Suitcase Full of Memories

Unpacking History One Discovery at a Time


Stored in the back of the master-bedroom closet was my mothers old, battered suitcase full of photographs, cards, mementos and memorabilia.  Until the year before my mother’s death, I saw inside the suitcase but a handful of times.  Once I was with her when she was pulling out photographs to be copied for her siblings.  Another time she was looking for a picture of one of her brothers.  It wasn’t that the suitcase was a secret or that it was private, but it was personal to my mother and not something she opened up very often, at least in my presence.

The year before she died my sister and I sat with my mother and went through the suitcase.   Her wedding album was there– I had never seen it before– as well as her engagement scrapbook and dozens of photos some of which are now displayed in my small house in Seattle.  Through these photos my mother’s early life became clearer to me;  more vivid, more complex, more dimensional.   These photos got my mother talking about memories she had long-since stopped talking about.  They weren’t bad memories, just memories that hadn’t had a time or place to come to light for a very long time.

I miss my parents nearly every day.  My husband and I have no children.  Our legacy is the discovery and sharing of our families’ history.

Valerie Sanford
Seattle, Washington

July, 2013

Member of: Fiske Genealogical Library, Minnesota Historical Society, New England Historic Genealogical Historic Society, Pennsylvania Historical Library, Rehoboth Antiquarian Society, Seattle Genealogical Society, Smithsonian, Southern California Genealogical Society, Washington History Society,  Wisconsin Historical Society,

Certificate: Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh ( Your Immigrant Ancestors’ Stories: Writing a Quality Narrative with John Philip Colletta, Ph.D., FUGA.)

Summer Afternoon Picnic

Lowell and Juanita [Riggle] Sanford on a Summer Afternoon Picnic about 1950 in Los Angeles, California

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