A Day in the Life | First Photographs

A Day in the LifeFor some time the idea of writing creative nonfiction shorts as a way of looking back at my life has been niggling at me. A recyclable phrase for a title, one my readers would remember and hopefully flock to, took a while to conjure up. But I finally heard it the other day, and I introduce you to a randomized series of creative nonfiction shorts called A Day in the Life.

First Photographs

An unexpected package arrived in the mail. A rather small, nondescript box addressed to me from my cousin in Tampa, Florida. As usual, I grabbed the mail, pulled further up the drive, and ran into the house to begin dinner.

The package kept calling to me. Once our evening meal was started, I unwrapped the box to see what surprises it held.

Under the exterior wrapping, I found a note. My cousin explained the box held some items she had recently found when going through her mother’s personal effects.

Nothing could prepare me for what I saw when I removed a layer of white tissue paper.

For the first time in my life, photographs of my father lay nestled among other items. I had never seen a photo of my father, other than ones taken after I was born.

Here were images of him as an infant, a boy of 16 just out of the orphanage, and the one here as he prepared to leave Louisville,Artis Adams on Ohio River Rail Bridge Kentucky for an apprenticeship with a small newspaper in Winchester, Tennessee. This picture shows Daddy standing on a railroad bridge over the Ohio River somewhere outside Louisville.

Among the photos in the yellowing box tied with string were images captured by a photographer of my father and his brother and sister, likely taken for my grandmother in the days leading up to placing her children in the care of The Masonic Home for Widows and Orphans in Louisville.

It was difficult to fight back tears as I gazed into the faces of Daddy, Uncle Fred, and Aunt Lucy. Knowing what their future held that long ago day was heartbreaking.

Daddy was the youngest of the three at four years old, and the story he told us as we grew up was a far cry from the story as told by my aunt and shared in the letter from my cousin. But that’s a story for another day.

The contents of a small box instantly became treasured family history. I have often looked at these family photos and wondered what went through the minds of not only these children but my grandmother on arriving at the orphanage.

For now, I take my satisfaction in knowing what my family looked like in its earliest beginnings.

Have you ever uncovered or received unexpectedly a family treasure or piece of family history you didn’t realize existed? What was your reaction? What have you done with it?



11 thoughts on “A Day in the Life | First Photographs

  1. I had a similar experience where recently I received pictures of my father when he was a boy in Norway, and pictures of him in his school uniform, or on the farm. It’s so meaningful to receive these pictures and see our parents when they were younger. Thanks for sharing your story.


    1. Leslie, seeing images of our parents as children brings a different emotional response altogether. As children ourselves, we only see them in their adult lives. With childhood photos of them, we see them and understand that once they too played, laughed, grew, and more. Thanks for stopping in.


  2. I can’t wait to hear about the discrepancy between your dad’s and aunt’s stories. Interesting that you should find this focus just now. I began my life writing journey in 1998 with an emphasis on documenting the past and creating a legacy of personal and family history and began by writing stacks and piles of short stories. That itch evolved into a focus on integrating those short pieces into memoir. Like you, I’ve been feeling the pendulum of my passion swing back toward short stories. Tick tock, tick tock. Whatever we write, write now!


    1. Sharon, there is indeed a story there, and I can’t wait to write it. Some days, as you reference, I can’t decide whether I really want to finish and publish an entire book or take what I have, turn them into vignettes/short stories and let them go at that. I enjoy the short pieces. It’s more of a “have an idea, get it down, revise, revise, revise, and done” exercise than a book. Yes, tick tock, tick tock! Definitely, write now!


      1. Not just everyone realizes that we can compile collections of short work, even a mix of story and essay, and use CreateSpace as our personal printer for a limited number of bound volumes to pass along to posterity and maybe a few friends. You don’t have to click that last button to publicly publish.
        So you can have it both ways. Persist with a seamless memoir, and “scrapbook” loose pieces.


  3. Hi Sherrey, treasure, indeed! I’ll look forward to more of this story. The first photos I received of my birth mother, from my newly found 1/2 sister, are priceless to me. Thank you.


    1. Welcome, Mary Ellen! I first must tell you my favorite SIL is named Mary Ellen. Lovely name. You know the value of “first photos,” don’t you? I’m so glad you have them.


  4. Sherrey,
    Wow…like the snappy title…and what a treasure to have that photo of your dad and to know another piece of your family story…I found out bits of my story from an aunt many years ago…Thank God for cousins and aunts, yes? 🙂


    1. Hi Dolly, and thanks for the “wow!” What would we do without the good nudges of God encouraging us to seek our stories or His nudging of others to share? His goodness stretches so far and wide!


Comments are closed.