Like many of you, I have lots of old black and white photos that have been sitting in boxes for decades—great-grandparents, grandparents, weddings, birthdays, holidays, etc. Occasionally, I pull them out to peak at the past. For me, my past includes two parents I never really knew. My mother died when I was three, leaving me with very vague memories of her. I have no idea what her voice sounded like or what made her laugh. I only know what other people have told me, but these stories are their memories not mine. I do remember my dad—Hollywood handsome, funny and with a silly streak that I believe I inherited. Very young and unable to cope with my mother’s death, he left me in the care of her parents. No blame. No anger. I wish he had stayed a part of my life, but he didn’t and that’s just how it was.
As my parents’ only child, I have their wedding album—an oversized blue book that captures the highlights of that summer day in 1953. I also have envelope after envelope of candid shots taken in the church and the hall so I decided to buy a photo album and put all of these loose wedding pictures together. After hours of sorting and assembling, I found two people who were obviously in love and made each other very happy.Starting with their wedding shower, I saw them unwrap gifts and smile at their good fortune. Next, I discovered that they had a party the night before the wedding at my grandparents’ house complete with folding chairs set up in the backyard and beer! My mother had written ‘bridal dinner’ on the envelope I found them in. Then there were scads of pictures of their wedding day—the fun they had getting ready, the solemn church service and finally, the reception. I saw them cut their cake, dance their first dance, and share a kiss—I could almost hear the clanging utensils that must have gone along with it.
The next day, according to another envelope my mother had written on, they left for their honeymoon—Niagara Falls. I had always known about this honeymoon destination (after all, it was a popular one in the fifties), but what I didn’t know was that they also traveled to New York City. You can’t imagine how surprised I was to see my mother sitting in front of the Statue of Liberty and visiting Central Park—places I’ve been myself. And she was smiling as my dad snapped away. They even took pictures of each other standing at a hotel elevator and in unknown restaurants where they must have grabbed a bite and a drink.
Somehow, after I was finished with my new photo book of old pictures, these two people, whose time together was cut short, came alive for the very first time. No longer strangers, I finally met my parents.