This Christmas, my Mom gave me the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received. It was from both of my parents but it was her idea and she’s the one that did the legwork. It was just a small gift given to me before they gave me my official gift as the girls and I were leaving. However, it is the one I value the most and without me saying so, they both know it.
It is a picture taken in 1971 of me, my Dad and my Grandfather that she had blown up and framed. Throughout our lives my Mom ended up taking an entire moving box full of photos. That’s not an expression, that’s where they are still kept to this day. She’s been kicking herself in the ass for decades for not organizing them in God knows how many photo albums it would require.
Let me describe the picture for you. It’s a close up shot of the three of us in the driveway of my favorite childhood home as we’re painting my Dad’s boat. I remember this day. (I’m 44 and I remember my childhood starting from the age of 3). The picture was taken from the side. In it you can see part of my grandparent’s 1960-something blue bug and my parent’s 1960-something white Ford Falcon station wagon.
I’m in the foreground at 6 1/2 years old wearing some goofy 1971 sneakers, a collared shirt with an awful striped pattern that has actually come back in style for some unfortunate reason and some jeans that look to short. My Grandfather at 63 is dressed in his work clothes as he always was, on or off duty. He was a big, lean, tall, dark and rugged Indian (native American for you PC types); The type man, even at that age, that could yank your arms and legs off. He is behind me to my side. Behind him and to his side is my Dad at 32 looking just like Elvis Presley in the fifties. The beauty of this picture is that it shows three generations working side by side on an object of a passion we shared.
Here is the story behind the picture. My Mom came into the garage and saw this scene and went back in to get her camera. She quietly came back out and snapped the picture. We were completely unaware that she was doing this which is what makes the picture as perfect a “slice of life” image as a Norman Rockwell painting complete with a bit of the top of my Dad’s head out of the frame.*
*Rockwell frequently painted from photographs he took himself, flaws and all.