|A happy family?|
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.