Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: It was About Time | TSLN.com
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Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: It was About Time

The pictures had been stored in the plastic tub for almost twenty years, they needed to be sorted out. This was going to be a good time to do just that. My kids and their families were coming back to Pierre for a reunion, the first one we’ve had as a family in ten years. Part of the reason they were here was because our original location in Kansas didn’t work out, so we put everyone up in motels in Pierre. Another part of the reason for meeting here was because I am starting chemotherapy for the cancer that has returned, and my endurance was questionable for travel, and it was just time. We needed to be together.

Coming back to Pierre meant several things for my kids. First, to show their families where they grew up and went to school, and then to revisit Zesto, the Doughnut Shop, and the Pizza Ranch. It also meant uncovering old memories of their youth, people and places, events that became parts of their lives.

The tub of photos was opened late one morning, and as we gathered around the table, my daughter Jackie started taking out pictures one by one. Many of the photos on top were of me as a toddler, a teenager, and lots of pictures of me horseback. I narrated the history behind each photo as well as I could, not sure the kids were going to be interested in ancient pictures of people and places they did not know except from listening to me tell stories over the years of growing up in South Dakota. To my surprise, they recognized the pictures because they remembered many of the old stories. Pretty soon we were allocating the photos to one kid or another, each finding something about the images that they identified with because of stories or experiences. They wanted to be sure and show the photos to their kids and grand kids, and tell the stories as best they could remember them. Photos kept coming out of that plastic tub, and kept firing up interest in the stories behind them.



Pictures of my parents, aunts and uncles were carefully noted on the back, who was in the picture and how they were related. More stories followed. I got misty-eyed several times recalling moments from my past that I relived looking at the old photos. Names of people came back to my memory, and with a sense of urgency, we wrote those names on backs of photos so they would be remembered. The rest of the morning slipped away, we all took breaks to grab a sandwich and then return to the photos accumulating in stacks, one for each kid, around the table.

Photos of my dad in his navy uniform, of his ship and shipmates were of interest, a connection to a man they all remembered for his big hands and sense of humor. Photos of me with childhood friends and my first dogs elicited funny, sad stories about adventures and losses. Shots of me and my black pony Dynamite, the summer he was my transportation around town, giving rides and racing bikes. Photos of me and my 1967 gold Mustang, going off to college. The kids gathered the pictures like you gather memories, storing them for future use when telling their kids and grandkids who these people in the old black and white photos are and why they should be of interest and importance to them many years into the future.



The family reunion was a great success. We filled four days with visits to relatives, conversation, sightseeing, and sharing our lives and stories. We accomplished something important, important to me and even more so to my kids, in disseminating the family photos, reviving family lore, preserving it for grandkids and great-grand kids. The old photos are in good hands, the right hands to be of value for our family. It’s about time, in so many ways.

 


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