In their house on Chamberlain Road, Gramma and Grampa Neal had a wall of black and white photos. Many of the photos were of long-dead relatives. Gramma particularly liked one picture, of a man sitting cross-legged at a desk, deep in thought, his chin cradled in his hand, as he read something on his lap. He wore checked pants — which Gramma found very humorous indeed — and small-lensed, wire-rimmed spectacles, like the “National Health” glasses that John Lennon wears in the photo included in the Beatles’ White Album. He sported long sideburns, a kind of frock coat and vest, and a watch chain. Unfortunately, Gramma did not know much about him, other than that he was a newpaperman and, from the looks of the photo, lived around the turn of the century. His name, what he was like, and other pertinent information was lost in the mists of time.
For that very reason, photos don’t have much appeal to me. They can capture what a person looked like at a particular point in time, but not much else. Was Mr. Checked Pants someone who had a good sense of humor? Did he have children and, if so, was he a good father? What were his political views? Was he a leader in his community? Did he follow a baseball team? Did he enjoy an adult beverage from time to time? What was he like to be around? All of these kinds of qualities and characteristics that make a person unique were not known to Gramma, and the only people who might have known were long since dead.
I don’t want that to happen with members of my family. It so happens that, as we get ready to move into March, we also are moving into the season of birthdays for members of my family. I therefore plan to post some information and recollections about members of my family on or around their birthdays, in hopes of providing some information that adds a bit of flesh and blood to the two-dimensional family photos. I would hate to think that my relatives might someday end up like Mr. Checked Pants — known only for his outlandish attire on a day when his photo happened to be taken, but not remembered for whatever qualities made him a memorable person.