"Have you thought about writing your family history, but found yourself stuck from the start? Writing a family narrative can be a daunting task, but Karen Jones Gowen found a way to bring her mother's story to life." (Homespun Magazine)

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Picture at the Top of the Page

Every time I come to this blog I take a moment to look at the family group shot. It is my family on one of our camping trips. We didn't take weekend camping trips-- we went on vacation every summer for 4 weeks. This was because my dad, being a Methodist minister, had to get the heck out of Dodge to avoid phone calls, visits, and any kinds of problems that might come up with his parishioners that would mean he was no longer on vacation.

Back then ministers were barely paid a living wage, much like teachers now. Ministers now do quite well salary-wise, plus they still get free housing and many other perks that make it pretty good employment. But all those years ago, it was macaroni and cheese, one car, one church dress and just two or three school dresses, and everything bought on sale, if at all.

So camping during this long vacation was an economic necessity. My dad doesn't look like he's enjoying himself, does he? My mom, as always, looks sweet, kind and gentle. I remember my dad getting stressed out a lot on these vacations.

It was a lot of work packing for a month-long camping trip. Setting up and taking down the tent, preparing and cooking food on the Coleman cook stove, blowing up air mattresses (the old-fashioned way--no pumps), digging the trench around the tent every time it was set up, driving hundreds of miles from one state to the next so that we girls could see this beautiful country we live in.

Not that we appreciated any of it. During the drives, my sisters and I would sleep, read, argue and whine about how bored we were. Once we got to the campground, we'd run off to explore and leave my parents with all the work. Really, I don't know how they tolerated us.

In this picture, my mom is holding the youngest, we two middle girls are standing there posing, eyes closed, in our matching cowgirl outfits (I'm the one who is not scowling), and our oldest sister is taking the picture with her little Brownie camera.

I love this photo. It brings to mind those summer vacations. Thoughts of my dad who passed away eight years ago, and of my mom who is 93 and still sweet, kind and gentle.

Happy Mother's Day, my beautiful mom!! Thank you for making my childhood a place where cherished memories happened daily.


  1. Karen, great photo and great story.
    happy mother's day to you!

  2. Aww, thanks Pat!! And I hope it's not a hard time for you. I know you don't have good memories of your mom, but I can see from your blog you have a lovely wife and family. Definitely something to celebrate this Mother's Day!

  3. Karen, that is so lovely.
    Your poor Dad, suffering for his family. We used to camp when we were kids too, I can still remember the absolute cold of it, Ireland is not a warm country. I do also remember the wonder of it and stepping out into nature every morning.
    Happy Mothers Day to your wonderful mother and you, may you have many, many more together.

  4. Brigid, "Your poor Dad, suffering for his family"-- oh and he did! Plus he would take us 4 girls fishing just so we'd have the experience, and sit and bait each hook. To get his own fishing in, he'd get up at dawn and go out before breakfast. I used to wonder, "Why is Daddy always SO crabby?"

  5. Awwww

    What lovely vivid memories! thank you for sharing and for giving motion to your family pic that headlines this lovely blog.

    Take care

  6. Oh, thanks Karen..how I love this picture and all the memories...what brats we were..no wonder Daddy was scowling....we are blessed.

  7. Karen, you haven't changed much - except that your smile is now bigger! ~Miriam

  8. Again, Karen. You demonstrate your literary talent as you describe our camping experiences. Didn't I do good job with the camera. I think I liked taking the pictures so I wouldn't have to be in them!!! Hope you had a good Mother's Day? Becki and I were in church with Mother then took her to lunch. She had a good day. See you Friday.
    Love, Julie

  9. Like you, I always pause at the picture. I wondered where you were, what you were doing. Now I have a story to go with it. And....Happy Mothers Day.

  10. It is so nice to know the meaning and story of the photo of your blog! Most families seem to make sacrifices, some more than others. It sounds like a wonderful way to see the country and get away, but a lot of work for the parents and the idea of surviving on what they had!


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