Photos From The Attic
We had a wonderful Christmas and New Years with family. First in Kansas and then the east side of Michigan. We drove to Kansas in a blizzard which made our arrival feel like the last scene of Earl Hamner Jr.'s "The Homecoming." The trip back to Michigan was clear.
Then for New Year's weekend, we drove across the state to the "homestead" described in the epilogue. It is always good to be "home." Mom and Bob had a new bay window installed in their front room overlooking the front porch with the swing. It looks great. They even had a fire going in the fireplace.
Coming home from there Tuesday evening, we drove three hours through another blizzard, but the all-wheel drive brought us safely home again. It was great to be "home" in Kansas with Julie's family; it was great to be "home" with my Mom, Bob, siblings, spouses-in-law, nieces and nephews, too; but it's also great to be "home" (here at home) with the snow outside and a warm fire burning inside for these past few days of this new year.
While at my Mom's, we spent an afternoon looking through boxes of pictures in the attic (actually, we brought the boxes down to the warm living room). I could have kept looking all night, but we had a party to get to. It's especially fun to hear Mom narrate each snapshot. She held up one picture of her childhood home and said, "I'm not kidding you, Tom. I can smell this room. I can feel it and smell it just like I was sitting there." I knew exactly what she meant.
Photographs are a sort of time travel for the part of us that dwells deep within our skin, the part that feels as young as the person in the picture... the part that says, "I remember you."
I've inserted these epilogue photographs in chronological order. My sister Kathy was born in April just like Mom had calculated. The photo (at left) was taken the summer after.
I won't go into details here, but there was an old wives' tale that someone told my mom that suggested that a woman who was nursing a baby could not get pregnant. Remember this is back in the "rabbit test" days when as Mom used to say, "We didn't know nothing about nothing" when it came to these things.
My brother Paul was born less than a year later. (For a few weeks they are the same age.) That's Kathy and Paul beside the Formica table that we used through the Sixties.
Then my brother Dave came along 14 months after Paul. That's him there in the middle. Dad had his hands full, but this was how Mom's entire days were spent when he was at work.
Then in '56, I joined the swim team. That's me beside Mom. [Paul must have taken the picture.] I'm not sure if we were going to or coming from the beach, but my "swim suit" looks a little wet.
These two pictures reminded me that this was before disposable diapers, and no, Mom did not have a diaper service. For eight years running, she had from one to three kids in diapers at the same time and laundered them herself.
Keeping us clean was no trouble at all. Every Saturday night, whether we needed it or not, all four of us piled into the tub together. This, of course, soon eliminated Kathy, but the three of us boys played in the tub 'til our fingertips were pruny.
That's Dave at the right and me sitting in front, content to be a part of this happy bubble bath. That claw-foot tub was in the house on Lapeer Avenue. From there, we moved to the house we were builing on Atkins Road.
Then a year later we moved to Roseville where my little brother Jim was born in 1968. I used to like to carry him around on my shoulders. "He ain't heavy...he's my brother." Here's Jim the following summer in the back yard with our '65 Plymouth Fury.
Jim has the unique honor of having most of his "growing up" pictures in color. A few years back, I wrote something for him that began, "You may sometimes wonder what you brought to our world / How things were different than before. / I think I speak for all of us...You made everything matter more." It's true. I can't imagine our family without all five of us siblings and each of our spouses who one-by-one joined the family. We still get together whenever possible (and together the five couples represent over 130 years of marriage so far).
Mom found this one a few weeks ago and gave us each a copy. That's my dad's mom, Grandma K_, at the right. I had never seen this photo before so it's been fun to study the details.
Here we are almost 50 years later. Jim (right) enjoys photography and set up this picture of all five of us with Mom on New Year's Eve.