10,000 Slides

Over the last few days, I visited Paris, Thailand, Romania, Brazil and Greece. I spent time at Fort Buchanan in Puerto Rico. I met up with more relatives than I knew I had. I saw myself as adorable, geeky, oh-so-hot and oh-so-not.

I made this amazing journey with my sister, as we painstakingly picked our way through dozens of old photo albums and box upon box upon box of old slides. Reviewing all those images and deciding what to save and what to toss were the final steps in wrapping up our mom’s estate.

Although tedious, time-consuming and occasionally mind-numbing, this was actually kind of a wonderful way to say our final goodbyes to our parents. After all, our most recent memories of our mom was when she was so sick and in pain. Being re-introduced to the vibrant, elegant lady who I used to know was really something special.

Our dad has been gone for seven years, and so my memories of him are no longer dominated by the last few truly dreadful months of his life. I remember him as my dad, and such an important part of my life.  But did I remember him as a young father? Did I know that his face lit up so much when he visited his homeland of Romania? Did I know how handsome he was as a policeman in Palestine, or how earnest as a young physician in the U.S. Army?

We came across more than photos.  We found our dad’s old sketch books, letters from our grandparents, immigration papers documenting how most of our family fled anti-Semitic Europe and found safety in Palestine, Brazil and the United States. (Some of whom were not so fortunate died in the death camps of World War II.) We found out how much our Aunt Pearl helped our father come to America to attend medical school. We found the lists of every single medical school in the United States and their admittance requirements that our aunt had put together for him.  We found his meticulously kept records of his academic record and qualifications. We found the numerous rejection letters – and the glorious acceptance letter from Case Western Reserve that changed his life and began ours.

I was born in 1952; my sister in 1950.  We forget how very close to the end of World War II that was, and how the war shaped so much of our lives.  Going through these photos and documents brought it to life.

I confess.  If it had been up to me, I would have trashed all those slides, photographs and documents without looking at them.  Going through boxes of old stuff is not something that I would normally do.  But my sister, more sentimental and more sensible than me, insisted. And by doing so, gave us the gift of time travel and refreshed memories. And what a wonderful gift that is.


2 Responses

  1. We just did the same with my mother-in-laws photos in March. We also found immigration papers and letters that helped us understand the connection between families in America and Europe. Amazing how many people helped each other in so many ways to escape Nazi Germany and its reach across the continent. We all had the same feelings of unraveling history and the aha’s so that’s how we’re related to them! Well worth the digging and so helpful in remembering the life lived, not the last days.

    Keep writing, always love your perspective!

  2. Ah Terry. Beautifully expressed. Going through old documents & photos is an astonishing experience. How come I didn’t know about that? Why didn’t she tell me? Was THAT what he was like?

    People are a mystery, but getting a few glimpses is very special.


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