I've been in the picture box again, remembering an old photo of a Christmas at my Uncle Tracey's house. All of my cousins are in this picture, surrounding Grandma Risley. That's me in the front on the right! I have a bank of holiday memories that sustain me, things that pop into my brain each year as I prepare food or wrap gifts. We were a larger family then, Daddy had 2 brothers and a sister. When we'd gather there would be 20-30 of us. Cousins to play with, lots of presents and a visit from Santa. We'd take turns going to Aunts and Uncles houses but the scene was always the same. The kitchen counters and tables would be laden with holiday food... hams, turkeys, jello salads, chips and dip. It was the 50's and our Mother's had on their finest, red lipstick and heels---just to go to a family party! When I look back at pictures, even my Dad had on a suit! If you ever watch Mad Men, or go even farther back and see an old Leave it to Beaver, you can't help but wonder if people really dressed like that. Well, we did!
Once I started looking, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to scan some of the really old pictures from the Risley side to post online and share with other relatives to copy. This picture was taken at the annual 4th of July picnic probably 1905-1910. Grandma is in the front row, first one on the left. It's rural Arkansas folks, most likely with temps in the 90's, but these ladies are dressed like they are going to Cotillion in Atlanta!
This one's dated 1928, my Dad would have been 7. He's in front on the right. Grandma and Grandpa were teachers in the small community of Peel, Arkansas. I can't imagine what it must have been like in the years that followed. The Great Depression took its toll on many families, even to the point of families breaking up. My Grandparents took in relatives kids, that's just what you did. No one had to think twice.
Daddy used to say they never went hungry. They grew their own food and hunted to put meat on the table. It was more than sport, it was survival. That's not to say he and his brother's didn't enjoy hunting. In later years, the brothers and all the male cousins made a yearly trek to Colorado where they camped and hunted big game. It was a time they cooked out over open fires, hiked the mountains and re-lived the times of their youth.
Last week our Grandson joined his Dad for target practice at the farm. If Daddy was watching, I bet he was smiling...