Saturday, May 11, 2013


During the packing and unpacking process, I have been spending a lot of time looking at old photo albums and boxes filled with pictures. Some contain the ghost faces of people whose name I will never know. The known and unknown alike, speak to me. Their blood flows beneath my skin in a transmission from the past. Not just my blood, but in the bone memories of stories which have remarkably somehow led up to this very moment.

When I find an unknown among the treasures of the past, I always wonder about the life its image holds and the connection to the person who kept it. I want to know their story, to speak their name, to seek out their place in history.

Amongst my twin great-aunts’ old pictures, sent to me after they died three weeks apart last summer at the age of ninety-five, is the above photo of an infant dressed in a lovely white scalloped-edged gown. The back of it contains only the words, “Our darling Freddie”. No date. No location. No last name. Just little Freddie in his baby beauty, obviously much loved and cared for. If you look carefully at the top of his little head, it even appears that an attempt was made to part his sparse hair straight down the middle in the male fashion of the time. I’m guessing it was taken somewhere around the end of the nineteenth or the very beginning of the twentieth century. There is no Frederick, Fred or Freddie in my maternal family ancestry that anyone can recall.

I can see a wee spark of future mischief in little Freddie’s eyes, a glimmer of humour in his expression. Where did he play, I wonder? Who did he grow up to become? I hope he did grow up and is not one of the countless little ones slumbering in an old graveyard somewhere.

We all have favourite photographs of our children. I would like to share a couple of mine here now in memory of the unknown Freddie who may or may not be related to me, and as a tribute to childhood everywhere.

My oldest son Nicholas, who will be thirty-four in August, was the kind of little boy whose pockets contained fragments of his love for the outdoors ... small rocks, shells, little pieces of wood, a bird's feather ... collected by his own hands, scoured for uniqueness, pocketed for remembrance. Many times during dinner, he'd eat with his small treasures laid out in a ring around the edge of his placemat. Their possession gave him a wonderful sense of satisfaction. Always a keen observer of natural life, there came a day at aged six when he showed his twenty-two month old brother, Joshua, how to blow a dandelion clock. I was fortunate to capture that shining moment on camera.

My other favourite photo is of my daughter Sarah-Beth, now aged twenty-seven. She was nine years old and we were on holiday on Vancouver Island at the time. I saw her standing facing the ocean as the waves surged and kissed the shore below. She had both arms raised and a feather clasped in one hand and was using it like a baton conducting an orchestra. I captured her in that blissful moment; a little girl poised in beauty composing her own symphony of the sea.

All these photographs speak of those things which form our roots and sense of belonging. I want to nurture the connections, find the stories, and weave them into that place in my soul which honours kinship.

(This is a Sepia Saturday post.)


  1. AnonymousJune 12, 2010

    Greetings from Finland!
    Those photos are so cheerful to look at and make me remember my same kind of photos.

    Nice weekend to you!

  2. Beautiful photos and a very thoughtful commentary.

  3. I've always been fascinated with the lives of twins. Amazing your great-aunts died just three weeks apart!

  4. What a charming post! Your love for your children is palpable. You really should show them this - you have so sensitively captured them, both in photographs and words.

    Have you searched for "Freddie" under family names? I'd be compelled to solve that mystery.


  5. Willow, I wrote about the fascinating lives of my twin great-aunts on another Satuday Sepia post:

    It really is quite amazing that they died at age ninety-five only three weeks apart! Aunt Lucille died on July 7th of last year and Aunt Claire followed her on August 2nd. You may be interested to know, too, there was another pair of twin sisters in that family, too. I'll write about them sometime.

  6. So interesting and the way you wove your children's photos to close out the blog is nicely done. What do you do with these old photos when you have not a clue who they are? I am in this dilemma now and tossing out many snapshots of unidentified and unknown people, no names and there is no one to tell me or conjecture who, where, when....

  7. Greetings Nana Jo! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog! I have read not only today's offering--with Freddie as an idetnical twin to Jackie Cooper--your loving presentation of your precious children, but the post featuring Great Big Sea! (I did not see a comment option there.) Can you believe this Alabama girl has seen them live in NYC? I also have one of their CDs!
    You are defnintely a kindred spirit...I feel the same grateful heart for seeing the sunrise every day. During the school year I am up long before the sun and witness its rising each day as I drive into Georgia where I teach.
    Your Journey is filled with "Wonder" ( I just listened to it as well in Nana's Songs!)

  8. Nice post, Nana. What sweeet photos. I think I would be compelled to find Freddie, especially because he has a name and his photo was saved with family photos. I like how you shared photos of your own children with special memories of the activities surrounding the photos.

  9. What wonderful pictures of your children--they seem to have a great spark of wonder & creativity!

  10. I don't have children, though I do have a niece and two nephews. There's something about photos of kids that makes me, well, sad. Perhaps it's the relentess passing of time, or the gradual loss of innocence, or, maybe, it's that I just wish I was a kid again, that I wish I be as carefree as the kids in the photos I see.

  11. Nana,
    Very nice pictures of your children and of precious little Freddie. They all evoke the magic of childhood.

  12. Nana Jo.All 3 photos show your eye for detail.Standing on the Edge of Nature & Being Witness To The Beauty Of It All.
    Best Wishes from Tony.

  13. I really enjoyed your writing of kinship. I am of similar spirit when I see the photos of those in the past. Others say it is just an old photo, but those past photos are the family that built my todays. Thanks for sharing and your kids photos are wonderful.

  14. Thank you for your kind words, everyone. You do give a 'girl' a glow!

    Nigel: I know what you mean about the loss of innocence, the regret. I thinks it's important to remember that 'the carefree kid' we once were is always a part of us.