Life in Poland

Say “chee-eese”!

I hate being photographed. It’s something I got from my Grandmother. She always hid her face with her hand or a well-placed coffee cup or turned away from the camera. She did it every time the camera came out until one holiday when I think she realized it may be our last chance to get a picture of her or with her. I have one great photo of the two of us together, both of us smiling and looking at the camera. When I look at the picture, I remember her smile, her wry sense of humor, her frail body, her fragrance. I’m so grateful to her for that one picture. I loved her so much. As it turned out her feelings were right and that was our last chance. Maybe that’s also why I have pictures of her hanging in my home here in Poland. The pictures are from an earlier age when my Grandma allowed herself to be photographed. Maybe she even liked to be photographed. I can see my Grandma as she was before she had children, her wedding, as a newlywed, as a new mother, marrying off her first born son.

my Grandmother
my Grandfather

(I never met my Grandfather as he died before I was born. . From this picture, I like to imagine him as a romantic gangster. I think it is because of the car.)

I don’t have any pictures of my parents, recent or otherwise. I have asked them on several occasions to send me some so I can show my children who they are and who we are talking to on the phone. I send tons of photos to my parents and to my sister but nobody sends any to me because I am the one who is far away in another country, not them. They don’t realize that they are just as far away for me.
I am the younger sibling, the younger sister. I am the Rosie in the family. My sister has hundreds of photos of her childhood. I have one album. I’d really like to be able to see more of myself as a child now that I am a mother. What I want to see even more than pictures of myself as a child are pictures of my parents as young parents, in the stage of life I am now. I realize looking at my kids pictures that I should turn the camera around sometimes (because, yes, you can go to the seaside or to the zoo or to another country and come back with 500 pictures of your kids smiling faces and nothing else) to show my girls (and myself) what I look like as a young mother.

PS Misiu’s surprised reaction to seeing my and my sister’s baby albums had nothing to do with the amount of photos but the quality. He exclaimed, “Your baby photos are in color!” because his are not.

PS2 I feel that I am a “young mother” despite the fact that the Polish hospital designated me as a mom of advanced maternal age at my first birth at age 32! How dare they?!

PS3 An example of my Grandma’s sense of humor: Once when Misiu first came to the US to meet my family, he wasn’t sure what to make of my family and they were not sure what to make of him. After a trip to the grocery store, Misiu was happy to help us carry the bags in and put the shopping away. Misiu put the milk and cheese in the fridge and the bread in the bread drawer. He didn’t know where to put the cereal boxes so he asked my Grandma what to do with them. She answered, “Bend over,” and escaped to her bedroom laughing her characteristic laugh.

UPDATE 2015 – My parents finally broke down and had professional photos taken, and my children finally got a chance to visit their grandparents. Photos from that session were used recently at my father’s funeral.

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  • Reply
    January 24, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    This is a lovely story, Christa. I felt the same way about my grandmother and I have no pictures of her or my grandfather when they were young although younger pictures of some of their siblings exist. They were poor so perhaps they had no camera? I really enjoy reading your blogs.

  • Reply
    January 25, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks Sallie. We went through all the old pictures last Easter when we visited my parents and I snagged a few more for my collection. I still don't like to be photographed but I've softened up a bit lately. I have to give my kids something to look back on.

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