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  • This is my great-grandmother, Freda Tryphena Stiverson Ries. The picture commemorates her 8th grade graduation in 1916 in Illinois.

    I did not really know her as a child. She lived on the West Coast. I lived in the South. I remember her coming to visit once or twice as I was growing up. What I do know about her is from the cards she faithfully sent for birthdays, holidays, and other occasions. Sometimes, for special events, she would send small, thoughtful gifts. I still have some of those cards and gifts - with the colorful images and stickers still attached.

    My grandmother, Beulah, her daughter, passed away earlier this year. When we gathered at my aunt's house, boxes and bins of photos, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, church bulletins, bits, and bobs came out of storage. I felt like we had won the lottery! My aunt - not so much.

    She had been the primary caretaker for my grandparents as they aged, so I think she was just tired. And it was too much "stuff". She said that I could take whatever I wanted. So, I loaded the car. I think she wanted it gone, but not gone. So, it is safe with me.

    As I wade through the volumes of articles and artifacts of my ancestors' lives, I have discovered a very powerful gift from Freda - the gift of record keeping.

    Every photo that passed through her hands has a date, a place name, and the names of the people written on the back. Occasionally, there is commentary, as well. I recognize her handwriting and imagine I hear her voice as I read her inscriptions. I imagine that she is attempting to keep her family knitted together as they moved across the country and started families of their own. I wonder if she knew (or hoped) that someone, someday, would find the pictures and cherish them.

    She was a record keeper, an archivist, a family historian. And now, so am I.
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