Thursday, June 11, 2009

Comfortable Faces

In the house I think of as "the house I grew up in" (even though I lived in four different houses from infancy to college, and this one no longer than the others), one wall of the family room was covered in photographs. They were arranged in three not-quite-separate columns: on the left was my dad's family, on the right was my mom's, and in the middle was the three of us.

I loved that wall of photographs. I loved that I knew the names of all the people and how they were related to me. I loved that visitors always seemed interested and wanted to know who was who. There was something essentially comforting about that mass of images, and I've been wanting to recreate it in my own house for years.

I've asked my mom for photos, and she's brought sheaves on various visits. When we were in Wisconsin last week, Andy's mom covered the dining room table in boxes and albums, and we sorted through them all evening, picking ones to take home with us -- not to keep, but to scan and return. We've already framed and hung a few of my family; now we can do the same for Andy's. And we scanned a bunch of my family, too, and posted dozens of each on my Flickr site and sent links to relatives. I hope everyone enjoys them, and I really hope that they feel moved to cough up some photos of their own which can also be scanned and returned.

I've picked the dining room as our family gallery. The walls don't lend themselves to the three-column approach; also, I prefer a more scattered look. But there's lots of space to fill, and I look forward to picking and grouping, framing and hanging. I don't suffer the delusion that Ben will share all my interests and pleasures, so it won't surprise (or, I hope, disappoint) me if he isn't eager to memorize all the names and faces, if he doesn't find them the comfort I always did. But there's a (silly? superstitious?) part of me that feels that the people in those pictures want to watch over us, want to get a look at my kid growing up, and that I somehow wouldn't be doing right by my ancestors if I didn't festoon the place with their faces.

(Andy's paternal grandparents Etta and Bernard, my mother Betsy in my grandmother Helen's arms with my aunt Sylvia, Andy's uncle Bob and mother Kath, my aunts Nina and Elaine with my dad Stanley)

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