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.)