The Story Behind the Picture

at 3 measlesThis is a picture of me when I was three years old. Looking at the picture, you might think I was a somber child. Honestly, though, somber is a word that has never been used to describe me, especially when I was a child.

The day this picture was taken, my mother took me to the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Does anyone remember that classic old hotel? It is long gone now, but in its day, it was a showplace. At the time, my grandmother worked as the photographer there. She actually took this picture.

You can’t tell it from the picture, but I was excited to be visiting my grandmother AND I was going to go home with her to spend a few days. It wasn’t until we arrived at her house that evening that the adults realized why I was so droopy. I had the chicken pox. My mother and I spent that night, but returned to our own home the next morning.

I love this picture. I remember my excitement, and then my disappointment when we had to return home. I also notice my mother’s hand in the picture. The ring she is wearing, I am wearing today. It was the first nice thing she ever bought for herself and she gave it to me when I graduated from eighth grade.

The picture is nice, but what makes it meaningful is the story behind it. Without the story, it’s just a picture. In a couple generations, what will people know when they look at it? If I put my name and the year on the picture, they’ll know it’s me and assume I was a somber child. They won’t know my grandmother took the picture; they won’t know I had the chicken pox. Maybe someone will remember the ring, but they won’t what a major investment it was for my young mother.

This reminds me how important it is to preserve our pictures and the stories behind them. Several years ago, my son and his wife scanned many of our family pictures. They didn’t include any of me as a child, because they didn’t know there were any. When my grandmother died, we were surprised and delighted to find lots of family pictures, all carefully labelled and organized in an album. What a treasure!

If you are not as fortunate as I have been to have your family pictures so lovingly cataloged, consider taking the time to do it now. If you don’t have the time or you want some help, there are members of the Association of Personal Historians who specialize in photo organization, and even restoration. You can click on the association link toward the top of the right column and select “Find a Personal Historian” or contact me and I can put you in touch with one of these talented people.

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