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Faces of the Past

Updated: Feb 12, 2023

After going through hundreds of photos, my mind is swirling with faces. Cora hardly ever smiled, and she looked too thin. But her dresses were so fashionable. Her husband Albert’s smile seemed a little bit forced.

Then their daughter, little Gracie—dressed in taffeta, ribbons, and lace—had the cutest, shy smile. Who could afford so many professional studio shots? But year after year there were at least a dozen, until they stopped, and new ones never followed. Albert had left without a forwarding address. He never returned. Apparently, the money went with him.

Then, there was Glenn. Or, actually there wasn’t Glenn. I just knew it had been Glenn before his face had been carefully cut out of each picture in the photo album. How odd to look at a family picture with smiling Bobby, his mother, and a man’s arm draped over his son’s young shoulder, but no face to be seen. More than his face had been cut from a photo, Glenn was cut off from his family.

Divorce severed ties on both sides of my ancestry. It severed hearts too. It must have been incredibly hard—both emotionally and financially, but they continued on, and like ripples on a pond, generations later those ripples touched new lives.

Photos dating back to the late 1800’s— they raised children who’d become my grandparents and parents. Shaped by loss, sprinkled with some bitterness, but with ample gumption to go on—these people became forces within their families and communities—ice-cream maker to a wheat ranch cook, from poverty to a registered nurse, from a policeman to college professor, from a chemist to business director, from college drop-out to a librarian.

I revisited them all through photos that captured those telling days.

Their stories remind me that one day someone will pull an album off the shelf and see my generation. What stories will they be able tell? These are my ripples on life’s pond. It makes me wonder if the ripples will be felt a hundred years from now. Only God knows.


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