Jiggs and Emily are my grandma and grandpa. My dad's parents. When we were in Utah for the holidays, my brother wanted me to take pictures of them while I was visiting them. I'm so glad he suggested it.
I know that everyone thinks their grandma is amazing and wonderful, but mine really is. :) Both her parents died when she was young and she and her brother bounced around the foster care system until ending up with the couple that raised them. Her brother was later killed in the line of duty during the Korean War, leaving her the sole member of her family. She went to BYU Academy where she met my grandpa and raised their family of five boys and two girls. She's funny, very creative and artistic, remembers everything you tell her, loves to talk to you anytime you come by or call. She sends us cards for every occasion, and she always puts a little bit of confetti inside. It's so cute and festive - unless you forget the confetti is in there and you spill it everywhere as you open the card. It's just such a Grandma thing.
My grandpa is the youngest of a huge family. When I was growing up, he worked at Geneva Steel. I always loved when I could see (or smell) the plant, that I would think about grandpa and wonder what he was doing. Everyone calls him Jiggs. As I recall, Jiggs was a character in some comic strip when Grandpa was growing up and his siblings just started calling him that. Talk about a nickname that sticks! Grandpa coached all the boys in wrestling and started a wrestling club and legacy that is continuing on through my uncles and cousins. He is a sweet, reserved and pretty quiet man. But I'll never forget the first time I saw him - in the middle of a conversation - get on the floor and put one of my cousins in a wrestling hold. I'd never seen him move that fast. (It was all the more delightful since my cousin deserved what he was getting at the time.)
I have so many grandma stories, I really can't even start telling them. I'll never stop. The neat thing is, all of my cousins and my brother and sister have their own grandma stories too. I hope I'm a grandma like her someday.
One regret that I do have - when I was little, we didn't spend as much time with my dad's family as my mom's. That changed when I was in college and when I moved away. As a result, my sister and brother had much closer relationships with grandma and grandpa than I did for a very long time. When I moved back to Utah, I was teaching voice lessons after school in my classroom when I found out I was going to have to rent the room the following year. Knowing that my students wouldn't drive clear to my house for lessons, Grandma and Grandpa had me teach at their house. They rearranged their furniture so I could put my digital piano in their front room, they rearranged their lives so I could have the front room to myself to teach every afternoon, and Grandma even made sure to dust my piano and straighten up my music so everything looked nice when I came to teach in the afternoons. As I look back now, it was a huge sacrifice, but they made it seem like no big deal. And the best part was that I got to see them almost every day. I really cherish that time with them.
Grandma and Grandpa have a long, straight sidewalk leading up to their front door. When we were little and walked out to the car to go home, Grandma would always follow us down the walk and stand at their hedge and wave until we drove away. I remember how sad I was the first time I realized she couldn't walk to the hedge anymore. But, she does always stand at the door until we drive away.
When we were leaving on this day, I asked them to stand at the door so I could take their pictures. Grandma said something about not looking nice and not wanting her picture taken. When I told her I had been taking pictures of her and of Grandpa for the last hour, I'm not sure how excited she was. But when I told her I was on assignment from my brother Matt and that the two of us really wanted pictures of them, she seemed okay with it. I'm glad. Because I really love these pictures.
I've been thinking a lot this week about why I love photography as much as I do. As I've been working on the website and spending so much time on the business side of things, it was wonderful to fall in love with a set of pictures. These images bring back so many stories and memories for me of who my grandparents are, that they just make me happy. It's been a powerful thing to experience as I see the pictures. And the thought that I might be able to capture moments like that for other people is really humbling and makes me want to work even harder.
My stepmom wants my dad to use this color version of the last shot to paint a picture of Grandma and Grandpa standing at the door. I'll post it here when he finishes it.
Grandma & Grandpa - thank you for being who you are. Thank you for raising such wonderful children and for keeping our family united. I love you so much.
P.S. Siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles - if you didn't get the online gallery link for these pictures through my Facebook message, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll e-mail you the link so you can see the rest of the pictures.