Selected Highlights

On May 23, 2007 by Eden M. Kennedy

Normally when I don’t know what to say I just post a bunch of pictures and then try to explain them. For the last week I’ve been wandering around my parents’ house looking at my dad’s stuff and taking pictures of all the shit I’ll never see again because the second my mother dies my brother, Chris, will stash it all in his cave, and when I ask about that Chinese horse that used to be on the mantle, he’ll be all, “Huh? What horse? Hey, look! A bee! RUN!”

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After I left home for good, everyone would pile all their extra stuff in my old room. It’s surprisingly neat now because my brothers cleaned all the crap out of it a few months ago, so here’s a wistful photo of the windows in the corner, the low yellow chest I used to keep my sweaters and mittens in, my curvy old desk chair, and part of this weird blue chair thing that my dad bought in the seventies that he loved and would not get rid of, no matter who pleaded with him to quit piling his underwear on it.

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These photos are mostly black-and-whites of my brothers when they were little and color hadn’t been invented yet. Bottom center is our old dachshund that my father named Claudius Nero Caesar; despite being named after three Roman emperors, he was actually a friendly, leg-humping dog. My dad is on the bottom right weilding a paintbrush in a semi-serious photo captioned “Le Grande Artiste.” Every time I look at that photo I think he just got done yelling at my mom to take the damned picture already, Lois! Christ!

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I love how Chris is so windswept there in the front with his Chicago Bears sweatshirt, and how Tim’s leg is hanging over the side of the monkey bars, and how I’m all sandwiched in the middle and well into my Overprotected Years. That aside, my dad was quite a good photographer.

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I took this one of my parents on their fortieth anniversary (1992).

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Apparently the years before I was born were deemed The Sweater Vest years.

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My uncle Harry, on the left, age one, and my dad, Roy, on the right, age two. God, they were adorable. Thirteen months apart, for any interested breeders out there.

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My great grandparents, Harry and Alice, and their kids (left to right): my permanently bershon great uncle Harry; my grandpa, Roy, in a bowl haircut and a dress; and my otherwise cheerful great aunt, Laverne. (I guess child number four, Albert, wasn’t born yet.) Ayway, Albert later told me that they called Harry Sr. “The Old Man,” apparently he was a real son of a bitch. Thanks for passing that trait right on down the line, Harry! We’re still doing our best to get out from under it, therapy is helping.

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I don’t know who they are but they’re related to me and they’re AWESOME.

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The happiest day of their lives. My mom’s grandparents, Klaus and Elisabeth Pelto, a mere one generation past being illiterate Finnish peasants. Booyah!

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My dad was a WWII nut, and every time you walked up the stairs to his office area part of the house, you were confronted with Adolf Hitler giving you the power salute. Thanks, can we burn this stuff now?

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My brother Tim was briefly in the Navy. There are some other photos there but if I start trying to explain the nuances involved we’ll be here all night.

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Nice collage, dad. He had excellent picture framing sense.

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Dad’s wall o’ books.

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Are we done with the military memorabilia yet? Not by a long shot. The helmet in the middle was my dad’s, the other two, god knows, he pried them off the decapitated heads of the enemy? That’s what I’m going to tell Jackson, anyway.

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Holy cow, I used to take organ lessons and practice “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” on that thing for HOURS. My mom upholstered that chair herself. And my dad painted that faux samuri face.

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Nice stuff mixed with sentimental stuff mixed with grandkids’ school photos in plastic box frames. I’m not telling you anything you can’t see for yourself.

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I’m not sure what possessed my father to spend money on an oil painting of a sopwith camel WWI biplane, but again with the love of military stuff, I guess. According to Tim, this artist’s work is popular in corporate boardrooms. I don’t know what the hell we’re going to do with it. Ebay?

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My dad had a pilot’s license and when I was a kid we’d go to this tiny local airport and rent a plane for a few hours and fly around and I’d try not to barf. I mostly succeeded. Photo by my brother, Chris; again, I can see my dad being royally pissed off at anyone he gave his camera to: “Push the button! PUSH IT! DID YOU PUSH IT? OKAY THEN, CHRIST, GIVE IT BACK TO ME.”

