Friday, March 27, 2015

The Box of Pictures

In the course of shifting pieces of furniture Harold and I uncovered a cardboard box that we haven't seen in some time marked "Photos." Marvelous things were inside, carefully sorted into different white catalog envelopes labeled "Trips," "Lambertville," "Harold," "Kate" and so forth. the "Kate" envelope held some very old pictures of my grandmother's: one of her father as a young man; one of my mother as a teenager around 1924 posing with Granny and her sister in front of an automobile, with an older man in the front passenger seat; one of Granny and Grandaddy on the steps of their house on St. Croix Street in Saint Stephen, their iconic picture.

I was instantly able to identify the women in the automobile picture. With my keen eye for aging or youthifying people's features, I can generally spot who's who in all these pictures even though I might have known them only as old people. Then there are the houses. Somewhere I have a picture of nearly every house I ever lived in, although not all of them were in the white envelope.

In the envelope I actually found a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Harney's house in Woodbury, where we rented the ground floor during the war. My Dad was an officer in the Navy. I was a seven-year-old delinquent going to school to nuns. How I hated those women. How they hated me. My mother thought that a Catholic school would give me a superior education. Little did she know that the nuns were telling all the kids I was going to Hell for being a Protestant, and I was studying how to be bad so it would be worth it. But that's a story for another day. I loved our landlords, the Harneys, who lived upstairs, especially Mrs. Harney. She had one son but no daughters, and so she used to make a fuss over my sister and me.

The Christmas presents! We opened hers on Christmas Eve. Although we played with them until they fell apart, they will live in my memory forever. The three-inch bride and groom dolls, the groom in a tiny top hat and tails, the bride in white silk, jointed—I can still hear their porcelain joints rattle—would be worth a fortune today. But as Harold says, it's an evil wizard who turns a toy into a collectible.

See the bit of ironwork on the very top of the roof? My friend Deb Snyder and I used to call it a Yawning. To this day I don't know the correct architectural term for Yawnings. It's too small for a widow's walk.

Here's a picture of an enchanted cottage where we spent part of one summer before my sister was born. It was on the water, a cruel rough beach where I cut my big toe on a rock. My mother sat on the lawn and picnicked with the other ladies while Aunt Kay found me a Band-Aid. How I wept.

After blowing up the picture of the car and having a good look at it I realized that I wasn't entirely sure who the third woman was. At first I thought it was Aunt Billie, but in the twenties I think she was fatter than that. It might be Ethel, the eldest. All the sisters looked something like each other. I thought, too, that the man in the car was my great-grandfather Hill, but I'm not sure of that anymore either. Here's what he looked like, holding my mother. He died in 1924.

Then I thought, maybe it's William Moore, my mother's other grandfather, posing in a car with his daughters and granddaughter. But I'm not sure he was still alive in the twenties. I can't find his death date, and there's nobody left to ask. In fact, no one living can identify the old man in the car. Still, perhaps someone in the internet community can tell me about the automobile.

© 2015 Kate Gallison


  1. What a shame that kids in the future won't have boxes of wonderful pictures --- only vestiges of mechanical things - IF these little hand-held thingies can retain them!!!! tjs

  2. Most folks don't have pictures from the teens and twenties either. My mother's Uncle Edward was an amateur photographer, fortunately. The beauty of modern technology is that I can blow these things up and send them off to the nieces and nephews, who otherwise would never see them. I plan to put them on paper with bios of the people in them to bind in a book and pass on to the future kids.