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Posts Tagged ‘old photos’

I would sit at the kitchen table, a clean, unlined sheet of paper in front of me, fountain pen in hand and I would practice writing my letters. M and N, the lower case r with its slanted rooftop and q with is quirky, connective tail. I loved the flow and link of letters on cold, white paper and I felt the challenge my father made; write in straight lines without a liner under the paper.

I would write my Palmer perfect letters, quite content in the action, then I would let the letters flow in the older script my Daddy used. He had such elegant penmanship that spoke of a different era. I would attempt to copy his signature, not for nefarious reasons. I was much too timid to assume I could forge his signature and, if nothing else, I was, and am still an honest girl.

Sometimes, my letters would morph from English to Greek. Penelope looks much more romantic in Greek, with my own flair of course, but Daddy’s flair, in either language, was special and evasive to me.

So it was that while recently sorting through old photos, I came across a little album and some loose photos of my parents during World War II. Daddy was stationed in San Diego during the war. Ma saved money from the several jobs she had along with money Daddy sent home until she had enough to take the long train ride from Union Station in Chicago to sunny California. I love looking at these photos. My parents, a young, married couple, together for a short while in wartime. Their happy faces and love for each shines through in these photos and see so much of myself and my sister, our children and grandchildren in their faces.

On the back of the photos is the other recognizable trait of my father; his handwriting. How fortunate we are that Daddy, in his flowing script, documented such moments with dates, locations, and brief descriptions.

Our own little family has been to La Jolla, California. We were there in 1993, almost 50 years after my mom and dad were there. We were, as they were, at Seal Beach, wading in the same big, blue ocean and walking along the same shore. I recalled the story of my mother’s long train ride to California, but, at the time, I could not find the shopping bag of photos she had given me. Time passed, I found the photos and put them all in a safe spot, where they rested until this past spring.

My sister, Dottie, and I were going through photos we each had, reminiscing as siblings often do when old photos are brought out. It was a pleasant spring day and our piles of photos, as well as our hearts, were full of memories. One photo appeared that I did not remember. It caught my imagination, as images of the past can sometimes do and was a photo of Ma and Daddy, young and in love, he in uniform, she dressed “to the nines” in La Jolla. They are both looking straight into the camera, smiling, playful. I wondered who took the picture. A friend, I supposed; one of the men who exchanged Christmas cards and newsy letters in the post war years. I wondered if it was the friend of Daddy’s that my mother asked me to write a letter to when my father died.

I love this photo. It tells a sweet and simple story in sepia. It is of my parents when I was barely “a twinkle” in their eyes.

While I love the photo, it is the image super-imposed onto the picture that intrigues me. Another photo, or a negative, left a ghost image of my parents. I can barely make them out. Ma is sitting higher upon the rock. Daddy’s hands are on his knees. I can barely make out their faces. It seems a bit more formal and it is as if they have drifted out to sea to some  far-off place, together again – and perfectly scripted.

 

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img_1799It was in a box. A gift box from a local Ohio store. One of those sturdy boxes with the department store’s name etched on it. It was the kind of box that once held a crisp, white dress shirt or a silk slip. The box was full of loose photos, newspaper clippings, funeral cards; the bits and pieces and fragments of life that have the tendency to build nests inside boxes and quietly nurture the past.

Although I never had the pleasure of meeting him, I instinctively knew the man in the photo was Tom’s grandfather, John, and that the photo was one of those “finds” that demanded a frame to enclose it and a shelf to rest upon.

This is a small photo, with a bright light shining upon John. It has a folksy look that always makes me wonder what Norman Rockwell would have made of it.

John spent much of his life as a farmer. We have another photo of him with his first team of horses. John has the same honest, direct gaze in his eyes in that photo, as well.

Like many farmers of his time, of any time, in truth, John also worked side jobs to eke out a sustainable income. Farm life was, and still is hard, struggling from crop to crop, season to season. So it was that John did custodial work for the local school and the Lutheran church down the road; buildings that needed to be kept warm for students and for parishioners, as well as odd jobs that kept everything going.

This photo harkens the holidays. John is standing on a small stage, much like a stage I once stood on in my own childhood. These wooden stages were a few steps up, usually in the church basement or school gymnasium. They allowed for recitations, commencements, ceremonies and meetings. Perhaps you had , or still have, one in your life.

John is looking directly into the camera, a pipe in his mouth, wearing overalls and work shoes. He is leaning on what appears to be a dolly. At his side is a freshly cut evergreen tree. My ever-active imagination conjures up scenes of John and another going off to find the tree, felling it, loading it onto a platform in back of  the “machine”. Farm folk, and some city folk, often called automobiles machines. Finally, the tree would be put to rest at the foot of this stage. A hand-wrought wooden tree stand holds the tree. The tree awaits tinsel and ornaments, a star or an angel on top.

This little snapshot in time speaks volumes of a kind and hardworking man who struggled to make ends meet,  yet, still smiled as he looked his neighbor in the eyes, puffed on his pipe, and held, frozen in time, an act of goodwill and anticipation.

Have you ever found a long-ago gift in a box or drawer or whatever?

 

 

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