And I know it’s not fair to talk shit about my dad on my web site now that he’s dead. Seriously, he was a wonderful, caring, generous man who bailed me out plenty of times and never asked to be paid back. But he was a toughie, too. A few years ago I was visiting my parents and wrote about it (here and here) and my dad read it? Not so happy. He didn’t yell or anything (I was his baby girl, after all), but it was that air of having had his privacy violated that stopped me from writing about my family pretty much altogether after that. But then the other day we were in my mom’s room and I was holding her shoulder to keep her from rolling onto her back while Tim was on the other side of the bed wearing surgical gloves and wiping her butt, and he said, “Are you going to blog about this? You have to blog about this.” I guess we share some morbid satisfaction over revealing our family in unflattering situations. I draw the line at taking pictures of that, though.

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Despite all that, my mother is an incredibly lovely person. She’s just old. There’s some mild dementia going on, and she doesn’t like to be moved AT ALL.

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I love her so much.

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After I took this Tim hustled her into her chair and wheeled her out to the kitchen where I gave her a nice, waterless shampoo and haircut.

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I can’t even begin to tell you about the antiquities I found when I cleaned the kitchen. There’s a whole flickr set just waiting to be built around them. Just you wait.

Comments

comments

83 Responses to “Selected Highlights”

  • wow…so comprehensive?! An incredible snapshot of your family’s house and your family. Thanks for sharing. The old pictures are perfect in every way.

  • Awesome pictures. We have a couple military helmets laying around too. *hugs n stuff*

  • As our generation’s parents move from their 60s into their 70s I get increasingly fascinated by the STUFF in their houses, in abandoned grown-up kids’ rooms, propped on shelves in front of thousands of books, displaying lifetimes of hobbies and interests and travels, stuff that cannot and will not be thrown away, but never gets used: it’s become the fabric of the house itself. It makes me wonder what sort of God-knows-what crap I’ll leave behind. I may start hoarding increasingly eccentric shit on purpose.

    My mother, now 65, has filled – FILLED – two houses and one garage with stuff. One day it’ll be my job to set light to it, I mean, go through it. Of course I never want that day to come around but shit, the longer she lives, the more crap she crams in the cupboards.

  • The stuff. It is a big problem. So far, entropy’s winning.

    Beautiful entry.

  • thank you for sharing

  • Thank you for sharing your family.

  • You know why I thought that was amazing, Mrs. Kennedy? I’ll tell you why, don’t you worry. Because with a small group of photos, and not many more words, you strung together a portrait of your family of origin so detailed and evocative that I feel as if I have a good sense of what it was to be you growing up.

    Wow.

  • I really want to visit my grandparents now. *sigh* Your family looks fun. I need that feeling back.

    p.s.-I’d love to buy that painting from you if you’ve got a specific price in mind. It’s fantastic!!

  • This post right here?

    It’s the most awesome post I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, for a million and three reasons.

    P.S. I have a package of Cherry/Grape/Orange Dynamints in my scrapbook. Half full. Oh yes I do!

  • I feel as though I just got back from spending the afternoon with you and your family. We sat in the living room and drank tea and you offered me some little butter cookies. There’s a quiet intimacy to seeing all the little nooks and crannies of a house.

  • Amazing. Simply amazing.

  • OMG, thanks for sharing that. You… you are just so amazing, Eden. And your whole family.

    You mom looks so sweet. I love the clear, thinness of the skin on her sweet little hands.

    Dynamints!!!! Those ARE antiques.

    I’ve been wanting to say how sorry I am about your dad. I’m sorry it was such a surprise and I’m sorry for you and your family that you’re missing him.

    I’ve been thinking about you often over the past week, vaguely worried about how you sound so strong, but I know you’re not and that makes me feel little pangs of worry about you. Like, you don’t know me at all and I’ve never even met you but I just want to call up and gently say, “How are you doing?” Hang in there… obviously we all care a lot about you and sending all our thoughts and wishes to keep you strong.

  • So cool, Eden. Really – I love the photos and the “feel” they convey. A rich history told within a single post: excellent!

