Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lost Stories

My mother-in-law has acquired a photo mat with 17 cutouts.

17 just happens to be the right number for her to be surrounded by baby photos of her children, her children's partners, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchild. 16 babies, one matriarch.

My partner's photo is a vertical-format portrait, which means he's deprived of his cranium in the landscape 3 x 5 dictated by the mat. We look like Winston Churchill dolls.
The mat, awaiting Dwight and Tom

A Birdcage Filled With Snow

As I was wading through a large box, trying to find a baby photo to represent me, I rediscovered the gem at the top of this post.

I'm the little guy, living in the moment, making a statement. I had filled the old birdcage with snow, put it on my little wagon, then dragged the whole assembly to the end of the block. Pure joy.

I'm over the trauma of the passing of my beloved canary, Bill. Dad had spirited the lifeless body away before I even noticed the absence of chirping.

I'm grateful my parents had the presence of mind to take this photo. So many old photos are posed, forced smiles, unnatural, hiding the personalities of their subjects.

This was a council estate (public housing) in a mid-1950's winter in the north of England.

If they had jobs, our neighbors dug coal, welded ships, cleaned lavatories. My dad was one of the lucky ones: he sat at a desk. Mum would whisper about the "jail bird" who lived round the corner and sold produce out of a decaying bus.

The grown-ups had lived through World War II aerial bombing. The kindly man three doors down had survived torture in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.
I don't remember deprivations. I was issued a ration book when I was born, but rationing has since been shown to promote healthier eating. My dad got a regular paycheck, and we had a solid roof over our heads. The recently created National Health Service meant everyone could take themselves or their children to a doctor. A lovely new school a couple blocks away awaited me.

This was a highly functional world: a loving home running on sufficient resources.

The kids in the street grew up and moved to Philadelphia, Nigeria, Australia, Minneapolis. Or they stayed, trying to make things work. Some kids never got on the ladder, others probably tried to kick it away.

A Box Filled With Photos

My mother handed me the box of photos a few years before she died. Pictures of anonymous people, babies long gone, jumbled, few annotations.

I will never know their stories.

She had taken scissors to some of the photos. Persona non grata had been cut out of smiling groups. Severed elbows implied happier times.

We all cut people out of our stories: I just have physical proof of my mother's editing.

I need to pick out and scan the pictures that actually tell a story. Before we next move house, this box of questions will make a trip to the city incinerator.

1 comment:

  1. The Birdcage photo is 100% adorable. Your folks must have been so proud of your determination to move the snow. Your still doing it!