In this photo, which was taken in my grandparents’ living room, I am four (almost 4 1/2). It is marked with the year 1958, but I believe it must be 1959 because a photo professionally printed with 1958 has my hair shorter. Also, my darker-haired cousin in this photo is a sitting-up baby, and he was born in December 1958. This goes to show that it’s important to be careful about assuming that notations on photos are correct, even if the handwriting looks old.
My pretty mother has her eyes closed from the big flash, and I am standing with an opened gift in my hands. I look a bit overwhelmed from the excitement and the unwinding of anticipation. My aunt is smiling at me and Grandpa looks at the photographer. The little boys are my uncle’s two oldest children–the youngest had not yet been born and neither had my brother. My aunt was still young and unmarried, a college student.
The photo details trigger memories. Since Grandma watched me while my parents worked (Grandma and the Purple People Eaters), this living room was very familiar to me. Note the television with family portraits on top. That’s the TV I watched Grandma’s soap opera with her on week days. A chair had been moved out to make room for the Christmas tree. My aunt and I had helped trim it. Tinsel strands had escaped from the tree and ground into Grandma’s hooked area rug. I liked to pick them up individually and run my fingers together down the smooth surface.
I could smell dinner in the kitchen. Ham and Grandma’s special roast beef. If only I hadn’t eaten so many sugar cookie snowmen decorated with little silver ball bearings and sprinkles. Grandma and I had made those two days before. She rolled the dough and I cut out the shapes. When they came out of the oven, I ate all the misshapen pieces.
Without the photo I wouldn’t remember specifics. I treasure the memories accessible through all my old photos and am grateful that I have them to look at whenever I wish. I have deep sympathy for those who have lost their mementos in disasters like Hurricane Sandy. My deepest sympathy and my prayers are with those who have lost their loved ones and only have the photos and memories left.
If you wish to help the survivors of Sandy Hook, Newtown, this article lists some good ideas.