My mother was raised at 1617 E. Mohawk Blvd in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My grandparents made it a beautiful home, full of fun, joy and laughter. It played host to countless family gatherings and holidays over many years and generations.
I have many fond memories of that home and the summers spent there: playing with cousins, eating way too much but never turning away a plate (it was summer vacation and grandma’s cooking, whatelse was I supposed to do?), and learning how to swim. My grandfather also did a sweet thing of planting a tree in the front yard when my brother and I were born. “There’s your tree,” he would always say.
I’ve found over the years that my memories of Tulsa have been frozen in my mind with innocence. It always has a magic, even a holiness to it.
As college came and went and tackling the adult world ensued, visits to Tulsa became less frequent. My grandparents always understood, and never made an issue about it, but they missed us.
In the fall of 2009, I decided to leave my job at the Marriott hotel. I needed to get my bearings. The first thought I had was to go to Oklahoma.
My grandfather was advancing in age and my grandparents had decided to move out of the house in Tulsa and move to Oklahoma City to be closer to my aunt and uncle. My visit was in early December of 2009, and the timing felt perfect. My grandmother had the new house decorated for Christmas, the smells and music were warm and comforting, just as you would imagine them to be around the holidays. Everyone in the family would say how my grandfather’s age was catching up with him, how his sight and memory were declining. But I didn’t care, or believe it. I knew he had life and spirit in him and I was happy to be there with him.
We spent afternoons that week just staying around the house. We didn’t need to speak. My grandfather would just nap, listen to his favorite Christmas music (jazz of course) and give a smile whenever I looked his way.
It was perfect. That's how I’ll always remember him.
My grandfather would pass away two years later and that trip was our final moments together.
As for Tulsa, I had made it known to my aunt and uncle that I wanted to see 1617 E. Mowhawk Blvd. one final time. My uncle was planning to head there to check on the property and I decided to go with him camera in tow.
I needed that trip and moment, because It was a good lesson in the realities of growing up. I could see and feel the passage of time and how it affected a place of fond memory. I was able to view the house vulnerable to age and decay.
I walked the house and property, and captured the details that I wanted to remember. A real surprise was finding blueprints of the house on the kitchen counter. I would eventually look up Architect, Samuel Paul and he did some great work in his career.
It has dawned on me over time, that a better way to present these images and to tell this story would be to arrange them as “Before and After” sets. My grandmother has countless images of the house and I could line them up with the images I photographed in 2009. This wasn’t my original idea when photographing the house, but I may come back to complete that idea later on. For now, below are a few I created with the images at my disposal.
This post/page is in loving memory of:
Marshall Pearson Bryant Sr. (1924-2011)
Patrice Yvette Bryant Pollard (1956-2012)