Every old picture tells a story
Ryan Summerlin May 13, 2014
This Mother’s Day, I found myself flipping through old photo albums to look for a nice picture of my Mom for Facebook.
No worries, I made sure to tag her in the post.
I had many choices, from my mom with her arms tightly around me and my brother on the Sky Lift in Gatlinburg, Tenn., to a snapshot with her own mother at her second birthday party. There were tons of photos of my mom celebrating life’s moments, including bringing my older brother home from the hospital, sightseeing on our family vacations in Florida, and opening Christmas presents through the years.
My family has always loved Christmas.
The photos sparked a rush of emotions seeing our lives captured in vintage prints, many faded with the time of multiple decades. There were old snapshots my aunt took of a 6-year-old me eating an orange popsicle in blue plaid shorts in the heat of an Indiana summer. And photos from my college graduation party, my friends looking young, happy and ready to tackle the world.
Those were the pre-gray days.
Some of my favorite photos are those of my freckled dad with his longer ’70s hair and bell-bottom jeans. He was into photography then, snapping shots of my mom when she wasn’t looking or self-portraits in the mirror with his 35 mm Yashica camera.
My dad knew about the selfie before the selfie was cool.
I chose the color photo of my mom sitting in the driver’s seat of her red and white 1964 Ford Falcon to post. She’s smiling and her eyes are sparkling. She’s wearing a lime green dress suit with purple stripes around the collar, and her hair was in a flip. She remembers buying the dress at L.S. Ayres, one of Indianapolis’ earliest department stores, which is no longer in operation. My mom remembers going to the old Ayres Tea Room as a kid. The Chicken Velvet Soup was to die for.
It’s everything it sounds like it is.
I hold a near-exact resemblance to my mother — people have always told us so — and that’s something I’m proud of because she has great genes. She’s the most beautiful person I know — inside and out. My mom’s dad was definitely a good-looking guy, and was as photogenic as Ryan Gosling. In about every one of the photos he’s in, he’s either smiling or laughing because he loved to have fun. He was certainly Irish that way.
There’s no question where I get it.
My mom’s mother’s parents were German, and my grandmother was a tall, dark-haired beauty who sometimes wore red lipstick and had my grandpa smitten from the moment he met her after returning from World War II. She moved to Indianapolis from Altamont, Ill., a tiny town that still had a general store and teeter totters to play on at the playground across the street from my great-grandparents’ house when I was a kid. My brother just reminded me of a certain teeter-totter incident that happened there that I must have blocked out in adulthood.
Let’s just say I was not a happy totter.
Looking at all those old photos on Mother’s Day reminded me how important family is in life. Every family goes through trials and tribulations, in sickness and in death. But there are also the many happy moments family can bring, from new babies being welcomed into the world to traditional holiday celebration with presents, food and libations.
There’s always an excuse for a toast.
Even though I wish the circumstances were different, and my grandparents could still be with us, I’ve been thankful to be able to be with my mom on Mother’s Day. I am proud to be her daughter. She has been a role model of strength and resilience in the last year.
If there were more Dians in the world, it would certainly be a better place.
I recommend going through old photo albums during that next visit to the parents’ or grandparents’ place to see how life was before we came into the world and what it was like once we arrived. The history is important for all of us, whether we want to continue it or choose not to repeat it. I have more respect than ever for my young parents who raised two kids in the fast-changing times of the ’70s and ’80s. I have even more respect for my grandparents, who raised their family coming out of a war with so many questions on what the state of the world would be. Many of our ancestors might not be here to tell us about the past, but the photos we preserve and keep safely stored in albums and shoe boxes speak volumes about who and where we are today.
For that, I am thankful.
— April E. Clark is gearing up for the Indy 500. She can be reached at email@example.com.