Memories by
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Prompted By The Things I Keep

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I keep memories. The photo is me in 1972 wearing a cherished dress brought from Russia by my maternal grandmother in 1906. It was part of her trousseau, four years earlier. My mother and I were the only women in the family small enough to fit into it. When it became too fragile to wear, I took it to the Lowell Textile Museum (Lowell, MA was a textile hub in the 19th century) and spent a lot of money to have it restored and packed away in acid-free tissue paper. It now resides in its special box above my wedding gown, similarly packaged. I have the neglige my mother wore on her wedding night and the one I wore on mine.

Those who have read my other essays know that I keep old photos. I have loads of photos albums, with the photos in chronological order and annotated. I have old home movies. My brother got custody when our parents divorced and converted them to Beta format…then VHS, which he gave to me. I converted them recently to DVD, but with each transfer, they lost quality. They pre-date my birth.

I have programs from every show I saw or participated in during college and beyond…even earlier. I saw the Royal Ballet, the Stuttgart, and Leningrad-Kirov companies as a child and still have those programs. I save important magazines and now I will reveal my true obsessions. I have three: British royalty, the Kennedys and Daniel Day-Lewis. I have the Life magazine from Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Since I was 6 months old at the time, I have to believe that this particular interest was passed down from my mother. Nevertheless, I have scrapbooks and clippings and hardcover biographies of various members of the royal family. My favorite is Elizabeth I and the Tudor period.

I have the Life magazine from JFK’s inauguration. I fell in love when I saw the movie “PT 109”, and the assassination came at a particularly difficult moment in my life. We had just moved from Detroit to the suburbs, my mother had had a nervous breakdown and was in bed (for weeks!), my father turned 50 the next day and we had a very sad birthday/house warming party. My mother was too depressed to let me watch any of the TV coverage, so a real obsession was born. I clipped EVERYTHING from the newspapers for years, bought magazines and books, thrilled when I moved to MA and could vote for Teddy. Was astonished one day, pushing my infant son in a stroller, stopped to play with a dog, looked up and saw that Christopher Lawford was at the other end of the leash.

The Daniel Day-Lewis collection began after seeing “The Last of the Mohicans”. I collected every magazine article I could find, went to the library and pulled up old interviews, copying those. I bought the collection of his father’s poetry (Cecil Day Lewis was poet laureate of England at the end of his life). I wrote to his mother, the late actress, Jill Balcon and received a curt reply. I own  a copy of every movie he has made. Though the obsession has faded, I still have more primary research on him than most would be willing to admit. I have seen him in person twice, speaking to him once.

Yes, I do have two children, and no serious collector of memories wouldn’t have loads of photos of their kids, a box each for every note I received when each was born. In each one’s baby book, I have special things from each, like a copy of each’s first paycheck, their medical histories, other important memorabilia. I have a file in my study marked “special stuff” for each child. One is 30, the other 27. They are no longer children, but I will always cherish memories with them and making new ones.


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.


  1. John Zussman says:

    It sounds like these artifacts trace your many passions across the arc of your life. Very rewarding. We finally tossed our concert and theater programs (the ones we attended, not the ones we performed in) during one of our moves. Not sure that was wise—we almost never looked at them, but without them it will be hard to unlock those memories.

  2. Constance says:

    Oh Betsy, what an exquisite dress. You are so beautiful in the photo. That’s really cool about restoration at the textile museum.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, Constance. Unfortunately, no girls in my immediate family, so no one to pass it on to, so I think the next stop for this dress will be a museum collection (most likely one of Jewish heritage). It also has a velvet opera jacket. All exquisite craftsmanship.

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