For 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.
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, 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?