11/10/17

If it HADN'T BEEN FOR THE FIRE...


I don't know when I'd have ever found this photo.

I live in the area in California that was recently ravaged by fires. I did not lose my home, but I know some of those that did. It was two weeks of monitoring news nonstop waiting to find where the evacuation lines had been redrawn. Hospitals were closed, phone lines were down, cell phone coverage was spotty, and trying to contact doctors for my ailing father was impossible for days. Panic began to set in as I tried to gather family documents and photos for the possible evacuation and at the same time wondered where to go for the medical care my father so desperately needed.

I remember taking a shoebox out of a closet and looking inside to find photos I didn't remember. There was no time to ponder the contents, just get them in the car, and move on to the next box and files. Over the next few weeks I kept thinking about this box and the photo of my grandmother that was on the top of the pile. I think the box had probably been put in the closet over thirty years ago.

Finally, with some calm returning to life, about a week ago I decided to look through the box. I was dumbfounded by some of what I found. This woman is my great-grandmother and I never knew I had this photo. In fact, I didn't think I had any photos of this woman. She died giving birth to her second daughter, my grandmother's sister. My grandmother was too young to remember her mother and I'd always assumed there were no pictures of her. I've looked online hoping through genealogy searches that I'd find some distant relative that might have a photo of her. Nope, nothing. I've never even found her obituary. She just seemed to be an elusive spirit I would never see. So it was a great and pleasant shock to find not one but three photos of her from childhood to near when she died.

So, if it hadn't been for the fire I might not have found my great-grandmother for many more years. Her life was not filled with joy and it was cut short causing my grandmother even more grief in her life. But now a hole in my heart is a little smaller knowing Sara will no longer be forgotten.


This is my first time back with Sepia Saturday in months. My life as a twenty-four hour a day caregiver has forced me to put most things on the back burner. I will try my best to make the rounds in the coming days and look forward to reading the other Sepia posts. 

This photo is not within the theme, but it is for me a grand photo taken with a camera even more important than the one in the Sepia theme photo.

And though I found something joyful because of the fires, I will never forget the thousands left homeless who lost everything. The scar on the land will eventually disappear, but the emotional scars will be here for decades.

18 comments:

  1. Your life has been very stressful recently, so it was an especially good time for your unexpected and joyful discovery.

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    1. Yes, with all the grief so many have had I was very lucky.

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  2. I just noticed that your Vernacular Photographs book that is shown in your sidebar has a photograph of a woman with a camera on the cover.

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    1. She is also my alter ego. I like to imagine I am her standing on that beach so long ago shooting life as it passed by.

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  3. You are so blessed to have this photo.

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  4. I am so very glad to know you are safe. The reports on the wildfires were horribly frightening. This has been such a terrible summer for so many people, I'm relieved that your home was spared.

    Your lost and found photo story was quite moving, especially as a consequence of so much terror and devastating destruction. Your great-grandmother looks very young yet is dressed, I think, better than just Sunday best. Could it be a wedding photo? Only recently I've discovered that digitally reversing the mirror images of tintypes returns sepia people to a subtly more natural balance of the actual person.

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    1. I don't think it was a wedding photo, though she is wearing a ring. That has me confused. She was only married for a few years before dying in childbirth. She had a rotten to the core father.

      What do you mean by reversing the image? Flopping it horizontally?

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  5. Our thoughts are with you and your friends and neighbours at this time. How wonderful to have discovered Sara and shared her portrait with us.

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    1. It is amazing to see her. She was the one great-grandparent of which I had no photo. That really bothered me.

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  6. That is a wonderful story and a lovely photo. I am so sad about the losses so many are suffering with the fire. I am in SF with many friends in the fire area and it is heart breaking. Thanks for sharing this story...nice to hear about something good.

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    1. Then you know the panic that was rampant for two weeks. Between the nixle alerts and the local radio, I was listening for information all day. And I highly recommend everyone sign up for NIXEL alerts from their local police. They gave constant updates as to where the evacuation lines were. What roads were closed.

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  7. A very thin silver lining - I hope you and your dad are making the best of things - day by day.

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    1. Did you receive the email I sent?

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  8. Such a moving post. My heart goes out to you and your dad. You have eloquently captured the trauma suffered by so many during the SF fire -- thank you for returning to Sepia Saturday to share your experience and the photo of your great-grandmother.

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    1. It is strange that this photo will now will forever be, for me, associated with such a massive fire.

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  9. I feel for you (taking care is a tough job!) and your neighbors losing their possessions. So glad to have a bit of a silver lining story about your great grandmother's photos. Hope you will share the other 2 soon.

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    1. Yes, caregiving is taxing. The unknown is always present. The final outcome never far from the mind. I try not to dwell on these thoughts.

      And fortunately it was not my neighbors who lost their homes. It was others who were in the middle of all of it. Everyone in the county has a story to tell. During the fire people stopped shopping and then suddenly everyone was back in the stores again and you heard snippets of fire stories all around you as you passed.

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