    You have a very cool family. And it definitely shows your father’s passion and talent.

    And your love.

  • You look so much like your dad in the sweater vest photo. I wonder if you can see the resemblance.

    Sorry you’re having to go through all of this. Sounds rough.

  • Very cool entry. It makes me want to walk around my parents’ house and document the things that are important to me. So often, we forget the everyday things, like bookcases – the collection of books in my parents’ bookcases say so much about who they are.

  • I was hanging in there, interestedly interested.. then the picture of your mothers hands and the simple

    I love her so much

    I just fell apart.

    Thank you for sharing

  • Wow. How cool it is that your family has such a long history, all documented and photographed. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. Hope you all are still maintaining a healthy blood/alcohol level. I mean, still managing your grief in healthy and adult ways. I’ve got a bottle of J and will be raising my glass to you tonight.

  • I am so very grateful I found this particular post on this particular day. It’s a gift. I thank you and my heart aches for you. Tell your mom one of your readers thinks she is pretty fantastic.

  • Your parents’ house is just such an amazing tribute to them and their lives – I love when you walk through someone’s house and know exactly who lived there and what kind of people they are, rather than being confronted with clean and uncluttered and sterile.

  • The photos you took are great. Sorry to hear about your dad.

    I’m pretty sure your family is the one I always dreamed I would have when they realized that I had been switched at birth. They sound wacky yet wonderful.

  • Is that Jesus above your mom’s head, or a samurai? I can’t tell.

  • The first photo and the one of the organ could totally be in Dwell.

    Also for some reson I can’t look at the picture of your mother without imagining how unbelievably soft her skin must feel.

  • I had to chuckle reading about your dad yelling at other people to take the photos of him. He certainly took some wonderful photos of his own – particularly the one of you and your brothers that you highlighted.

    I’m sorry to learn of your loss, and hope you have been able to find some solace in being with your family.

  • Found you via Fidget.

    Juts had to say those last pictures of your Mom seriously ROCK! I especially love the 3rd one from the bottom, it says so much.,

  • That picture on the wall behind my mom is actually a caricature of her and my dad in profile. I need to remember to take a picture of it. Thanks for your comments, everybody.

  • Dang me, Eden, you are making me sob. But in a kind of good way.

  • What a lovely and poignant little tour. Your mom has a great smile

  • Some of these pics strangely remind me of my grandmother’s house even though it’s here in Finland.

    Great to hear you’ve got some Finnish blood in you! That will let you get away with almost anything! ;)

  • My heart, it is with you, I hope you know.

  • This is really beautiful. What a cool family–no wonder you are such an amazing person.

    Oh my GOD you can sell all of that on Ebay. The dynamints will bring a fortune! The contac paper!

    GOD I WANT YOUR DAD’S CHAIR. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH. See what I mean?

  • I had never heard of the word “bershon” before your reference to your great uncle Harry, so I googled it and found this:
    http://www.flickr.com/groups/bershon/

    A whole group of photos with people who are bershon.

  • Thank you for sharing. I am sorry about your Dad.

  • I’ve never cried and laughed so hard over a post…Dynamints, oh Christ. It just reminds me that when the time comes for me to make the same trip for my parents, I’ll need a hazmat suit.

    So sorry for your loss, Eden. What a perfect post-one of my new favorites.

  • I’ve never cried and laughed so hard over a post…Dynamints, oh Christ. It just reminds me that when the time comes for me to make the same trip for my parents, I’ll need a hazmat suit.

    So sorry for your loss, Eden. What a perfect post-one of my new favorites.

  • That was cool, Eden. Thank you.

    You can see all those faces repeated over and over, the Finnish great grandmother on your mother’s side, and your face, which is also your dad’s a little, and goes back and back through those pictures.

    Lovely.

  • Amazing slide show you’ve created here, funny and sweet and heart-breaking. Thanks for sharing.

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • beautiful collection showing your family’s life together. my heart is aching a bit for you. oh, and i love the black and white picture of young eden on the bottom in the one with your brother’s navy portrait.

  • What a lovely tribute to your family.

  • Nice. Your family reminds me very much of my oldest aunt and uncle. Also, Dynamints! Holy crap.

