Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hardest Hue to Hold

A happy family?
Caution: I'm in a serious mood.

I love this photo. The young woman is my Grandmother. It's probably 1945, early Spring. She's in her early twenties. The child on the bike is my Mom. The little boy pointing is her older brother.

Don't they look carefree? Don't they look happy? This is a photo of a happy family.

Or is it? Sometimes it takes 40 years to learn a lesson.

My Grandmother gave me this photo about five years ago. I scanned all her photos and feel privileged to have them. As far as I know, she gave them only to me. It's the special sort of relationship we have. It's a special bond we have.

At first, I dismissed this photo seeking the close-ups in Grandma's collection. But then I returned to it and noticed how beautifully it told a story. My Grandma's easy-going nature seems evident to me in the way she uses just one hand to balance her toddler daughter on that adult bike. My mother's characteristic determination seems evident already. Who or what is my uncle pointing at? Is something tied to the bike functioning like a sled? Who snapped the photo?

Not my Grandfather. As I understand it, he was still stationed in Montreal at the time, doing his part in World War 2.

I need to ask my Grandmother all these questions. Before it's too late.

And yet, what does it really matter?

This is not a photo of a happy family. I'm finally realizing the myth of the happy family. Sure, my Grandma's little family looks happy in this photo but she must have been missing her husband, she must have been tired of raising demanding kids alone. Plus I know the future for this family. Both my Mom and her as yet unborn sister would be pregnant teen brides. My uncle would die before he turned 40. And his son would die before he turned 40. Many tears yet to shed.

When I struggle with being a good father and a good husband and a good man, I think I must learn to remember the myth of the happy family. My little family has had so many happy years. So many blessings. Naively, I assumed that would always be. I should have remembered Robert Frost's caution: "nature's first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold."

There are no happy families. No one is perfect. Nothing lasts forever. Like my Grandmother's photo, there are only happy family moments. And some days, I take what I can get.


19 comments:

karensomethingorother said...

I'm in a serious mood today too :) Life is rife with sadness and hard times to bear, but what is important are the little snapshot moments that are happy. If we store those in our memory boxes in greater numbers than the sad ones, a different, better colour will prevail, don't you think? And, for all intents and purposes, maybe at that moment everyone was indeed truly happy, and how lucky then, to have had a picture taken.

dbs said...

So well said. Thank you.

Pickleope said...

You're absolutely right about the myth of the perfect family. Nuances make any idyllic vision an illusion. I would aspire to be as eloquent as Karensomethingorother, but the picture and your post and her brilliant commentary leave me bereft of adequate input. Suffice to say, that is a beautiful photo despite, and maybe because of the emotion it inspires. Thank you for sharing it and the emotions surrounding it.

Sub-Radar-Mike said...

Somber, but touching. You're absolutely right, that's the exact reason I try to live every day to the fullest.

Chelle said...

You have to remember that in all misery, there are pockets of happiness.

Laoch of Chicago said...

This is very well done.

Nonetheless, you should go and see her, tape recorder in hand, and ask her to tell you stories of her life. Such memories are priceless.

Alistair said...

Hindsight - is a wonderful thing. So is resilience and the ability to look forward seeking out the good times and accepting that, as you say clearly here, not every day will be good. The important thing is to keep talking and to keep on loving no matter what.

Oh - and wine helps in many ways too.......

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I always find old photos to have a bittersweet quality about them, for the very reasons you mention. We as viewers know what the future holds for the ones in the photos.

Munk said...

I prefer to think there are happy moments in all families.

Rose colored lens.

Chelle said...

Can you imagine if we knew at all times what kinds of tragedies were going to happen to us? There would be no happiness.

Antares Cryptos said...

I don't trust people who are always "happy".
They have basements. And shovels.

Very good post, dbs.

Karen Peterson said...

That is a beautiful photograph, and such an interesting (and sad) perspective on the years that would follow.

Mrs. Tuna said...

It does show a happy family, carefree and relaxed. And in that moment, they were.

If I have it said it enough, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Lately I've been lonely in the hood.

Alittlesprite said...

Beautiful photograph.
I love looking at all of my mothers old photos. Every time we sit and look at them a little more of the lives of the people in the photos is revealed.
It was years before I knew what a hard life my Mum had. How horrid her Grandmother was, and how miserable she made everyone else's life. The past is intriguing.

The is no-one out there with a perfect life. I can say for myself that life sucks most times, but the truly happy times make it all worth it. It's what gets me through each day.

j. littlejohn said...

nothing is ever perfect. and that's probably for the best

Al Penwasser said...

When I see pictures like that starring some of the older generation of my family (all of whom are now gone. I remarked to my brothers and my sister this weekend that I was the oldest surviving Penwasser. Phil said, "Well,for now anyway." Sheesh), it makes me realize that these older people were once real, no-kidding individuals with individual personalities. They weren't just "Mom," "Dad," "Uncle Charlie," etc.
You nailed it on the head that there are no happy families, only happy family moments. Into each life, a little rain.....
And that's the way it should be. We don't live in Hallmark cards.

Nubian said...

Well said. Love.

Mel said...

This is really beautiful. Such a lovely post connecting you to your family's past while helping you understand their present and appreciate the future. LOVE IT!

Michael said...

This time of year sure brings out the bummer. Probably the long streak of wonderful weather and then BAM, Autumn falls. We want it to be summer forever, yes? There are those who claim to like winter more, but they are either lying or delusional.

I like the Buddhist take on weather (and life). It is neither too hot or too cold outside. It just is. Acceptance of this (i.e., what is) is what we all need to work on.

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