Before we left for California I had started a huge endeavor of organizing family photos. This is an enormous undertaking, because we’ve moved five times since 1984, and there are categories that get abandoned. The pictures of youthful fun are secondary to baby pictures. Baby pictures shoot up in importance as the babies grow up.
I am not an organized person.
You can imagine the job.
Then my cousin/brother-in-law George lent me a gizmo. It is an HP PhotoSmart S20 Photo-Negative-Slide scanner. He gave it to me as we were getting ready to depart, with instructions to download and install and mail it back whenever.
It works perfectly. Because I had sort of organized the photos before we left, I had a huge stash of negatives.
This is what is happening. The bulk of the negatives seem to be of great photos that we don’t have! Of course, we would have given those great shots to grandparents and relatives who asked for pictures.
What a treat to be reunited with the pictures! My daughter says, “It’s like old fashioned Flickr!”.
Look for instance at this one. Three of us, my dear friend, Anne-Adele, my late sister Lizzie, and me on the red velvet Victorian couch in Bud’s Cohasset of long ago. There is the pink Oriental rug at our feet. The camera is a bit off, someone walked through the room and snapped it. We were about to leave for the wedding rehearsal, about one block away. Anne-Adele had come from Philadelphia with our Newman Center priest, Father Bill. Bud’s Episcopal pastor, Rev. Muir would officiate.
I had gone through extraordinary bureaucratic tape to line up my permissions to marry in the Episcopal church. In my purse was a piece of paper signed by then Archbishop Bernard Law of the Archdiocese of Boston. I was ready.
There was mayhem brewing in the garden. Villains and pretenders were gathering their meager courage, but would be thwarted. Dear blog readers, that comedy of errors will be shared in another episode. For now, let me remember this moment of sisterhood.
Somewhere off camera, my mother and aunt, my older sister and little niece (who was married last weekend) are on their way to Boston. They will arrive in time for the rehearsal dinner. The air is charged with expectancy. I had just spoken with my Daddy, the character. He said, “Oh honey, you don’t want me there. I won’t know what to say to all those Yankees. They’ll ask me what I do, and it’ll tighten my jaw.” I was happy. Daddy had been my counselor during my whole adventure with Mr. Bell. “You don’t need another male friend! You have enough of those! What you need is a husband! He shouldn’t be taking up your time unless he intends to marry you!” Exactly, Daddy. Hence this moment to the altar. I proceeded with his full blessing.
The news of our engagement had caused the greater family to exhale with a huge sigh of relief. Kathleen was going to be alright. Bud was so handsome. Their relief made me realize how frightened they had been for me. The past began to recede like a wave on the shore. Out, out to sea it went, never to wash over my life again. At Bud’s family farm, Auntie Lynne called me from Manila, with congratulations and good wishes. Auntie Lou sent me beautiful capiz shell placemats. Auntie Terry gave me a needlepoint table cloth from China. Like good fairies at a christening, they surrounded me with love and light. Letters from my Daddy’s people in Georgia arrived, bearing regrets, the elderly ladies were past the age to jump on planes. The letters were full of joyful congratulations, and invitations to go to Georgia as soon as possible. That is another happy story for another day.
I can tell you about the moment, because the picture made me remember. The air was thick with Massachusetts humidity, much like today in 2009. It was August 10th, the day that would later be claimed as my third child’s birthday. In all the years after her birth, this day has been hers.
I remember the heat of the day, the lushness of the green, the strangeness of the new culture, and Bud’s face. I remember the dress – silk with tiny buttons and pleats down the front. Bergdorf Goodman on sale one bright Manhattan winter day.
My two confidantes, Anne-Adele, who is still my ear in all things, and Lizzie, whose fierce love, leaves an earthly vacuum still. I feel her sometimes, usually when least expected, but when it makes the most sense.
In that moment, the years stretched before us. There would still be so much living before any separation.
I remember how the Cohasset Common looked that afternoon, with the staid homes standing sentinel, asking for photographs to be taken, photographs that would appear in coffee table books and postcards. I remember the cool red plushness of St. Stephen’s Church, how footsteps disappeared into the carpet, how the stained glass windows glistened like jewels.
Outside this picture, on this summer day, there is a picket fence world in the dearest of villages. There is a bridge and water that surges into a harbor. There are rocky cliffs and old fashioned summer homes.
On that couch, I sat between two dear ones, the two pushing my boat away from shore, with all good will and good humor. The years would bear a thousand gifts.
The love I invested with my sister, gave me enough to live the rest of my life. How it welled up when I saw her sons, tall and handsome last week. It felt palpable, like Lizzie’s infectious personality. I will write about that too, because there are some things that I realized.
And so we go into this fine summer day.