But sometimes family photos bring more complicated emotions than happiness. Not everyone has a happy family or has happy memories of family life; it seems most of us have mixed memories of happiness and unhappiness, fear and bravery, brokenness and healing. Or something even darker.
This photo shows my mother and my father. Don’t they look all grown up in their 1950’s make-up and attire? My mother is seated; my father is standing and cutting the cake. They are seated in Don’s home with his father and step-mother looking on, his half-sisters stand round and his brother with his hand on Marion’s shoulder. Marion and Don are viewing the celebratory high school graduation cake in 1954 together in his family’s home.
After graduation, there is a year of college for both. The Autumn of 1955 is followed by Spring and me. With no father. My mother has no husband, no provider, no in-laws, no child support, and no cake. Well, she does have cake sometimes. Even her father evicted her.
But this photo also brings me peace. I didn’t know that my mother had a relationship with my father that included his family. I have few photos of her, and I love to look at how beautiful she is.
That little girl standing in her robe looking at the cake with less than enthusiasm grows up to be someone who welcomes me into her life. My father’s half-sister is my half-aunt, but I call her my aunt. We connected carefully on Ancestry when I started my tree, then we graduated to telephone; we met in August 2015 for a weekend.
After returning home, Aunt Linda, despite being busy with life, dug around until she found this photo and shared it with me.
So… this photo of such a complicated relationship and lack of relationship still brings me sadness–but it also brings me more. My aunt gave me a gift of her time and her love, and that brings me happiness.
Even if life doesn’t work the way we want or the way we think it should, there is still a chance that we will find family who care. May someone provide you a family photo, if you need one, someday.
Patti Gillespie, The Gen Lady