Saturday, June 27, 2009

the youngest child



When I read the tender and nearly mystical post about her daughter, Lola, the youngest in their family, written by Maggie May (whose writing takes my breath away with its heart-wrenching, lusty, earthy, soulful expressions of love, loss, and more love) I thought of what my mother meant to her family once upon a time.

She was Margaret, there in the first photo sitting on her brother Marshall's tummy, circa 1916. The tiny 1-1/2"x2" photo wasn't preserved well, which indicates to me that it either was not a favorite of her mother's, the protector of photos and all memorabilia, or that it was so well loved by someone in the family that it was kept out, or maybe treasured in a wallet and shown often. No matter the wear.....the love still shines through.

There she is with the whole family in their only formal family portrait. The boys: Jim, the eldest, Marshall, the middle brother, and Richard, the youngest must have been told to be on their best behavior for the photograph and little Margaret would follow their lead, always, because she idolized them. She is what, maybe three years old, in this portrait? That would give Richard and her -- so close they were -- only seven more years together before he was killed in an auto accident in his junior year of high school. His death devastated that strong, loving family and it informed the way Margaret loved the men, including four husbands, in her future: grasping, testing, wanting, rejecting.

But before the sadness and challenges to come there were these and many more moments of contentment and grace.

.

17 comments:

Lisa Allender said...

This is so touching, Lydia!!
I'm catching up with your blog, this weekend--I'll be posting comments at various recent entries!

Mibsy said...

What beautiful family photos! I am currently organizing over 100 old family photos, oh the stories they could tell. I've been trying to grasp what it all really means, to have these photos and what they can mean to us now, you know? I think it is good to remember, even the heartbreaking things, but it is sometimes very hard. BTW, love the Michael Jackson dancing image in your sidebar!

Maggie May said...

God what incredible pictures, and story to go with them. My mother's brother David, one of six children, drowned at 14 in a lake by their home, and I have always wondered what that really did to their family.
Thank you for your kind words about my writing on Lola. She inspires me :)

Lover of Life/ Nancy said...

Wow, what a beginning to a story! "grasping, testing, wanting, rejecting". You have a wonderful way with words.

Darlene said...

You are so fortunate to have these photographs.

The death of a child always changes a family. Sometimes it scars them for life.

M Riyadh Sharif said...

It's sad how good souls passes away... Only the near ones feel the loss...

the watercats said...

I just checked out the blog link and have to say I am blown away by Maggie may's writing!!! She manages to say all the things we wish we could say but don't know how or are too afraid...
The photo's of your mum are beautiful and I would bet that the reason the top photo is in bad nick is due to much love, it is so touching. Family history always intrigues me, with the knowledge of roots comes peace, or at least, reconciliation. Thank you for a magical post :-)

Lydia said...

@Lisa- Thanks much for being. I love your comments always. And I'll be by your blog to catch up also.

@Mibsy- How well I do understand what you mean by this poignant statement/question: I've been trying to grasp what it all really means, to have these photos and what they can mean to us now, you know?...

@Maggie May- So you never knew your Uncle David, as I never knew my Uncle Richard. And those are mild ripples compared to what those directly affected felt...
My comments on your writing extend beyond your beautiful post about Lola. It's all awesome, in the true sense of that word.

Lover of Life/Nancy- (I hesitate to shorten that to LOL/Nancy for obvious reasons, although I do wish you laughter!) Thank you for what you wrote about what I wrote:)

@Darlene- I do know I'm lucky to have the photos. I consider them not only the history of my genes on my mother's side but quite simply a visual recording of a portion of Americana.

@Riyadh- Thanks for being here. We finally saw Slumdog Millionaire tonight and I thought about you in a nearby part of the world.

@the watercats- You described just how I feel about Maggie May's writing!
It gives me a real rush of sweet emotion to have you appreciate the photos as you do. You have a beautiful way of connecting with time, place, and people.

Owen said...

Both of those old photos are gorgeous, I especially like the light in the first one, it almost glows. What is it about images from so far back that really set us dreaming about how life might have been back then ?

Tragic twist there with the young death of your uncle, and the question of the impact on the family. Makes me think of the poet Wilfred Owen (who you may know of already, given your interest in Robert Service ?) who was killed in France the week before World War One ended, and his family in England received the news of his death on Armistice day as the bells were pealing to announce the end of the war... absolutely dreadful. I visited his grave last November close to the 90th anniversary of his death.

YogaforCynics said...

That's certainly a beautiful photo up there...and it "shines" quite literally...

I certainly know the havoc accidents can wreak in a family...my grandmother's life was forever damaged by the freak accident death of her daughter, and her subsequent madness had an incredibly devastating effect on my dad's life...which ended in an auto accident four years ago...

Lydia said...

@Owen- Knowledge of Wilfred Owen is obviously one of the points where my Robert Service reading breaks. I'm fascinated by what you wrote about him and think you are pretty great for visiting his grave.
I love the light in the first shot, too.

@YogaforCynics- I agree that the photo is luminous.
What a sad family story you told in a nutshell in your comments. Where my grandmother didn't go mad like yours did, she definitely allowed her mourning to take on an intensity for years that did have an affect on my mother as a girl. For instance, my mother wasn't allowed to leave the house for school or play without first kissing Richard's picture on the mantle.
I knew from your writing that your father is gone but I didn't know that he died in an auto accident. That was a sudden, unexpected, senseless, and tragic way for you to lose him.
Go to the latest post, "Paul," at Zenspace in my blogroll. It's a tribute to a just-passed dad that you no doubt will appreciate.

cathwrynn said...

A beautiful poast. Words take so long to put down; they can never really show all the threads that diverge and converge between people. Suffice to say I was touched by this post, the comments and your replies for many reasons. Thank you.

Hattie said...

There is a photo portrait of my mother's family like this. She is the youngest of five in the picture. Two more would be born. Terrible events, the death of one child to diabetes and the other to a high school football accident, followed in short order by the death of both parents, set the remaining children adrift into the Depression. They survived but were marked in their various ways by these early tragedies.

Lydia said...

@cathwrynn- I love your meaningful comments!

@Hattie- Such horrible tragedies in your mother's young life couldn't have helped but to mark her. The nutshell makes me want to know more of the story, i.e., when you say "set the remaining children adrift into the Depression," were they homeless, cared for by strangers? So sad...

Jennifer said...

That first photograph is really amazing. I never really thought of what early snapshots would be like, but it has that quality. I feel so removed from any sense of extended family -- the stories of death and prolonged grief in your post and in the comments here are heartbreaking. I think the death of a child reverberates.

earthtoholly said...

Those are beautiful photos accompanying your sad and touching story, Lydia. How awful for your family to have to deal with the death of one of their young ones. I can't imagine that there would be much else that could be worse...

Lydia said...

@Jennifer- I love that shot, too. Reverberates, yes. Some of the comments from others about child/youth deaths in their own families made me realize that my mother wasn't alone and that she could have really benefited from talking with others with similar family stories. But, alas ....

@earthtoholly- Thanks for the sweet sentiments in your comments. That kind of sorrow is something we feel universally, I think.

ShareThis

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails