A few weeks ago I bought a beautiful pumpkin at Canaan Farm and put it on my front steps along with some glorious autumn chrysanthemums. The flowers have been fading day by day and the pumpkin’s been looking a little less perky. I know pumpkins don’t last very long, but I was hoping this one would make it to Halloween. The flowers are now totally dead, and this morning I discovered that some disrespectful nocturnal animal left bite marks in my wonderful pumpkin. Time to give up and clear off the front steps, I think.
But at least I have this picture! Photographs can’t stop people and things from growing up, growing old, changing, breaking, getting lost and passing away, but they do let us cheat time just a bit by preserving the image of things just the way they were at one moment in time.
Ipswich Public Library
Claflin-Richards House, also known as the Claflin-Gerrish-Richards House, circa 1690, now part of the Wenham Museum
It finally looks like winter here! It was a steady, gentle snowfall, more decorative than disruptive. A good day to be outside taking pictures!
We still haven’t had any snow worth mentioning — I haven’t had to break out the shovel yet. But it’s definitely winter!
It’s not really winter — the weather is mild, and we haven’t had any real snow here yet other than one surprise snowstorm in October when the leaves were still on the trees. (But even that was only an inch or so where I live.)
I don’t really like having to deal with the snow. I hate dressing for it, I hate shoveling it and I hate driving through it, but I do like taking photographs of it. The weather we’ve had so far this winter has just left us with something that’s not even winter. It’s no season at all: no light, no color, no flowers, no plants, no snow. Nothing.
When I was a little girl, I used to love to rummage around in the drawers of my father’s desk or in various little boxes around the house where there would be random small objects like buttons, which didn’t interest me, and foreign coins, which did. I don’t know where most of these coins came from, other than the ha’pennies my grandmother brought back from a trip home to Scotland. But I loved touching the coins, studying the words and images, feeling the foreignness, dreaming of travel.
Now I have accumulated a lot of foreign coins from my own travels, and they’re completely disorganized, all mixed up and sitting in various small containers. I still like spilling them out, and looking through them, remembering past trips and dreaming of new ones.
This photograph has been around for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, it was in a big box of unsorted photographs my mother kept in a cabinet in the living room. I used to love going through those old photographs, spreading them out on the coffee table and looking at them individually. Many were people I knew — my mother as a child, my Scottish grandparents and great aunts and uncles. This one, and a few others of this girl, fascinated me because they were taken in Scotland and were family members that I had never met. I imagined going to Scotland and meeting this girl and pictured us running through hills of heather together, although I knew that of course she wouldn’t be a girl at all anymore, she’d be my mother’s age or even older. I remember asking my mother who they were and her answering rather vaguely that she thought this was [someone] and her daughter [someone].
But who? I don’t remember what she said, and there’s no one else left who might know. It looks like it was taken in the 1920s, which was when my grandparents emigrated. Was this taken on an outing before they left, or sent to them in a letter later? Was this the wife and daughter of one of my grandmother’s brother, William and James Ross, who remained in Scotland when their mother, stepfather and four sisters left for America? Or was my grandfather the photographer, and are these members of the Rennie side of the family? I’ve done a little work on Ancestry.com, trying to figure out possibilities, but I have no idea.
I love the photograph anyway, especially the smiles on their faces and the comfortable affection of the girl’s pose. Someday I hope I’ll solve this mystery. I’m hoping that someone else has another copy of this photograph, or other photographs of this woman and girl, and they’ll find this scanned image or I’ll find theirs and we’ll connect. Stranger things have happened. I truly believe that photographs have a way of finding their way home.
In the meantime, I post this as a reminder to everyone to identify everyone who is in a photograph. When photos are new, it’s so obvious who the people are that there’s no reason to record this information, but as the years pass, photographs (printed or digital) can get scattered, and the information can be lost.
265 Cabot Street
A little boy about six years old: “Daddy, Daddy! Since you forgot your camera and can’t take pictures, I know what you can do! You can take pictures in your mind, and then later, you can just remember them!”
This was a large, noisy family group, and no one seemed to hear the boy or respond, but I thought that was excellent advice!