With all our days and nights seeming to be played on an endless repeat cycle, I’m genuinely interested in learning how family, friends, and colleagues have been spending their time sheltering in place. As I continue to inquire, the responses have had a wide variety of reactions. Ranging from spending more time with kids (always while managing temporary homeschooling and juggling a career), playing with pets more, taking additional swims, leaning into Zoom calls as a reinterpreted way of staying connected, streaming entertainment like never before…to even, starting a digital platform devoted to a passionate cause.
No matter what our individual reactions have been, it seems we all have been generating an interpretation of well, how we can make the best of a challenging situation. In this super-charged fall issue, with many hopes for bright tomorrows, we hope you’ll see and enjoy the numerous examples of people living their best lives while helping so many others. Like with our inimitable cover subject, Houstonian Becca Cason Thrash.
One thing I’ve learned is that togetherness is in the mind, the heart, and the understanding. It has little to do with proximity. To me, togetherness means not only staying in touch with many folks currently (and certainly checking in with some who have pursued other interests since I’ve known them), but also looking at the past for insight into how we got to here. This is the basis of every story we help tell in Society Texas.
Through photographs and documents, I personally took a deep dive into my own family’s history, going through archives that had been tucked away and piled up for review. Ranging from old letters, land deeds, address books, diaries, photos, and more from before the mid-1800s, I’ve gotten a glimpse into what makes us each unique and interesting…not just where we are going, but where we have been collectively. I believe in the positive influence of archival information: it can add light to a situation long ago created and yes, long ago buried.
Through the curated filter lens of my family’s historical past, it was a process, to say the least. In my spare time during the pandemic, I sorted through what seemed like thousands upon thousands of documents, from photos to all sorts of papers. I well recall many, many summer days and holidays sitting at my grandmother’s knee while I listened to the stories about the olden days, as I would call them at the time. The stories were of happiness, challenges, triumphs, and tragedies. I’d ask questions, and she’d answer because she knew how closely I listened, as we’d be encircled by an unruly pile of both Kodak and professional portrait studio memories. Many were labeled with names and dates, thank goodness, and it helped connect the dots of a child’s mind to the era of clothing, backdrops, and situations. It was a type of social archaeology, gleaned at a young age, of how people lived their lives, or how they wanted to represent how they lived their lives.
I wish I could say that my family kept neat family albums full of chronological happenings. They did, sort of. And, like many families around the world, much of it was gathered in shoe boxes, decorative tins, hat and cardboard boxes, and just about any other vessel that could contain a virtual time machine. The result? That curated filter netted over 1200 documents that I chose to represent the best of the past. Scanned at high resolution, labeled, and placed in order of eras into electronic files, it was to become a body of work.
As I dedicated myself to the opportunity at hand, I found myself really examining the photos more closely than before. Really looking at them, magnified. Almost as if I was trying to look more deeply into the souls of the subjects and asking why they chose many of the decisions that they did. Only they knew for sure, for better or worse, as their lives’ roads proved, and I now have a renewed respect for their decisions. Because it got my family here to today, this moment. A philosopher once said, You can’t start the next chapter if you keep reading the last one, which I whole-heartedly agree with, and sometimes it’s nice to know that an actual body of work that reflects my family is now in place for this generation and future ones.
Here at Society Texas, we hope that you thoroughly enjoy this issue. Know that it was crafted with you in mind, and we look forward to staying connected and learning more about how you have thrived during this time.
XO Lance Avery Morgan
Photo by Gregg Cestaro