While attending services for Carl B. Mattson (Jenny's uncle), we enjoyed an opportunity to sit with family and flip through old photo albums. Given that my grandfather served in World War II, I've always felt a kinship with Jenny's family, especially since most of their young men also answered the call at one time or another. Turning those old pages, I loved hearing stories about the Mattson family patriarch, Einar (nicknamed Matt), who married a young woman named Marilyn and started a family that included a granddaughter named Jenny, whom I would eventually marry.
It amazes me to look at these old pictures because of how young Matt and Marilyn were. Seeing those bright, confident eyes, I can imagine that they felt much as Jenny and I did in our early years of marriage. They were separated by military service, as we were -- and then came the happy day when they reunited at last. The aging Western Union telegram doesn't say much about that day; it's a somewhat perfunctory announcement. But I can imagine the thrill that flimsy piece of paper generated, word that Matt was returning home at last after his years of service in the Pacific.
Jenny and I hardly endured the kind of hardship shared by her grandparents; my military service was in the peacetime Navy. Even so, I feel connected to her family as I look through those pictures. Turning page after page, I can envision two young people staring out over the decades, unable to know what challenges and opportunities would come their way. Of course, I can still talk with Marilyn, since her house continues to serve as the gathering place for family events. I enjoy asking her about her life and recollections. But sometimes there's nothing quite like seeing a picture from way back then to make it all real.