  • I love how you talk about your father as generous and loving but also a toughie. My dad was also that. He died four years ago yesterday.

    “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” on the organ was a distinct part of my childhood, too. Even as I have thought of my father much in the last several days, I hadn’t thought about the organ. Right now, I can see him sitting there playing, and me at 8 or 10 sitting right next to him, both of us singing horribly off-key. Thanks for bringing that memory back.

  • I was reading along and then….you mention you and your brother tending to your mom and I was transported back to last year. Laura’s mom was at home hospice. Laura had taken leave to go up and care for her. I would drive up to visit and would get up in the middle of the night to help her with her mom doing just what you described the way you described it.

    It made me tear up.

  • I really enjoyed this post. The pictures were so beautiful and descriptive.

    My Dad is a Vietnam war buff and this made me really think about the day when I will walk around and take pictures of it all. The day it will stop being my Dad’s crazy habit and more of who he was.

  • You are a good person and daughter. My parents are in their seventies and I felt a connection seeing all the photos,especially the organ.

  • Seeing these photos of your parents home brings out an incredible feeling. I don’t know if it’s your way of describing loss thats touching – or if its my own perception of how the house is so filled with life…

    Amazing.

  • I didn’t know what to say the other day. But I think I can say now that I’m sorry and I loved this entry. I love the pictures of your mom. They made me cry. She’s beautiful.

  • I think you should have prefaced your post as if your office door is open, close it first and then read.

    The last pictures of your mom’s hands have me weeping.

    nm

  • wanted to express my condolencres and thank you for sharing these beautiful poignant bits of life … your family home through your eyes is full of wonder and the life and love shines through …

  • I so got this post.

  • I thought this was fun and funny until I got to the picture of your mother’s hands and the “I love her so much” and I lost it. CHRIST!

  • incredible. sentimental, meaningful, but not soppy.

  • Is your brother Chris and my brother Craig, the same person?

    Well, you had me laughing through teary eyes. No surprise there.

    And those Dynamints?? They’re probably highly explosive at this point. You might want to call a HazMat team.

    And…how cute were you in that “Overprotective years” sandwich photo??? CUTE, SISTER!!

  • oh, i’m a bad blog reader! i’m so sorry to hear about your father….this post truly is wonderful and a loving tribute. xo!

  • Dear Eden,
    Thank you for doing this. All of us must confront this experience in our lives, but very few of us have the courage and voice to share it so meaningfully.

  • Dynamints! I’d completely forgotten about those.

    Your mom looks like a great woman.

  • I *love* the pic of your mom’s hands.

  • Your family is great. Thanks for sharing.

  • Your parents have obviously lived and interesting life judging by the pics and rooms you photographed. Your dad seemed like an incredibly intriquing person. Buying art, making art, collecting books.

    Hope things are ok over there and you are managing.

  • I loved reading about your dad and the pictures were wonderful–it’s apparent that your family has many wonderful memories. But the pictures of your mom? Those made me get a little weepy.

    I hope everyone is getting along, doing better, and all those things.

  • Such a lovely post, Eden. Thank you for sharing your family with us.

    Your mother is beautiful and like a lot of the other posters I have tears rolling down my cheeks.

    My favorite post ever.

    Grechen.

  • Eden,

    Wonderfully eloquent post and so real!! Thanks for sharing this with all of us. I hope it helps you with the grieving process and the healing. I did the same thing when my grandfather died… the walking through the house and looking at old pictures, and all the stuff he collected and used in his myriad of hobbies.. just amazing the little tiny things that make us happy and make us human and remembered. I’m so glad I took my camera to his house just before my grandmother sold it.. I have all those pictures and memories to post.. now I know (from reading this post) what to do with all the pictures I took.. blog!! Hope your doing ok.
    Heather :)

  • thinking about you every day.

    not in the creepy blog-stalking sense.

    xx

  • This makes me miss my dad so effing much. He died in ’97 at 56. But then again, this isn’t about me. Still, in how many years time a friend of yours will lose their Dad and all of this will come rushing back to you. You will know in an instant how much it sucks and your friend will know that you know. That will be enough.

