Awards and Family Photos

by 2ndhandroses on 2012/07/11



Great Aunt Mabel's wedding Great Aunt Mable’s wedding day


With the recent release of my book on Kindle, I thought I’d put up a chapter so you can get the feel of my authorship.

This is a chapter entitled, Awards and Family Photos.  I think everybody’s thought about this at least once or twice. I know I have.

Read on and tell me what you think, and if you like it, feel free to download my book or, if you also want a hard copy, click on my homepage and I’ll ship it to you free of charge!


Awards and Family Photos

Some of the more poignant things found on the shelves of my favorite thrift store haunts have included those of framed old photographs and trophies of varying sorts.  Their original importance rendered virtually meaningless by their deposition amongst the other more generic bric a brac pulled at my heartstrings every time I encountered such an item.

I’d often wonder what would motivate a family to donate such a memento; casting aside not only the frame, plaque, or trophy itself, but more intriguing still, tossing out a snapshot in time.  I’ve held gilt trophies, some more impressive than others in size or style, all engraved with different inscriptions, commemorating a sporting event victory or perhaps acknowledging a milestone in someone’s employment history.  Trays congratulating the owner on a job well done, for loyalty, ingenuity, steadfastness, persistence, or brilliance, clearly once placed in honor at someone’s house, now sat undignified under bent aluminum baking sheets and questionably working CD players.  Many a person with whom I shopped at whatever secondhand store at the time would stop, rifle out the trophy, scan its inscription, then toss it aside like a chipped coffee mug or an unraveled tie.   There it would sit again, silently declaring its previous owner’s recognition, waiting to once again adorn a shelf.

What chain of events would lead the recipient of said trophy to eventually lose faith in its representation of achievement, finding no more sentimentality towards this token than that of a nonworking flashlight or outdated eight-track tape?  I’d hold a trophy from time to time, running my finger along the indented words, feeling the weight of the marble base in my hands, admiring the colored accents that still reflected light, speculating on its original intent and lamenting its ultimate fate.  On more than one occasion, I would purchase one of these sad proclamations of performance, bringing it home and restoring it as best I could, placing it again in a place of honor atop my bookshelf, unfazed that I was not the original recipient.

I found other uses for my trophies aside from their obvious design.  One such gem included a golden cheerleader aloft an impressive tower of chrome and red.  This served as a paperweight atop my desk; spiked gilt pompons glittering in the glow of my fluorescent lamp.  Even Sushi, my cat, enjoyed my displaced decoration, rubbing her face against the cheerleader’s outstretched hands, appreciating the trophy in her feline way, regardless of whether the previous owner, one member of “MMHS Cheer ‘78 Second Place” even recalled this achievement.  At least in my home the trophy regained glory, if only for a silly cat or a sentimental shopper.

Even more interesting to me would be the prevalence of photo frames, often still containing portraits of long ago, the carefully posed subjects beaming out from behind the sometimes-cracked glass.  Frozen in time, decades old snapshots, faded from the sun, once cherished and now remanded to the grubby shelves of a thrift shop, faces still shone with pride.

Here on her wedding day stood a young lady, swathed in white lace, shyly smiling from beneath her veil, a bouquet of lilies grasped in one hand and the lengthy train in the other.  Somebody’s mother, aunt, grandmother, daughter, sister, or niece had so carefully prepared, makeup and setting precisely set, hair properly adorned, and she had stood for a portrait on clearly the most important day of her life, setting forth into a new adventure into matrimony.

Here embracing sat a mother and son, her eyes so proud and full of love.  His small hands holding hers, he gazed up with adoration.  Their old-fashioned clothes, hinting at a simpler time, served to enhance the sweet setting. Her high-necked lace blouse and hand-carved cameo a focal point and his little starched white shirt and woolen knickers were charming in their elegance.  Clearly they were a proud family, dressed in their Sunday best, probably saving up for months to afford such an intimate and professional portrait.

Here, grinning out from beneath a dusty glass front, a football team stood proudly, their helmets tucked neatly to the side, padded shoulder to padded shoulder, each young man’s face full of promise and confidence.  Their coach, a gruff-looking gentleman to the left, in his pinstriped suit and fedora, managed a slight smirk for the camera.  The team mascot, a scruffy white and black terrier, its eyes still bright, seemed almost about to bound from the confines of the black frame.

Here, a fisherman, holding his prize catch aloft, his exuberance still infectious even from his black-and-white image.  His waders still glistening from mysterious unnamed waters were donned carefully over his checkered shirt.  In the background was a pristine lake setting, and an inscription in the corner read, “Got the big one, Bill, April ’49.”

Each frame I have encountered, photo remaining, has moved me.  I am staggered at the blatant disregard shown these heretofore-special snapshots.  Why donate the frame without removing the photos?  Had a family member recently passed on and their possessions simply been blindly dumped in a donation box?  Had a divorce ensued, in the case of the blushing bride?  Had an untimely death proven even more painful with the continued possession of the portrait of the mother and son?  Had the football team members passed around the photograph, each one in turn hanging the frame on the wall, until one by one the team members either lost interest or died out, the final owner or family member deciding to end the tradition?  And what of fisherman Bill?  Had he abandoned his hobby, preferring a quieter life?  Or had some medical illness befallen him and the photographic reminder of a more robust past been too much to bear?

The questions remained unanswered, yet the emotions and stories behind each snapshot hinted at mysteries that would stay silent.  The starkness of abandonment never failed to mystify, and the lesson for me proved as timeless as the vintage photographs themselves.

Rules of the Road for Memorabilia: The names may change but the honor remains.

Excerpt from Second Hand Roses: The Junktiquing Road, copyright 2010 Dawn Edwards


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Corinne Edwards 2012/07/12 at 1:39 pm

Dear Dawn –

All the stories and chapters in your book are wonderful –

– but I have to admit that his chapter is my favorite.

Even re reading it here brought tears to my eyes and made me realize again how fragile life is – and how fast it goes.

Linda Seydel 2012/07/17 at 8:50 am

Hi, Dawn,

Once again your words echo my thoughts. Why throw out the picture? Occasionally on trips to the farmlands of my father, I will coherce a snapshot from a beloved aunt or disinterested cousin. I may not know personally the person or persons in the snapshot, but I know they are related in some way to the multibranched family tree where both my father and I and countless other blood relatives have a spot permanently engraved in the bark. I carefully write on the back what I know about the people and/or events captured on paper so that this history gets shared with all who might view it. When I share these photos with my sons, they are amazed at the number of relatives they have, and they feel honored to view a piece of their own history, even if it is generations removed from the original “say cheese” moment. These will, in turn, be shown to my grandchildren and hopefully their children and so on. To discard any one of them is unthinkable. They are all family. I don’t have to have known them all to understand that, without them, I do not exist.

Congratulations on the job. Hope things go well and you settle in quickly to the new routine.


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