can slow her down, break her concentration, and  cost her valuable time.

The same can be said for any of us in our walk through life. An unfocused moment, a missed turn, an untimely response—any of these can cost you—and push you off course. Given these circumstances, how does anyone ever succeed?

Sometimes we have to face “monsters,” or “giants” of discouragement, fear, anxiety, and remorse. Daunting.

When I need reassurance, I turn to one of the oldest books in the world—the Bible. It contains verse after verse that helps reinforce who I am and helps me keep my mind centered on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • I’m a new creature. 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • I am God’s workmanship. Ephesians 2:10
  • I have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16
  • I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
  • I am more than a conqueror. Romans 8:37
  • I have peace that transcends all understanding. Philippians 4:7 (NIV)

Click to go to Bible Gateway

Reading through these, I can’t help feeling that I’m part of something greater. So, maybe it’s not so much who I am, but who He is.