Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sepia Saturday #213: The Emigrant's Suitcase


When my mother and brother emigrated from Ireland to join my father in Canada, in addition to a large steamer trunk full of clothing and other necessities, my mother carried this little black suitcase with her. Inside of the suitcase were the items she most treasured, bits of a life that once was, including images of a past in which my father was a child, as well as a few pictures in which my parents were young adults.

By the time I came along, the little black suitcase lived under my parents' bed, and was filled with photographs. Now it is here with me in my home. I have such fond memories of time spent trolling through the photographs in that suitcase. Sometimes, when my mother was doing her household accounts, I would sit on the floor at the foot of her bed, and draw out the images which most appealed to me. Then, I would plead with my mom to set aside her task, and tell me about the people in the pictures. Sometimes Mom would send me packing, but every now and then she would oblige me.

The little black suitcase is such a treasure to me. As a child, emigration seemed a romantic ideal to me, and I would daydream and imagine the little suitcase shifting and sliding around their cabin, as the sea rolled and tumbled under the ship on which my mother and brother travelled to a new world.

A few of my favourites among those images that once lived inside the little black suitcase:


On the left: 1948: my mother at the age of 17, on holiday in Kent, England, being a wild one (in pearls no less) on her Barnwell cousin's motorbike. On the right: 1949: my father, age 20, in double-breasted suit with tie on a day trip to Glendalough, County Wicklow.


On the left: 1949: my mother and father, Mary and Michael, when they first started courting. Mary was 18 years old and Michael was 20. On the right: 1951: Mary and Michael, a couple of years later, out for an evening of dinner and dancing with friends.


This has always been one of my favourite photographs from my parents' wedding album, with the two of them cutting the cake at their wedding breakfast, 2 August 1954. My father's brother John is on the left, and my mother's sister Kathleen is on the right of the photograph.

This post originally appeared in 2012 as a Treasure Chest Thursday post, and since the case is such a treasure to me, I am sharing it again today. Be sure to stop by the Sepia Saturday blog to see how others have been inspired by today's theme, and perhaps you will be inspired too.


Copyright©irisheyesjg2014.

26 comments:

  1. Little black suitcases can be very special. In your case, because of where it's been and with whom, and because of the treasure it has held. It may be a bit battered, but that only adds to its character!

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    1. Thanks for your comments La Nightingail, so true, so true.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  2. Great photos. Have you been back to see their old homes?

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    1. Thanks for your comments John, and thanks for asking. I have been back to their homes. Most of my mom's family and some of my dad's still live in Ireland, and since 2007 I have returned a couple of times each year for my work, so I have the chance to visit them. Until he passed away in 2003, one of my maternal uncles lived in the home into which my mom and all of her siblings, save one, were born, giving the family a history in that house of over 80 years.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  3. If those cases could only talk - what a story they would have to tell. However your photos from it tell a love story of their own.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Bob. My sentiments exactly, and if that case could talk I would be hanging on its every word. The photos do tell a love story, and I am so very grateful my mom and dad kept them.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  4. Ohhh, this reminds me of a black suitcase I had that held all my mother's photographs. I removed all the photographs to other locations and did I throw out the suitcase without a picture?! I can't believe I did that.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Kristin. I am so sorry to have reminded you of the loss of that case, but I am glad you still have all the photographs. The steamer trunk my mom had was lost along the way with moves in Canada, and there were some photographs and other items lost with it. Although I am very neat and organized, I do have a bit of packrat in me, so even though the case no longer has anything in it, I'll be hanging onto it.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  5. What a great suitcase! All those dings and bends; all that wear and tear. I've always found the concept of emigration one of bittersweet contrasts: leaving home must be so bitter, arriving for a new one so sweet...

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    1. Thanks for your comments Deb. I feel the same way; there is lots of history in that wear and tear. Although they seemed happy, I always felt as though my parents were sort of wistful about having left 'home'. Especially with my dad, after we would return from a holiday home in Ireland, for some time afterward he would be very quiet and contemplative; missing home I think.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  6. Ride on my lady! What a fun bunch of photos and story too.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Karen. I do love that one with my mom on the motorbike.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  7. I think this is the first time I've seen (or maybe noticed) photographs of your parents. It's wonderful to see them. I have a similar suitcase that my father used when he moved from his hometown community to another state. I should have dragged it out for this Sepia Saturday....

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    1. Thanks for your comments Nancy. I think the images are wonderful too, and I feel so grateful to have them. The little black suitcase is in my office, so I see it everyday.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  8. Those photographs are marvelous; more precious than gold.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Colleen. I agree, those photos are more precious than gold. Seeing my parents so happy makes me happy too.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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    2. Well done! A perfect choice that combines the theme with old sepia photos.

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    3. Thanks very much Mike. I hope it would make my mum and dad happy.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  9. This suitcase prompt has really brought out some SS treasures.
    I bet the emigration was nowhere near as romantic as you used to imagine.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Jackie. It is lovely to see the way many have been inspired by the prompt.
      As to the emigration, it is so true, as you say, that emigration was no where near romantic. I learned as a young adult that leaving their homeland was a challenge in so many ways for my parents, not the least of which was the fact that my mother never again saw her father. (I've shared some of my parents' experiences in the story attached to the link at the outset of this post.)

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  10. Old suitcases so often became the repository for family photographs. When they carried shirts and skirts their cargo was never as precious as when the were the home of photographic memories.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Alan. So true, very precious cargo indeed. It is a privilege to have such images of my family members.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  11. A lovely story of family memories. I can see why the little balk suitcase is so precious to you.

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    1. Thanks very much Sue for your comments. It is indeed precious to me, even though it's a little the worse for wear.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  12. A perfect picture you have painted of you as a child begging to be shown some of the treasures in the suitcase. Thank you for not 'sending us packing' and sharing them with us.

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    1. Thanks very much Little Nell. Your comments brought a smile to my face. I dearly wish I could accurately recollect all of the stories my mum told me — when she didn't send me packing — as well as all of the names of the people in the photographs.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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