Monday, February 5, 2007


Pictures & History 3: Mom, Her Brother and Sister

    The first picture, to the right, is Mom and her brother. The back of the picture indicates that Mom was probably about six years old, thus her brother was about eight. She particularly likes this picture because, although she was younger than her brother by two years, the picture shows that she was just a shade taller than him. And, yes, one of his eyes is crossed. This is not a trick of the light. I have a memory of meeting him when I was too young to understand the meaning of the word "impertinence" and asking him why he didn't get his eyes fixed.
    The second picture of Mom was taken around the time she decided to paint her bedroom black. She laughed when she saw this picture and said, "You can never tell what people are thinking when you look at their picture, can you?!?"
    When I saw this picture I mentioned to her, "You know, Mom, you looked good with straight hair. I can't imagine why you insisted on perming it later!"
    "I did, didn't I," she said. "I never liked my hair, though," she continued. "When I was in high school and college, everyone was perming their hair and I guess I thought I should, too," as the last picture to the right shows, her senior college picture, taken the year she graduated from Cornell. I took this out of her senior yearbook, which, I guess, accounts for the bad reproduction. This is the best scan I was able to get from the page, which was printed on glossy, sepia toned paper.
    When we looked at this picture, my mother said, "My goodness, I looked so serious, then!"
    "You mean to say, you don't think you were as serious as you looked?"
    "Oh, my, no!"
    Something else we talked about seems to confirm this. I noticed that her graduate degree was in Home Economics, which blew me away. "Mom," I said, "You never liked to cook, I remember you sewing but I never got the impression that you liked it..."
    "I didn't," she interrupted...
    "...and, cleaning house? I remember you dealt with house cleaning in two ways: You took advantage of your kids' innocent desire to 'help' and 'do grown-up things' and hired help as soon as you and Dad could afford it."
    "That's right," she confirmed, smiling smartly.
    "So, you know, Mom, why Home Economics? Especially since there was an Education Department at the school?"
    "I just wanted to get through and start teaching. I think I figured that was the easiest way to do it."
    "So, in those days, you didn't need to major in Education in order to get a teaching certificate?"
    "Goodness, no! You just needed a degree and to show that you were breathing."
    I know that my mother worked for two years to make money for continued schooling before going to college. I'm not surprised that, as soon as she set foot in those hallowed halls, she was looking for a quick exit. She remembers her college years as good years, especially living with her grandfather and uncle. Funny thing, though, as we went through the yearbook, I noticed that some of the classmates who signed her yearbook hinted at hilarious times in Home Ec. I asked my mother about this. She had no memory of anything, in particular or in general. "I'm not surprised we were high spirited, though," she said. "I think all of us had the same thing in mind."
    "Getting out and getting on with it, right?"
    "At least," she said.
    I also noticed that so many of the students in her yearbook looked older than I expected and asked her about this.
    "They probably were," she said. "As I recall, most everyone worked before going to college, or took a year or two off to work, to pay for it."
    Then, I noticed the picture of her cousin, two years older than my mother, who graduated the same year Mom did. I got it.
    "You know," Mom mused, "it used to be that kids wanted to look like adults, long before they reached adulthood. I guess it's not like that, anymore."
    I'm not sure whether that's true, but it is true that her fellow students all look more on the adult side of fresh-faced than the child side.
    The last picture is Mom's sister dressed for her high school senior prom. Mom's sister is one of my two favorite aunts, the other being my father's older sister (both are long dead). Mom's sister earned my undying love almost immediately when I first met her at a very young age: Something about her bearing, which communicated she considered herself a great beauty and wit, worthy of the ultimate in culture and graciousness but with a decided preference for the party, dancing and the boys in the band; something about how she could tell a perfectly ordinary story about a perfectly ordinary relative and make you feel as though you were hearing something salacious; something about her grand view of herself and her grand view of life; something about how she'd say, "Yeees, darlin'," if you said or did something that delighted her, and, she was easy to delight if she loved you. This picture is my favorite of her. I can see the slant of every single one of the rest of her years in this pose. Recently, Mom and I watched a Maggie Smith movie neither of us had seen, Travels with My Aunt. As we were watching I exclaimed, "Mom, that's [her sister], if the latitude and circumstances of her birth had been only slightly altered!"
    "She'd love to hear that," Mom said. "Remember to tell her the next time you see her."
    I will.

Originally posted by Patty McNally Doherty: Tue Feb 06, 04:52:00 PM 2007

Thank. You. So. Much. Your mom is beautiful, virtually towering over your uncle! And your aunt. She's perfect.Your aunt is perfect! What a great, great addition to your blog. It is incredibly generous of you to share these family images. And it's got me thinking about doing the same.
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