Sunday Afternoon Rocking

The Photographs



I see her every day. She gazes out at me, clear eyed, her lips parted in a half smile, just a hint of expectation and excitement in her manner. Her youthful face is clear, her light hair waved in a forgotten style, and gently cupping her face. She wears a strand of shimmering pearls, and the dress she wears I would know was clearly of 1930's vintage, even if the mat surrounding the photograph did not bear the imprint "My Graduation: 1930". I had no idea who this young lady was when I first found it in a box of family photographs, and yet it captured me...held my imagination, and I could not bear to part with it.

She is Eula Mae Goodin, but I would not know that had my 89 year old aunt who remembered her in her youth not identified the cousin. To me, she is more than a cousin my aunt has not seen in seventy years. She is more than a cousin my aunt cannot tell me what became of. She is a symbol of all the youth I have seen in ancient photographs and tintypes, a symbol of even more...of youth itself.

The young lady is forever young. She may not live today, and if she does, no doubt bears little resemblance physically to the girl who is captured forever looking expectantly into a future she knows as little about as we do the past that she had. One shining day in time is as it was, and for her the future holds all manner of possibilities. Nearly seventy years separates her youth from that of my own eldest child and yet she is no different. There are the same clear eyes looking toward a world that has not yet unfolded, the same hesitant expectant smile wanting to hope the world will unfold great surprises. Time, pain, sorrows...none of this has etched a line under an eye, about a mouth yet. She will live through a Depression, endure the worries of a World War. She will know the sorrows of raising a family, and the joys too. She will learn to say good-bye a hundred times and she will learn to say hello just as many...and yet she is far too youthful to know what all of that can mean.

How many times do we look upon a box of old photographs, often never able to identify the people in them...and yet recognize them? How many times have we seen a face, and thought "I know that person!" And yet it is impossible...we could not possibly know that person. He died thirty years before our birth. She is dressed in clothing of a vintage our great grandmother would have worn. "And yet...," we think, "If she were dressed in today's clothing...she would look like someone I know, someone I have met somewhere..." Yes, we know them. And should we not? They may have lived a hundred years in the past...but the expressions are our own, the dreams are not so different, the basic needs the same, they share with us all of the emotions of the human condition. They are ourselves.

This is why I love the photographs, why I cannot part with them, even when I cannot place a name on them, even when I am not sure they wound up in the family collection because they were actually family or not at all. They are a tangible reminder that life has always been, and the basic nugget of the needs, the dreams, the pain, the hopes inside each of us are the same. Each generation records the same stories over and over...the celebrations of weddings and gatherings, the sorrow and tears of pain and loss, the expectation of youth, the lines life etches on the faces of the elders. Had photography been born a hundred years, two hundred years before it was...the story would be the same. The styles might differ, the technology record with a different element of clarity...but the same stories would have been recorded. They are ourselves. We are them. One endless chain capturing the same things we have always held important to remember.

just a thought,


Copyright JanPhilpot



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Thanks, jan)