Last night, I remembered my great aunt Marilyn. She was a single lady, never married or had any children. My grandma’s sister, my mom’s aunt. She lived to be 78 years old, passing away in 2012. I found the photo below, in 1986, camera around her neck. I guess you could call her the photographer of the family. She took many of the photos that I have had the pleasure of viewing. The photo of her and I was taken a few months later.


As a kid, I fondly remember going to spend the night with her and my great grandmother. They lived in a two story house that was very old and weathered. My great grandfather had passed away, I believe, in the 70s – so it was just the two of them living there.  Below is a photo of myself, my great grandma and my great aunt Marilyn at Thanksgiving 1990.


When I was really little, a toddler, she would take me with her to her square dance competitions. I always loved going to visit her and spend the night with her, we would watch Golden Girls. She would make me cucumbers with salt and pepper on them, would always save the back of the Peeps containers for me and we would walk over to Sheetz for some Nerd candies. Her house always smelled like Lysol. She had the best most interesting handwriting and she always wrapped the money she sent for birthdays and holidays in tissue paper with ribbon. She loved birds – I remember sitting on the porch and watching the birds coming to her bird bath in the backyard.


This morning, I was looking out of my kitchen window. We have a line of pine trees in our backyard, one of my favorite things about where I live. I saw a cardinal in one of the trees. It bounced around branch to branch, tweeting its song. I thought about my great aunt Marilyn and wondered if possibly she sent that cardinal this morning.

Life gets hectic. Sometimes we need little reminders to remember the ones who cared for us when we were young. I never really thought so much about it until now, but her presence in my life was significant, even though we did grow apart. As I got older, I was busy doing different things; aunt Marilyn was getting older, too. I didn’t understand then but I think she probably suffered from depression. Losing her sister to cancer, then losing her mother to old age – possibly the two biggest relationships of her life, gone within 10 years of each other. She was somewhat isolated as it was. If I could go back, I would spend more time with her and show her how much I appreciated her. Unfortunately, that is not possible. So, I am writing this blog in appreciation of my great aunt Marilyn and the memories that she gave me that have stuck with me through the years – thankful for her presence in my life.



I love printed photos because that is all that I have to remember my grandma.

My mom was the baby of the family out of five and I was born a month before her 19th birthday. I was the first grandchild and my grandparents were more than delighted when I arrived. My grandma’s name was Elizabeth Joan, aka Betty Jo – my mom named me after her, Jesica Elizabeth. She was 58 years old when she passed away from an aggressive abdominal cancer in 1988. I was 2 years old.

I don’t know what her voice or laugh sounds like, what perfume she wore or what her house smelled like, her favorite movie or TV show. I have seen her handwriting a few times. I have no idea what her favorite recipe was. I wish I could remember the way her hugs felt.

While I would have much rather still have my grandma alive, or even alive longer so that I could have actual memories of her – there is something so peaceful about the photos of her and I together. She is never smiling at the camera – she is smiling and looking at me in the photos of us together. When I look at the photos, I can see that I was everything to her.

So, back in the 1980s, there was a process to obtaining a print from your camera. First of all, someone had to buy a disposable camera or film for their camera. Then, someone had to take a photo. After that, someone had to take this film to be developed at a store. Days later, they would have to go back and pick up the prints from the store. Someone also had to store these photos and keep them safe until they were in my possession which was at least two decades later. I will forever be thankful that my family took the time to do all of these steps so that I could view the years of my life that I had with my grandma.

Now, with digital photography, it is so much more cost and time efficient to produce a print. Please don’t forget to print your photos! I’m not saying you have to print every photos you ever took but take the time to print your photos at least monthly. Whether you took them on your phone, camera, your photographer had you download or gave you your digital images – take the time to print them for your children, your friends and your family. The next generation will appreciate that you took the time to take a photograph to share a memory of their life with them.