My mom (94) has a giant stack of scrapbooks. When I say giant, I mean, if you were to stack them all one on top of the other, they would measure at least 20 feet! Giant stack.
In them she keeps greeting cards she’s received over the years, matchbooks, letters, newspaper clippings, birth and wedding announcements, artwork done by the kids, voters guides; any bit of ephemera that comes her way.
It’s quite an impressive and fascinating assortment of things.
She also has a giant stack of photo albums. In fact, she prides herself on being so well organized when it comes to her photo albums and scrapbooks.
See? Her photos are in albums for everyone to enjoy (I am obviously a little bitter when she brings this up, because even though I consider myself a Scrapbooker, hey, I still have lots of photos in boxes, but that’s not important right now).
She didn’t start doing this until about 10 years ago, but she’s very systematic and faithful to add things to her album collection. (I don’t point out that in that same amount of time I’ve been homeschooling children and running a business and yes, scrapbooking some of the time. But, again, I’m a little bitter.)
There is, however, one small problem with her books: They’re not in any kind of order.
Soooo, on one page there might be pictures of my brother as a baby (he’s 63 now) and on the next page there are pictures of Amy’s high school graduation. Followed by my cousin’s daughter’s wedding pictures, which are then followed by photos of my dad when he worked in Arizona in 1969 followed by her neighbor’s son’s prom pictures.
No matter that she doesn’t remember some of these people or where she actually got that colorful napkin. The point is that everything is neatly placed in albums. Ay Dios mio.
It’s beautiful, really, in an obsessive-compulsive-chaotically-simplistic way.
Because I’m The Family Historian, (if you capitalize your title, it seems more like an official and important thing instead of a self-proclamation) I occasionally steal her books and go through them and copy things of interest.
(In my own defense: I know stealing sounds bad, but she won’t part with them willingly and after she gets mad about it, she always forgives me later. This is how I justify stealing in this scenario, but that’s not important right now, either.)
So back to the random-stuff-in-her-scrapbooks thing….
This is how I came across this beauty between her cousin’s husband’s 70th birthday photos and pictures of my brother’s first car:
That’s my mom when she was maybe 5 years old. The original picture itself is tiny, not quite two inches tall.
This is what it says on the back:
Beauties and Children of Cuba. Complements of Henry Clay and Bock & Co. Ltd. Havana. For their favorites.
I did a little research and found that these were Cuban Collectible Tobacco Cards. They were inserted into Susini cigarette boxes and usually featured movie stars from the 20’s.
Yes. Susini Cigarettes. Movie Stars. And MY mom.
It turns out that my grandfather, in his job as a customs inspector in the seaport of Manatí, Cuba, met up with a representative from the Henry Clay and Bock Tobacco Company in Cuba and asked him to consider doing a series of cards featuring “Beauties and Children of Cuba,” and the next thing you know – BA-da-boom! My mom finds her picture on cigarette cards being distributed by the same.
This is precisely why I have to occasionally break into her house and steal this stuff. Because if I didn’t, this picture and story would get buried in a stack of unrelated things.
And I don’t know if it’s humility or memory loss, but my mom has NEVER MENTIONED that she is a part of Cuban Tobacco Collectible History. Isn’t that a totally-random-yet-extremely-cool thing?
Don’t you think she might have just mentioned it in passing?? (Big. Heavy. Sigh.)
So, I’ll just keep stealing her albums and forcing myself to look through all the boring and ancient 6th grade graduation announcements from distant cousins and fun-facts about the 1984 Olympics and occasionally I’ll come across a nugget like this.
And she’ll keep systematically putting random things in her books and pretending to be shocked and angry at me because I should know better, before tellling me the story and then forgiving me.
It’s the circle of life.