If you would like to set up a photography session, or have any questions, contact me via email: betsy@betsyjophotography.com. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Endearing: (adj.) manifesting or invoking affection.

So, yes, it's time to announce the winner of the free photo session. I learned a lesson with this one: it's hard to choose only one person. But I had to. Of course, it helped that I had a few people to help me out with the decision. Thanks to all who entered and shared their hopes for a photo session to capture treasured memories!

As soon as I read the winner's request, I felt an immediate connection to the idea. So, Marcy B, thanks for entering. And congratulations! Your reason for wanting a session was poignant and sweet, and makes so much sense. Here's why:

Grandparents are a gift, an integral part of a child's upbringing, someone who loves unconditionally with depth and understanding. I have been blessed to know 5 grandparents, one of them a great grandparent. 3 are still living. Our children have 9 living grandparents, 5 of them great-grandparents! I tell them often how fortunate they are. I know this because I have beautiful memories of a very special great grandmother, who had a beautiful influence on our family. My daughter's named for her, after all.

My Grandma Nora Gibbons McBrierty (Gramma 'Mac' as we called her) was quiet and perceptive, full of wisdom and love for her family. No matter what we did, she would always tell us, "You're all good kids, and I'm proud of ya." We laugh about it now, because sometimes we had done things that she shouldn't have been too proud of. She was a sweet and protective Irish grandmother who loved with fierceness.

I look back and wish I had asked her more questions, had learned more about her journey from Ireland to America. She was only 17 years old in 1915 when she came alone on the Lusitania from her hometown of Glennamaddy, Ireland. Her journey took place on the Lusitania's last voyage before it was bombed by a German U-boat on its way back to Liverpool. How did she feel when she heard the news of the ship's demise? And what was it like for her to be traveling across the Atlantic exactly 3 years to the day after the Titanic sank? If only I had asked her. I wish I had asked her about Grandpa McBrierty, what it was like to fall in love with the gardener of the family whom she was nanny for. There are so many questions I have that will always go unanswered.

I remember going to visit at Aunt Kit's house for Gramma Mac's birthday one year, and watching as she pinched out the fire on the candles with her thumb and forefinger. I was an 8 year old girl in complete awe of her bravery! (And I still can't bring myself to attempt that technique for extinguishing candles.) She loved that I played the piano, and every time we'd go to see her she always checked to be sure I was practicing, letting me know she was so happy that I was still playing. I always felt like she loved me, that I was her favorite. The thing is, she made everyone feel that way. She had this funny habit of clapping her hands in a snapping sound when she was pleased with something we said or did. The clapping was always accompanied by, "Hot diggity!" -and even though it may not sound like it, there was something sweet and feminine about how she did it. I love picturing her like that. Just last week I was on the phone with one of my sisters and we were lamenting the fact that we longed for a little chocolate bunny from Munson's with 5 dollar bill attached. Every year, even when she was failing, she made sure that all the great grandkids got our little Easter treat. Something tells me that Aunt Kit had something to do with that. And, though I will admit to Munson's being my favorite chocolatier, I think the longing for the bunny had more to do with our love for Gramma Mac than any desire for chocolate. I miss her wrinkly, fair face and her white, white hair. It's not that she had a show-stopping beauty by the standards of society. But she was beautiful to us. I wish I had appreciated her more when I had her, that I had taken pictures of her. I wish the one picture I do have was accompanied by so many, many more. I was a teenager when she died; I had time. I just took it for granted.

I have one picture of her with all of my sisters and my parents. It sits on my nightstand, and is something I keep there all the time. It was taken at her surprise 90th birthday. The photo isn't the best quality; it's just a snapshot that someone got of all of us, but I don't care about the lighting or the flash that washed our faces out. I just care that it's my Gramma who I loved, surrounded by us girls and my parents. For her 90th, the whole family got together, making a big deal out of her. 'Not her style to be the center of attention, she was somewhat nonplussed with the idea. But I think she secretly liked the effort that everyone had put in. There is no question that she loved deeply, caring so much for my Dad and his brother and cousins. It was no secret that her grandsons, especially, could do no wrong.

Recently I was able to research and find the manifest from the last arrival of the Lusitania, and I found my Gramma Mac's name listed on Line #6. -Detailing in old-fashioned cursive all that was known of Nora Gibbons: her age, single status, that she was a 'domestic' and had $25 dollars on her person at the time of arrival to Ellis Island. It lists her departure from County Galway, and her destination of St. Louis. I remember when it came in the mail from the Ellis Island Museum, my eyes got blurry with tears, and I felt such a connection to her.

Which brings me back to why it was so clear to me that I had to choose Marcy as the winner. Here's her entry:

"For a while I have been thinking that I would love to give my grandma Marge a session with you for a gift for mother's day. It has been a very long time since she has been photographed, and I know you would get some great photos of her! She is such a special woman and can put a smile on anyone' face. So, as for why I would like the free photo shoot is so that we call can remember her special smile for years to come... Marcy"

Maybe part of me wants to make myself feel better for neglecting the very thing that Marcy has the wisdom to see as valuable. The request spoke to my heart, the selfless way that Marcy can see the beauty and love in her Grandma's eyes, even when they dim sometimes with the confusion of age and time. I have had the privilege of photographing those who are seniors in age, and I feel so honored when the opportunity arises. The sessions remind me of how important that photo on my nightstand is. And how I would love to give that gift to someone else, over and over again.

Marcy, you can email me to schedule a date for the session.

Here's a closer image of the photo. Yes, all 5 of us girls were fashionistas, can't you tell? Oh, I'm the one on the right with the mullet. Yep, that's me. (I did ask my mother what she was thinking...!)

This pretty much sums up the feeling of receiving the ship's manifest:

"I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday, sweet and beloved, between its leaves."

-Anne Shirley, of the book 'Anne of Green Gables' by Lucy Maud Montgomery

*Soon to come: inspiration from a new book and a photography project I'm working on...


  1. Oh, the things we remember! I have tears in my eyes just thinking about Grandma Mac!

  2. I thought it was funny that you said you always though you were her favorite. I always thought I was too.:) You're right, she had a way of making everyone feel that way. Unfortunately most of my memories of her were going to visit her in the nursing home, but they're still great memories!

  3. Your so lucky to have had and known so many of your grandparents!! That's great you picked Marcy for the winner because if I had been the lucky one, I was going to give it to her because that is super sweet! She will look back and be so thankful that she did it.

  4. Lovely post Betsy! I still remember that 90th Birthday party very well! It also makes such an impression on me that she left home at 17 years old to go to another country and NEVER saw her father again! How sad that had to be. How brave and how dire her situation back in Ireland had to be. That is what I would like to ask her about if I could. I guess it is because I moved away from home so I know how lonely it can be at times, but I am so fortunate to live in a time when I can go home and my parents and sisters can visit me! There are tears in my eyes just thinking about it right now.

  5. And that you can blog and email and skype and call... anytime. Not weeks and weeks for a letter.

  6. Bets:
    Hands down, Marcy was the one you should have picked for the contest. It is so nice that she wants to capture memories of her Grandma before it's too late to do that. Makes me wonder about Martha . . .