Am I A Hoarder?

Photographer in Syracuse

click images to enlarge for best viewing

Josh joked to me after the last visit to the garden center that I was a plant-hoarder. And sometimes I wonder if people were to hold an intervention for me for my hoarding, would it be for my chocolate stash or my garden-lovelies?

Photographer in Syracuse

Photographer in Watertown


If you’re a wedding client of mine, you know I feel very strongly about having printed products, such as an album or wall art pieces, from your wedding because going through my grandparents belongings when they passed profoundly shaped why I believe so much in having them. I really believe that the digital age and iWhatevers have had a negative affect on how we preserve our lives. Those picture books and portraits help tell the stories of our loved ones’ lives. Through the generations. Do you really think your great-grandchildren will be on Facebook reading the timeline of your life? I don’t. Do you think they will have the technology to open up a USB drive? CDs are already becoming obsolete.

I think I would (regretably) say that I probably learned more about my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ lives after they had died. Sure, I knew about most of the day-to-day things, especially if it affected me (like where Grandpa kept the kit-kat bars stashed). But I truly learned about their early lives, pre-Kelley becoming aware of her relationships, by going through their albums, boxes and boxes of pictures, journals, and keepsakes after they had passed.

For instance, I grew up in Chicago and moved to Upstate NY almost 8 years ago. I found in one of my great-grandmothers’ journals that she and her newly wed’d husband, ┬ámy great grandfather, took their honeymoon as a road trip to the Northeast. Among the scribbles of their journey was a black and white photo of her along a spot of the Mohawk River that I pass every time I drive out to Cape Cod to visit family. Now I think of her every time I pass that spot. I can see her smile, her beautiful lace dress and stylish heels from that picture every time I drive along the Mohawk. Never knew that as child spending my time raiding her jar of chocolate-covered raisinettes.

My Grandfather loved gardening and was the best gardener I know.

My Grandfather

My Grandfather in his Gardens, from their picture archives

When sorting through their belongings, I found an old newspaper article from the Chicago Tribune (July 1989). The paper interviewed him and featured his gardens. He was quoted by the reporter saying that he had a theory of gardening genealogy,

“The desire to tend a garden skips a generation.”

My Grandparents' House and Gardens

My Grandparents’ house and gardens, Chicago IL., from their picture archives.

He explained that his parents were not big into gardening, only had a vegetable garden out of economic necessity (during the Great Depression). He explained that he spent around 20 hours a week toiling to his gardens, and that his children (my mother) relented gardening because it was more of a chore since he enlisted them for help with weeding. Then he finished his statement by saying:

“I am waiting to see if any of my young granddaughters will take up gardening and prove my theory.”

I don’t think he ever realized that his theory was true and that indeed some of his granddaughters do love to get dirt under their finger nails and tend to delicate plants of all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors and fragrances. He died before most of us came into our own and were able to start expressing our passions.

You might have noticed in the pictures above a pair of cast iron ducks and how he hung antique tools along his fence line. When he died, I (as all of us granddaughters did) brought to my home pieces of their home. Those cast iron ducks now hang on the wall above my wood stove and two of the 2-man cross-cut saws hang in my gardens.

Photographers in Utica

One of my Grandfather’s antique saw now hanging in my garden over a rustic arbor where concord grapes grow.

I very much love having pieces of my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ home present in mine. I smile often as I walk by and reminisce of pieces of them and re-live memories. One of my favorite things to do every spring is plant some of the same annuals that adorned my grandfather’s gardens and the perennials of the gardens of my grandmother on my father’s side.

After they died, their home was bull- dozed to the ground and last I heard was made into a double lot for a neighbor.

All that remains now are memories and photos.

So, am I a hoarder? Maybe. But for good reason. My children will never know their great-grandparents. The best way I can share their stories, our family’s history and legacy, is through picture books and the tangible reminders of who they were that are now a part of what makes my home what it is.

Hoard on, dear friends and family.


Share this post