Recently I came across this photo of my Mom, my Great Aunt, my Grandmother and a few of their card playing friends. I was happy to find this photo for so many reasons. I have since spent lots of time studying it and sorting some thoughts out about it. One photograph brings back so many memories and sometimes answers to questions we never got way back when.
Recently I have been working on a project. I must say I'm dragging my feet on it but I'm hoping now that the weather is warmer I will get out more. The project is to photograph all the places in Salem Mass, where I was born and raised, that hold memories and meaning to me. Seeing it now, through my eyes as an adult and a photographer. One of the things on my list was to see if somehow I could get to visit the house where I lived until I was about five years old. In my mind, I can only remember the living room. It was a little four-room cottage. When I found this photo I knew that I had found my kitchen. It didn't jog any memories for me but I was able to look at it and imagine how it might have been. I was also able to tell how neat my Mom was. I knew that, but it was the curtains here that got to me. So put together, with ruffles. I'm also sure they were sparkling clean. That was how she was. Then those little decals or small paper pictures of little animals on the left, the rest of the walls, mostly uncluttered. The walls tell me that she did not waste her limited income on wall hangings or photo's but that the window dressings were important and probably brought her great joy as they made her house feel like a home and that reflected on the outside to anyone walking by.
These women were card playing friends along with my Grandmother and Great Aunt, my Grandmother's sister. She is the one in a fur coat. My Mom is third from the left and my Grandmother is first on the right. Of all the women, my Grandmother is the only one not looking at the camera. Now I could sit and ponder that all day but I won't do it now. I do wonder though, what kind of insecurities she had. I don't think we have many photos of her at all. She is also smoking. In my entire life, I never saw her smoke or take a drink. Nor would she allow anyone else to drink or smoke in her home. So is that cigarette just a prop or was she a closet smoker? I will never know the answer to that.
My Mom though, she really caught my eye. I was able to place her age at no more than 25 years old here. She was 20 years older than me. As children we are never really aware of how our parents were when they were young. I'm not sure if that is a blessing or a curse. In this photo I see a woman I never knew. She is young. She is beautiful beyond anything that I could have imagined without this photo. She seems happy and full of life on this night. Her hair, it's long, kind of wild and with a bit of curl. She looks sassy. This is how she must have been before life took a hard turn for her. I wished I had know this girl, this woman who was enjoying her time with family and friends. Bitterness and a harsh reality of being alone while her man was away in the military, had not set in yet. Life was good here. It would have been nice to talk to her about these days but that never played into our relationship. It does make me feel good though to know that in her younger days, she had hope for a bright future. She was in love with her home and family and her pride showed in her house, keeping the home fires burning. What happened later for her and for us is not a part of this photo. So I look at it and say, have another drink Mom, you are the youngest one there and the prettiest. I hope on that night, that is exactly how you felt.
My Mom would have been 91 years old today if she were alive. I feel like I learn more and more about her as the years go by, yet so much more is left unsaid. Pictures tell the story now. Maybe it's just because I'm more interested but it could also be that as we age we try to fit the puzzle pieces of our life together. What I do know for sure though is that each year that passes I miss her a little bit more. Life is funny, one would think you would become more use to someone being gone but it really is quite the opposite. So today I wish her a Happy 91st Birthday...and hope that she is celebrating in Heaven like she was on this night, with her wild hair flying, a smile on her face, hope in her heart, in her little four-room cottage, with her friends.. while 3 of her little ones were upstairs all tucked in, dreaming of the morning after when they would find a floor full of pennies that the ladies left behind...quite on purpose.
As a added note, if you think printed photographs don't make a difference, I can tell you that they do...so get your photo's off your camera and computers and print them. Someday someone will be happy to find one of you and your younger self. Now I just have to get up enough courage to go knock on that door and see if whoever lives there now, will let me in, I need to find my bedroom and the bathroom.