My father's parents met in England during WWII--my grandfather, an aircraft mechanic for the 8th Air Force, and my grandmother, a sergeant in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (women's branch of the army). Whenever nana told me about her WWII service she always mentioned that as a sergeant, she even drilled the men (apparently being in charge of training men was quite an accomplishment for a woman in those days). I have the v-mail that grandpa sent home to Pennsylvania telling them that he'd met a new girl--grandpa was quite the player back in the day! He and nana were married a few months later, in early 1943. Shortly thereafter, nana left the service because she became pregnant with my dad.
It was over 18 years later, in 1961, after grandpa retired from the Air Force, that they bought the first and only house they ever owned. They bought it new. Grandpa died nine years ago, and about a year ago we put nana in an assisted care facility because of the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. I bought their house last August.
Tonight my father told me that in an effort to secure some government benefits for nana, he needed grandpa's Air Force discharge papers and a copy of nana and grandpa's marriage certificate or license. He was sure they were in grandpa's footlockers out in the garage. I looked.
I found no records of any kind. What I did find was pictures. Hundreds, probably thousands of pictures. I must get this trait from my grandparents--a large percentage of them are labeled on the back. I knew there were pictures in there, but I never dreamed how many.
I found pictures of grandpa as a child of dirt poor farmers in Pennsylvania--no wonder he joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. I found pictures of my nana as a sergeant, complete with the other NCOs in her unit, even though she once told me that the English told her the records of her service must have been destroyed in the war because they can no longer be found. I found pictures of my dad and uncle as children. There was a family Christmas card picture from the late 50s, and pictures of my parents' wedding (they married and divorced so young that I don't even remember their being together).
I found pictures of me. Lots and lots of pictures of me. I'm the oldest of five grandchildren, but that alone doesn't account for the overwhelming percentage of pictures of me in there.
And I found several pictures of the house. The living room, the family room, the kitchen and dining room--I remember the flooring, the furniture, the decorations on the wall. A chronicle of 60s and 70s interior design. There are views down the street--and there's not a tree to be seen in some pictures, but today there are huge trees in front of the houses. The disgusting gray-blue exterior color of this house, probably 4 color schemes ago. The back yard, which dwarfs my tiny body in the pictures but doesn't look so big today.
I'm sure there are other boxes with other records out there. I'll keep looking. Who knows what I'll find.