Trash, Treasures, and Truth

Well, a few weekends ago I “bit the bullet.” I dug into two areas of storage in my home that have been desperately in need of a clean out. I have been avoiding these two areas for two different reasons.

The one area seems all but overwhelming because of the amount of stuff amassed there. The other area holds many memories and sentiments that promise a difficult moment.

The place with all of the stuff is still pretty much full. However, I did manage to get four large garbage bags of items relegated to new locations — two to the curb for trash pick-up and two to the local Goodwill. In addition, two rolls of carpeting and one large recliner found new homes.

The memory trove was another matter entirely. I became immersed. For hours. Pouring over family pictures dating all of the way back to the twenties of the last century.

I could identify many of the people in the pictures. But in some cases, I had no idea who the people were. And in the end, it didn’t really matter. I just couldn’t part with most of the photos. They captured moments of history.

Important moments. Life-changing moments.

Pictures of brides dressed in lace and flowers.

Grooms in morning suits and stiff collars.

Bridesmaids in stockings and drop-torsoed dresses.

Groomsmen in Sunday best and boots with laces. 

Time marched on through these photos. The 30’s. The 40’s. The War.

There were soldiers trudging through European streets. And soldiers aboard US fleets. Lass-swinging soldiers on ballroom floors. Cigarette-lipped soldiers wearied from war. 

Soldiers in taverns glad for reprieve. Soldiers with smiles home on leave. 

Soldiers in barracks after raids. Victorious soldiers in small town parades.

Pictures of the 50’s. The 60’s. And the 70’s.

Picnics. Fairs. Fetes and fests. Christmas time. Easter time. Times of rest. Pictures of vacations and amusement park rides. Pictures at the shore with an uncle in stride.

Graduations, diplomas, degrees. Delighted faces obviously pleased.

Pictures of families with a tiny newborn. Pictures of toddlers looking forlorn. Baptisms, communions, and confirmations. Pictures of gatherings for celebrations.   

And still more pictures. Pictures from the 80’s and the 90’s.

Pictures of children at parks and fun places. Pictures of children with bright painted faces. Pictures of children blowing out candles. Pictures of children riding on bike handles. Pictures of children on baseball fields. Pictures of children dancing reels.

And then the pictures in the closet came to an end.

Like the people who had saved them all those years, including the one whose closet archived them now. 

What was I to do with those pictures? That was the question. 

But already the answer was there, staring out at me from all of those photos. And moving about me in that closet, too. I would keep them. All of them. I was now the heir of this family’s legacy.

A legacy that made its way from small Eastern European villages to Ellis Island to the steel mills of Pittsburgh.

To the wedding of Jela Osaja and Mato Perstac. To their eleven children who bore nine grandchildren.

To the one grandchild named Anthony Benkovic who married Johnnette Simon. To their three children and two grandchildren.

A legacy that had begun in Croatia and found its way to a closet in Florida.


Indeed, I would keep those pictures. Pictures of Jela and Mato. Pictures of Mary, Katy, Annie, Helen, Francie, Barbie, and Maggie.

Pictures of Joseph, Peter, Adam, and Charles.  

Pictures of Victor, Madelyn, Rosemarie, Susie. Pictures of Rita, Adam, Albert, and Baby Allen. And pictures of my beloved Anthony.

I would keep them.

Because the truth is history matters. And family history matters greatly.

There is a longing in the human person to know from whence he came, to see the lives that have shaped his own, to acknowledge their existence and patrimony. It is a fundamental need to know ourselves, to the extent we can, through the history and experience of our family’s history.

In the end, we are not “children of the world” no matter how much the times would like to convince of it. We have come from others who have come before us.  

In a day and time that seeks to redefine the family unit, that seeks to call any union of persons marriage, many will be robbed of their opportunity to know from whence they came. And this is a tragedy.

I will keep these photos. All of them. And I will pass them forward to my children and, hopefully, they to theirs. We will keep the legacy going. And the history, too. It is too important to lose.




0 Response to “Trash, Treasures, and Truth

  1. Thank you so much for this, Johnnette. It is beautiful, and yes, these memories are important. I have a similar suitcase full of photos upstairs and you have inspired me to get them out and go through them, but definitely not to throw any of them out. Hopefully, one of our grand-children will one day be glad to have them.

    God bless you

  2. Thank you….we lived in Pittsburgh (Library, Pa.) for 14 years….great place to raise our children. But thank you for sharing about all those boxes of pictures…maybe I will get to the table downstairs where our pictures and albums are waiting….but maybe it is just too many memories….thanks for sharing what is it to be human….

  3. Thank you, thank you Yes, I like you
    have pictures, pictures pictures
    and my husband has asked me what are you going to do with all those pictures. Well, I am going to
    put them in order and KEEP THEM
    and pass them on to my daughters with all the family memories that go with them. God Bless

  4. Thank you for all you do. You have a beautiful gift in reaching people to listen to God, in so many wonderful ways!
    Thank you.

  5. Yes, pictures are our history! I have a great box full of pictures and whenever I disappear my husband knows just where to find me! Unfortunately, the humidity in Honolulu is not the best for pictures and I am now considering scanning them and saving them to a CD. Keep up the good work and God Bless!