On July 21, 2009 by Eden M. Kennedy

I am as tired of being sad as you probably are of avoiding reading about my being sad, so let’s take a look at some old family photos and have one last good cry. No, ha ha! Let’s make fun of old family photos, and then be wistful, and then wonder how many generations of Gustafsons wore those overalls.

When I met Polly Pagenhart at last year’s BlogHer conference it was all I could do to keep from running up to her, grabbing her by the shoulders, and shouting, “YOU LOOK LIKE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY MOTHER’S RELATIVES, ARE YOU FROM MINNESOTA?!” Actually, I didn’t keep myself from doing that at all, except I said it in a measured tone and I didn’t actually grab her, though it was hard not to, as she is such a peach.

Now, at last, I have rounded up the evidence. On the left, we have Polly:

(Lindsay Ferrier is on the right)

and here, from left to right, are my aunt Caroline, my aunt Joyce, and my mom.


Fuck, what time is it? I have to get ready for work. But okay, here’s one more photo of my mom and her family re-enacting a scene from Paper Moon:

God, they’re beautiful. My mom is on the left with the braid on the top of her head. I adore the way the one kid, whoever she is, is sucking on a lollipop like she’s (quite believably) smoking a cigarette. My grandfather is on the right, looking tough. He loved his girls, though:

Next time on “My Mom Wore Bobby Socks!” As well as, “My Dad In Post-War Japan: He Was Quite The Cut-Up”:



28 Responses to “SNAP OUT OF IT”

  • Oh yeah. Minnesota. They could be photos from my family, too. Yah sure. Your mom looks a disturbing amount like one of my grandmothers and I'm suddenly wondering if we're related. Ha!

  • Beautiful. I love old family photos; you gain a new respect for someone (and yourself) when you see tangible evidence that they CAME from somewhere. It's fascinating to discover that your parents had a life before you became their existence. I hope my children have the same respect for photos when they are older, but in the "brave new world" of instant and omnipresent media, I don't hold up much hope.

    Hey! Who just called me "Buzzkill?"

  • Norm: it's that crazy Swede/Finn gene pool. You have any Gustafson, Beldo, or Carlson in you by any chance?

    H.I., you and me both need to keep printing our pictures out on actual paper, just in case.

  • I love those old photos. I especially like the little girl with the lollipop. What is it about smoking that kids find so darn attractive to imitate? Mine love buying the candy ones and walking down the street looking like hoods. Fine parenting, I know.

  • What amazing character and characters emerge from those photos!!! Just awesome!

  • If I met a woman who looked like my mom I'd have a hard time restraining my demands [that we go home and watch Golden Girls] too. Wow.

  • Oh crazy — I met Polly in 1992 when she had long hair and she looked *just* like the picture of your mom with braids.

  • Oops I mean not your mom, the one of the girl on the right with the braids worn down. Who is?

  • Who is my mom! Good looking out, Marcia.

  • I love your photo's of your family. I am sure this is a great outlet for your grief in losing your mom. I know how hard that is.

    I should get more of mine out too even though it's been a long time, sometimes you just want to reconnect somehow. You have inspired me to do a blog about them.

    My family was crazy…and I got the pictures to prove it. I really miss them. Yeah…the crazies…now I remember. Uncle Frank pulling my dad's tooth with a pair of pliers when it was hurting him, poker games in the kitchen till 5:00AM in the morning when I was a kid..and I won!

  • I have to start scanning photos in before it's too late— did you do it yourself or use a service? Any recommendations on printers or services?
    Thanks! And great pictures- my family's are fading and d arkening (sometimes at the same time!).

  • Thanks for posting old photos! I love them, even other people's. And I did the same thing the last time I suffered a loss–it's simultaneously painful and soothing.

    Also, my mother's family (from Nebraska) has some similar looks in the face (and hairstyles from that era, natch), and when I saw your pics I remembered that at one point part of the family came from Minnesota, though I think they're all of German descent. Got some Swedish on the other side though…

    Here's to family and photographs!

  • Amazing amazing amazing photos. And thanks for reminding Bossy about Lesbian Dad, one of her favorite bloggers who Bossy hasn't read in a while because = Work. Stupid stupid work.

  • What beautiful photos. The one of your mom standing in a line with her two sisters reminds me of the sisters, Judy Garland's sister act before MGM changed her name:

    And the kids on the porch with their granddad is a classic. Thanks for posting these.

  • Whoops that was supposed to be "Gumm sisters." The name of the act.

  • I am going to Minnesota next week, I love the people there, and what the hell is "hot dish"? They all make it! Love the photo's.

  • Is Polly certain she wasn't switched at birth or something?

    That story reminds me of my friend Michelle telling her story about going to Israel for the first time. She'd always felt like a misfit until she stepped off the plane there and looked around. She said "All the women, ALL the women had big boobs and crazy hair. Suddenly it all made sense!".

  • the death of my mom and husband's dad recently have also brought the old pictures bubbling to the surface with similar pang and nostalgia for an era i never knew.

    i guess my kids will have to mine my hard drive for my 'old photos'. there's something quite precious (in a good way) about handling these old gems in one's own hands, isn't it?

  • Hee, no, Mrs. K, I'm all Norwegian except for some Irish (I tend not to mention that much, people tend to look rather aghast)

  • These are about as good as old photos get, man, especially the lollipop cigarette one. I too treasure my family's old photos, where they're all scrappy looking on the Ohio farm, playing with their pet foxes and crows. My favorite of ours is of a ne'er-do-well uncle who joined the circus. It's a group photo of the circus folk all piled up on the floor of some parlor.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Great pictures!

    Thanks! Makes me want to dig through my Mom's pictures and ask questions while I still can.

  • Wow… Old family photos are so special. Such a part of our history that often gets ignored. Two generations from now, will they know who those people are? That should be a huge family priority – keeping the story of our families alive.

  • I LOVE your blog. I am stoked to have found you and can't wait to dive in more.
    I am actually in Northern Minnesota for the summer and it cracks me up that you wanted to tackle her. I too, feel that way, when I see the "minnesota look". hahah! cracking me up!
    "you bet cha"


  • Love the family pictures…so sorry to hear you lost your mom, I have been bad at catching up lately. The mother of one of my oldest friends just passed away last week and it does bring back a lot of memories…we were looking at pictures of the family when everyone was young. I love old pictures and wonder, in this age of digital cameras, will anyone have pictures to look at in the future? So few of them ever get printed out these days.

  • Also, wow, you look like your pop!

  • The resemblence is uncanny! (I used to work with a guy who said, "uncanning" and I had the urge to hit him a lot.)

    I had the pleasure of talking to Polly at the cocktail party on Saturday night and, dear crap on a cracker, she is the peachiest of all peaches. I just loved her. She's smart, funny, charming and just divine. Kind of like you, Eden! Maybe you two really are related.

  • Does everyone in Minnesota look so healthy and happy?

  • Your mom's family pictures are INCREDIBLE. There is enough history and personality and story and beauty there for get-all.

    Your pictures of Chicago are the bees knees. The city scapes take my breath away. Bright Lights, Big City.

    I wish I had been there.