What’s In A Picture?

In the next few blogs, I’m going to talk about what’s in a photograph. Lord knows I have hundreds, if not thousands of them.

Photographs have always fascinated me. Have you ever gone into an antique shop or an estate auction and there laid out before everyone to see, is someone’s past treasures?  And, there it was…staring back at you… a photograph of a young couple, a family portrait, or scenic landscape. You think how could someone part with such personal artifacts?

Since my parents passing, I’ve inherited boxes, envelopes, plastic tubs…ugh!. My little office is stacked high with memorabilia, and photos. They whisper to me every time I sit down at my desk.

I don’t know about you, but when I look at a picture I see more than the faces staring back at me.

I look at the background, foliage, wallpaper, clothes, hairstyles, vehicles, and most of all… facial expressions.

You see, I am a lover of old things, including photographs. I get some of that from my parents. The history part from my Dad, and the picture-taking from my Mom.

It’s a blessing and a curse. I am known in my family as,”The keeper of our history!”

“Call Karen, she’ll know.”

So today I’m starting with a photo I came across while going through Dad’s tub!

He was the youngest of eight children… the third boy.

My grandmother doted on him. My Aunts would tell me about “his royalness” whenever they got the chance.

If you read my book, Corn Rose, you know what I’m talking about.

My grandparents weren’t rich, they struggled as bottomland farmers during the depression. With eight children there was never enough. They did, however eat well with the produce they harvested and the meat they fattened. It was not a life for the weak in spirit.

So, what does this picture say?

Grandma Ross, Dad, Gerldine

Dad stands beside his beloved mother– his silky blonde hair swept across his forehead. Those prominent ears and sturdy build, would eventually the rest of him. He wore overalls his whole life, only exchanging them for more formal wear when attending a funeral, or occasional church visit. He would grow to six-foot-four inches in height. Marry and divorce. Find his lifelong partner later when he traveled to California after the war. The big one, WWII. Then eventually become a farmer like his father before him.

He was a meat and potatoes kinda’ guy.

A no-nonsense adult who wasn’t given outward gestures of affection. I think I can see where he got this when I look into my Grandmother’s eyes. Dad would die when he was 89 years-old.

My Aunt, on the right, was a favored child, also.  A force to be reckoned with, This youngest girl, would go on to marry young, fifteen. She would have one child, a son. She kept the books for her husband’s successful construction company. She would live of luxury. She loved  the finer things in life, nice homes, cars and furs. Probably because she didn’t have those things growing up. Even as a young girl she has the look of determination.

She would live a long life, well into her nineties, and die in her own home.

I could never figure out why no one smiled in those early days of photography. When I was a kid, I thought they must be sad or have bad teeth.

My grandmother was a strong woman in stature, and in will. She worked hard, and love to play hard too! I learned a lot from her. I’m sure she made the dress she was wearing as well as her daughters, and maybe even my dad’s. The left arm that drapes limply across my Grandmother’s lap seems to show a hint of weariness. She has lived more than a lifetime when this photo was taken. The soft mouth of a once young woman, now slopes down at the corners. She must make everything she wears, eats, and sleeps beneath.

I remember that gigantic maple tree in the background. It would stand in that spot for many generations, shading us in the hot, humid summers in Iowa. But in this picture it looks to be early spring, circa 1926 or so.

The pump, just behind and left of my grandmother, lets the viewer  know they didn’t have running water. When I was a child that pump had an arbor over it with vines covering the structure. It made for a cool place to get a drink, and for the hired men to take a much-needed break.

The saddled horse looks like he’s ready to go, or maybe he’s brought a guest.

The ladies attire appears a little fancy for a weekday. Maybe they’ve been to town or church.

The shades of black and white shift into color when I remember these three.

How often we pass by a kin, hanging on the wall, and never give a thought to what’s was going on–on that day– that year– in that place!

Take a journey with me, as I  take another look, and decipher some pictures from the past!



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