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…

Dear to My Heart

coffee, cup, laptop, memeGood morning—it’s Thursday! I hope you’re enjoying a bit of springtime weather if you’re in the northern hemisphere.

Today, I’m contemplating a question: How can you love someone you’ve never seen? Believe in someone you’ve never known?

It happens more often than you might think. Even now, in our modern, gadget-filled, instant news days. In former days, people wrote letters. Lonely hearts out west wrote to ladies back east. Sometimes they fell in love with one another through those letters and they agreed to meet. Sometimes, sight-unseen, they agreed to marry.

Soldiers received letters from girls back home. Girls they’d never seen, or maybe only in pictures. How did they know the pictures were real? How could they trust that the letters were truthful? Yet, some did. Relationships began, marriages happened. Love found a way.

For some of us, it’s mind-boggling. It would involve shutting off a part of our brain in order to accept such a thing. Only a desperate person would try something like that. Well, the world is full of desperate souls. Sometimes, love finds a way.

Consider Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall, that tells the story of a woman who answers an ad for a wife and mother. She left her home in Maine and traveled to the prairie to meet the man she only knew through letters. Words on paper. I know, it’s fiction. But how many times in history did this actually happen? Could a person find love and purpose in such a way?

Farther back, in one of my favorite Bible stories, Abraham sent his servant back to their original home, to find a suitable wife for his son, Isaac. The servant prayed in advance that he would find the right woman, the one God had chosen for Isaac. He prayed that the woman would offer him water, and also, water his camels.

Rebekah appeared. Many of you know this story, so you can easily finish it. She was very young, and of course, beautiful. Her kind heart made her attentive to the servant’s needs. She also offered to water his camels, thus fulfilling the servant’s prayers. He knew this was the one.

She had never seen Isaac, and there were no photographs or portraits in that day. She agreed to leave her family and go to a stranger. Sight unseen.

Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.

Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. [Genesis 24:62-67 NIV]

How can someone do that? What if he’d been hideous, dangerous, or worse—boring? It involves trust. How many of those who wrote to strangers and fell in love through letters, agreed to meet, then returned home again, disappointed? I imagine that happened, too. A sweet romance I once read happened just that way, but the lady never made it home. On the way to the train station, she met another stranger and decided to stay for a while. She soon realized he was the reason she’d answered that lonely hearts ad, written all those letters, and made that long journey.

Some are spurred by loneliness and desperation to do what others might think is foolish. They’ll cast aside common sense, or whatever it takes to go and find someone. I know many of you have beautiful stories in your life, of how you met your spouse. Maybe you know of someone in your family who took a chance, did something that may seem foolish, could have been drastic, but found the love of their life.

Disclaimer: In today’s world, meeting someone over the internet is extremely unsafe. Please don’t risk your safety!

If you have one of those beautiful stories, I hope you’ll share it with our readers. Leave it in the comments below.

I’ll leave you with another of my favorite Bible passages, about a sight-unseen love, dear to my heart. I hope you know this one, and if not, I hope you’ll take a chance and trust in someone you’ve never seen.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. [1 Peter 8-9 NIV]

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