Old Family Photos

From the time that I was very young I remember the collection of photo albums that I mom insisted on bringing with her through all of our many moves, across countries and continents. I’m surprised she managed to hang on to them despite my dad’s persistent (and largely successful) efforts to get rid of as much as possible no matter how precious it was to us. These albums were her treasures, records of our childhood, a way to hang on to us, reminders that it hadn’t all been bad that we had been happy too. From time to time, on the rare occasion of a family dinner we will pull these albums out and reminisce, laugh at hair cuts and clothes, tell stories about pets long dead, but it is the pictures of my parents before children that were always my favorites. There are a collection of maybe six pictures that sum up my perception of who my parents were when they met, my bohemian mother with the black hair parted down the middle, falling long and straight or braided, lost against her dark sweater; my handsome father full of youthful arrogance and rustic appeal, leaning against his army jeep in a battered felt hat, his mustache curling over his upper lip or up at the sides.

A few weeks ago I fished this album–the First Album–out of it’s place on my mom’s shelf.  It’s battered but still in tact a predominantly blue, generic landscape makes up the cover, front and back. At the top of the cover in faded gold lettering the word “Photos”. No matter how many times I look at it the pictures are always new to me, full of the unknown, the unknowable but this time I am struck by how young my parents look, younger than I am now, their whole lives ahead of them, no choices made yet, no pain inflicted on each other. Hopeful. 

9 comments on “Old Family Photos

  1. gisela says:

    I really like the way you express your feelings when you write. The pictures are interesting, almost artistic. I knew your mom was a good looking young woman, but had no idea how beautiful she was.

  2. This is a really beautiful post Alais. Judging strictly by the hair, I think my parents must have met the same year. : )

  3. Jnana Hodson says:

    Old family photos, as you acknowledge in your comments, can convey a lot of information years later, even to those who know nothing about the particular family. This set reads like the opening of a movie, before all the conflict you allude to erupts. I wish you had presented some shots of both of your parents together, to see how they interacted, even while posing.

    Doing genealogy, I’m grateful for images of earlier generations that have come my way. Analyzing a single picture can sometimes reveal crucial insights into an individual, a couple, or the siblings. Remember, too, even seemingly mundane letters can be amazing, especially when combined with the photos.

    Assume you’ll be posting more of these albums. Look forward to the developments. And thanks.

    • I’m glad you liked these Jnana. Yes, pictures can tell us so much about people. I find it really interesting to see the way a person poses depending on who is behind the camera. And I think I see my mother posing differently in response to my father as the photographer as the years progressed. I will post more for sure.

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