News From Terre Haute, Indiana


August 13, 2013

LIZ CIANCONE: Remembering the previously forgotten

This is probably going to make me seem more stupid than I actually am — no snickering from the sidelines.

The other day I opened a seldom-opened drawer and found two pristine photograph albums. I remember some time ago — it must be 10 years or so at least — my nearest and dearest asked what I wanted for Christmas. With an eye on vast numbers and several generations of family pictures, I suggested a photo album. My intent was to create some sort of order out of chaos.

And chaos it was, and IS.

As the eldest living member of the Cook family, I am the custodian of the old family Bible, as well as the family album, not to mention a large old suitcase and a small doll trunk full of pictures. I also have Dad’s photo album from his time served in the U.S. Navy during World War I and Mom’s album from her years in nurses training. In addition, I have at least one drawer of a small chest full of pictures taken when our kids were small.

My idea was that I would be motivated to organize and secure family history for the next generation.

Somehow, like many good intentions, I have put it off until I had forgotten I even owned two pristine photo albums. I believe I did start one album of pictures taken when a friend and I went to England to explore antique stores in an older civilization than ours. Lorna did well. She was an interior designer and seemed to know what would fit in whatever jobs she had on her list. As I always did when in Lorna’s company, I watched and learned.

I did paw through the few pages I had devoted to memories of that trip and restored that album to its drawer.

My problem begins with the several generations of Cooks with which I must cope if ever I am to finish this project.

The family album, for instance, has nothing more recent than a picture of Dad as a small child. He was standing, but he was wearing a dress. I gather this was the way folks dressed little boys — at least until they grew old enough to demand long pants.

I did extract the wedding portraits of my great-grandparents and my grandparents, and I had prints of these made for my brothers. By this time, of course, my great-grandparents are already the great-great-great grandparents of my grandchildren, and I had to look them up in the family Bible to find their first names. I was on firmer ground with my grandparents, enough to be thankful that I had not been named after Grandma Cook.

I not only have no idea what happened to Grandma’s sisters, except her spinster sister, and have only a vague notion of having visited one of her sisters. I thought she was older than dirt.

I am pretty good at identifying pictures we have taken as our kids were growing up. Unfortunately, I have had a habit of keeping pictures of our friends’ kids sent over the years as Christmas cards.

I have no idea who some of these kids are and fear I consigned a bunch of those to the old circular file.

At least that was a start. I have cleared a corner of that drawer which will, no doubt, soon be filled with other pictures.

I can hang just so many of these memories on the wall. If only I could steel myself to doing what I had planned to do with those Christmas albums of some years ago, perhaps I could pitch out that ancient suitcase (cardboard anyway) and sell my little doll’s trunk for the antique it is.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I fear I may be headed down that road.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star education and general assignment reporter. Send email to

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