Monday, March 20, 2006

Little Details

I have several dozen pictures of my dad from his childhood and young adulthood that I've been working to put into a heritage album since last fall. I pulled the project out again this weekend. I made great progress last fall and then stalled on it because I decided I wanted to scan all of the pictures so I'd have access to them in the future should I ever need them again.

I finally did that task this weekend, and as I scanned and then permanently adhered the photos to their layouts, I enjoyed looking at them all again. This picture in particular always makes me smile because my dad told me a story that goes with it...he was close to two years old in the picture, and he explained that his mom made him wear the dress because he was not being very successful with potty training. (Personally, I think expecting a not-yet-two-year-old boy to be potty trained is a bit extreme, especially in the day of outhouses, but he was a first child and it was a different time, I suppose.) I assume the dress was meant to make it easier for him to get the job done instead of having to fuss with pants. He, however, told the story like it was a punishment for continually messing his pants.

Whatever the reason for it, it's cute. And so is the teddy bear he's holding. However, what surprised me as I studied the picture for the umpteenth time this weekend was that I'd never noticed the hand holding him on the porch rail from near his lower back on the left. That hand was presumably my grandmother's...and as I looked closer, I could see a glimpse of the white shirt of her shoulder as she ducked down behind him so as not to be in the picture, and her hip protruding from the behind the side of the porch post at the lower left. I couldn't believe I'd never noticed these details before, and when I saw them, I thought they were just so cool. I suddenly had this connection with my grandmother as a young mother, holding her baby safely so he wouldn't fall off the porch rail while his picture was being taken, keeping herself out of the frame (as we all tend to do at times, don't we?). I love it.

The other thing about so many of these pictures from the early 1900s is that they really were of every day kinds of things. I don't know why I've always had the impression that photos then were mainly posed events. After all, cameras were likely found in far fewer households back then. I know my dad's family was not well-to-do, but there are dozens of pictures of him doing nothing special...just being. Maybe there were more to the pictures at the time, stories that have long since died with my grandmother and my dad. Most of the pictures have only a date, if that. (A few have richer descriptions written in my grandmother's hand, and they are so precious to me! I wonder if she ever imagined how much those pictures and words would mean to someone nearly 100 years later?) But I love studying the photos and imagining the circumstances around them. What a joy.

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