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Anniversary digs up family history

Minutes, hours and days have turned into years, and the past is now but history: Sept. 24, 2010 marks the 50th wedding anniversary of my parents, Vilho "Luke" and Ethel Luukkonen. The question remains, "Where has the time gone?"

My husband, daughter and I spent Sunday with Mom and Dad at the family farm. I was on a mission to find pieces of the past to mark the upcoming celebration. I dug out an old suitcase which mom brought back to Minnesota from her family home in Connecticut after my grandmother passed away in 1998.

On the bed upstairs, I sorted through the suitcase time capsule, looking at the past with a new perspective.

This summer my daughter was part of the Minnesota Historical Society Teen Playwright Project which taught us history doesn't necessarily mean just dates and facts. History can be snippets of common life, moments of time experienced and shared with people in the present and future.

I found my grandmother, Edith "Edie" Hotchkiss' 1931 high school yearbook, my grandfather Albert Watrous' Social Security card, several report cards of my mother's, souvenirs of Mom's cruise to Bermuda, mementos of her trip to Europe, and of course, photographs.

I found a six page letter Mom had written Grandma that included newspaper clippings and a program of when I ran for Miss Sebeka. The letter detailed how at the last minute, I decided to participate as to support my friend

Domonique, who was a contestant, and how my mother was "pulling out her hair" trying to find me a formal dress. The letter documented details I had forgotten, and more importantly gave me a glimpse of my mother's feelings of which at 16 years old, I was completely oblivious.

I brought the stack of photos downstairs to the dining room table and had mom describe who, where, what occasion and when. Because after the June 17 tornado, I realize the importance of properly identifying photos. For example, instead of writing grandma on the back of the photo, I labeled Edith Hotchkiss Watrous. I tried to label each as if a stranger happened upon it, what information would give them a clue.

The Pioneer Journal documented the tornado with aerial shots of the path of destruction. A man looking at the photos made a profound statement. These photos will mean even more in 20 years. How true, we casually document today not realizing its value in the time to come. And we will not know whose life may be impacted when unlocking the past.

The photos included Swan Johnson, my great-great-grandfather, and photos of my mother as a child, her parents and sisters. There were snapshots of my parents' wedding and reception. Pictures Mom sent to Connecticut throughout the years of my three brothers and I growing up. And the last photo grandma received from me -- a photo of my daughter at 6 months of age.

After we identified the photos, my parents' neighbors, Trent and his wife Sam, stopped by to visit. I mentioned that Sept. 24 was mom and dad's 50th anniversary. Sam asked about their 50 years together --neither mom nor dad said a word ... but both laughed out loud ... in unison.