  • Oh goodness, Eden. I’m still getting over Katie.

    Dad. You realize in the vacuum how big he was. Looking at the books on your dad’s WWII shelf was like walking into my father’s study.

    And just a random thought but the photo of you & your brothers? Just under Tim’s navy pic? Is it me or don’t you look very much like Maggie?

    It’s so weird how you can spend your morning thinking and praying about someone you don’t know at all, but I am.

  • My mom died 18 months ago and all I can say after reading this is, I wish I had taken pictures of her hands.

    Lovely post. Hang in there.

  • Oh, Eden. This is so funny and sad and wonderful and true. The move from the photo of your mother’s hands to the ancient box of Dynamints on the counter is like some great detail in a novel. Thanks for creating this portrait of your family.

  • What a wonderful post. I recently had to clean out our family home (my dad died in a nursing home 2 years ago and last year my mom moved into a senior citizens apartment). I wish I’d taken pictures of it all as you have, so I’d remember it as it was. Now my last memory is of it looking in a shambles after we took all the stuff my mom wanted out of it.

    I loved your tour of your family pictures and the stories behind them. It is a wonderful tribute to your dad and your whole family. And, like the others, the pictures of your mom’s hands brought me to tears.

    My mom is 88 now and sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat realizing that she won’t be hear forever…

  • Um, “here,” not “hear.” Actually she hears quite well…

  • Beautiful, E. LOVE the comments about your father and the camera. Classic.

  • Very cool pictures. And I enjoyed your stories too.

    BTW- I’m glad color was invented too.

  • Beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Love to your family -

  • I love them. I love them all.

  • Thank you for posting this. I’m never surprised by the amazingness that is Marry-Oh writing, but I am really grateful that you’re generous enough to share it.

    I love the picture of her hands.

  • The samurai painting is genius.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss, but am stunned by the wondrousness of the stuff at your parents house.

  • What an amazing post. I LOVED all the pictures. They made me want to hug your Dad and then hug you for having lost him. What a great guy and obviously passionate about history. He’s that Dad, the Dad that you think of when you think of Dads.

    I especially like him because he seems like the perfect mesh of mine and my husband’s Dads. If the two dudes fused together, they would be your Dad. I loved it.

    And the pictures of your Mom. Especially her hands. Really beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing, these are the types of posts that really suck me in. Into Fussy land.

    Jamie

  • God, I love this post. Thank you for putting it out into the world. xo

  • Your mother’s hands are so beautiful.

  • My mom died when she was 57 and I was 22. I’m about to turn 37, and besides extending my condolences, I’d like to say how much your photos touched me.

    That photo of your mother’s hands is so powerful. You are so brave for sharing such intimate things with the Internet. Your father’s death is an intimate thing, but that photo of your mother’s hands speaks volumes.

  • Coming out of lurking mode to say WOW. Reading this makes me wish I could blog more openly about my family. My mom died in 2005 (at age 73) and my dad remarried shortly after that. He sold our family’s house then, and my siblings and I had very short time to go through all the STUFF and save what we wanted. He wasn’t interested in saving much at all. I hope you have an easier time.

  • Oh geez, I have a good idea of what you are going through. My dad died 8 months ago, and like your dad, he was a hoarder. You wouldn’t believe the shit he kept.

    It’s hard, and it’s so incredibly emotionally draining to go through.
    Wish I could tell you it will soon get better, but I guess it does – just very s l o w l y.

  • I’m sorry to hear about your father. I know the well wishes of some anonymous weirdo on the internet doesn’t really count for much, but losing a parent is difficult and strange. I hope you can find some piece, even though you’re overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done and taken care of.

    For what it’s worth, my dad is something of a WWII nut as well and had a full set of some of the books shown in your photos. They went like hotcakes on eBay and he made a fair bit of money from them. I know capitalism is probably the last thing on your mind right now, but try not to throw them out. Someone will definitely want them.

    Again, best wishes to you and your family!

  • Amazing post, Eden. Thank you for sharing your family’s home and photos with us. It was great to get that glimpse into where you came from.

  • So nice of you to share those photos. I love the picture of the daschund and the dynamints.