Family Photo

Gemma Koontz

Myself

Mendon, UT

June 1999

 

Title

Daddy’s Little Helpers

 

Genre

Family Photo

 

Informant

Jan Koontz is a forty-nine year old woman. She grew up in Sunset, Utah and is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is the mother of three daughters and the proud wife of an Air Force Colonel. She lives in Mendon, Utah where she enjoys quilting, crafting in general, and playing with her young grandson.

David Koontz is fifty-three year old man who was born in the rural farming community of Bedford, Pennsylvania. As a young adult he joined the United States Air Force during which time he converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He then went to BYU and earned Bachelors and Masters degrees in International Relations. He has served in the United States Air Force for over thirty years and earned the rank of Colonel. Currently he is stationed in Washington DC, but plans to retire next year and move to Mendon, Utah to live with his family. David enjoys Family History research, reading history books, doing yoga, and looks forward to the time when he can have his own colony of beehives

Context

This photo was taken in 1999 at my dad’s office on Howard Air Force Base in Panama. My mom took the photo of all of us girls helping dad with his work. Recently my dad was looking through the numberless envelopes of pictures in order to find some for his retirement presentation. In one of those envelopes he found this picture which is one of his favorites.

Text

 Image

 Texture

The photo speaks of childhood. As a child one wants to help their parents get their work do so they can spend more time with them. All of us are clustered around our father making him the center of attention because we are trying to help him. The love we have for each other is evident in our expressions, physical closeness, and our trying to accomplish work related tasks.

Meaning

Growing up Dad worked a lot and much of the time we hardly ever saw him. It was not unusual for us to go a week without seeing him, only hearing that he came in late at night to give us a kiss. In order to see him we would frequent his office. His office was a place of wonder, so many papers, equipment, dry erase boards, and snack machines. Usually Mom would ask us if we wanted to surprise Dad so we would show up at his office unexpected. Sneaking up we would all pounce on him, laughter ensuing. These visits invariably cheered Dad up and we were so pleased with ourselves for making his day better. We tried to do whatever we could to help out, as this photo displays. On several occasions Dad jokingly said that we would probably do a better job than those he had hired. Even as we grew older we still visited the myriad of offices Dad occupied over the years, each time hoping to catch a special moment with him and making a bright spot in his typically stressful day.

Family Tradition

Gemma Koontz

Myself

Mendon, UT

Christmases 1984 through present

Title

Koontz Family Christmas Tree

 

Genre

Tradition

 

Informant

Jan Koontz is a forty-nine year old woman. She grew up in Sunset, Utah and is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is the mother of three daughters and the proud wife of an Air Force Colonel. She lives in Mendon, Utah where she enjoys quilting, crafting in general, and playing with her young grandson.Jan is my mom.

David Koontz is fifty-three year old man who was born in the rural farming community of Bedford, Pennsylvania. As a young adult he joined the United States Air Force during which time he converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He then went to BYU and earned Bachelors and Masters degrees in International Relations. He has served in the United States Air Force for over thirty years and earned the rank of Colonel. Currently he is stationed in Washington DC, but plans to retire next year and move to Mendon, Utah to live with his family. David enjoys Family History research, reading history books, doing yoga, and looks forward to the time when he can have his own colony of beehives. David is my father.

 

Context

I recently visited with my parents and asked them about the different traditions we have as a family. While there were many to choose from, the one that I remember and cherish the most is that of the Christmas tree.

 

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Every Christmas since I can remember and going back to when my parents were first married, we like so many others put up our tree. For almost all of this time it has been an artificial tree since being in the military sometimes makes it difficult to find a real tree as well as the fact that my mom, for good reasons, is paranoid that the tree will catch fire. The tree usually goes up the Sunday after my birthday which is December seventh. We drag out the bins in which the disassembled branches reside. The bins are newer as the tree used to dwell in the large box it came in, but after many years and moves it finally disintegrated, hence the bins. When we were younger my sisters and I would play in the box and often times for some strange reason it usually ended up being a coffin. After dragging the boxes in we take the many individual branches out and separate them into their respective piles as indicated by the alphabetic character tag at the base of the metal prong that connects the branch to the tree. Layer by layer in accordance to size, the branches are attached to the center support pole. Fluffing of the wired smaller branches on the branch then follows. It is the least favorite task as it takes forever and the artificial needles are itchy. Lights are added, of which flashing ones are a necessity. Finally we decorate the tree with a vast assortment of ornaments that only expands in size with each passing year. Every Christmas we purchase at least one new ornament that represents something that occurred that year in our family. One year while in Alabama, we purchased an armadillo ornament as my dad almost tripped over one while he was out running. Another year we bought a golden retriever with a hat, scarf, and mittens to mark the passing of our beloved dog of thirteen years. Along with the ornaments that we purchase my paternal grandmother makes ornaments for us. These ornaments are typically plastic needle board with yarn depicting the image of my grandmother’s choice. On the back are her initials and the year in which they were made. This year the ornaments were cute little mice. After the ornaments are put on the tree, it is time to put the topper on. For a long while the topper was Mickey Mouse dressed as Santa with lantern in hand. When plugged in the lantern lit up and that arm moved up and down and his head side to side. However, the last two year we have opted for an angel since Mickey has “arthritis” and his joints squeak incessantly. At last the center of Christmas is finished and ready for Santa to arrive.

 

Texture

While talking to my parents or my sisters, as well as reminiscing myself, we all remember the tree with fondness. Every year we look forward to putting the tree up and it is always sad when it is time to take it down and put it away for another year. Usually the tree ends up staying out for longer because of this.

 

 

Meaning

Growing up in the military where so much changes, we always followed our traditions especially with regards to the tree. Nothing changes, don’t mess with Christmas! The tree is also a way for us to spend time together as a family. Dad was always busy with work so when we were younger it was a time we got to spend with him. Now that we are older and my sisters have married and with my dad still busy with work but this time while in Washington DC while the rest of us are in Utah and Idaho, it is still a time to gather. The tree is also a scrapbook and mirror of our lives. Every ornament has a story and just as our lives have been ones of many experiences so it is with the decorations. While lots of people have “matchy matchy” decorations, we have all kinds. Just as others have lived in one place and match themselves to that, we have lived all over and our decorations match that.