This post is in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge hosted by The Daily Post at WordPress.com. This week’s prompt is “object.”
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He was only four the first time his mother took his siblings and him to the orphanage. His sister and brother were older than he, and when it was time to leave, his mother couldn’t bear to leave one so young. He returned home with her.
Their father had recently died of a massive heart attack at age 36. In 1905 the availability of income for women was minimal, and my grandmother chose to give up her children in order for all to survive. A hard decision for any parent.
Fast forward four years and my father is eight and standing once again on the threshold of the orphanage, but this time he stands with his stepfather. His mother has died, and the stepfather doesn’t want him. This time he is left there.
His sister has left the orphanage in service to a family in the area, but his brother still resides there. And this is where he lives until he is apprenticed to a small newspaper in Tennessee at age 15 or 16.
In 1984, my husband and I return home from work and collect the day’s mail. Among the several bills and letters is a package from a cousin in Tampa, Florida. She is the daughter of my dad’s sister. We met some years before our parents died and have maintained a correspondence but I’m not accustomed to receiving packages from her.
The package is the first thing I tear into when we get inside. Nothing could be more enticing to me than this box which has suffered some wear along the way from Florida to Oregon. Not even a notice I had won Publisher’s Clearing House! Oh, right — they’d show up at the door.
Once it is open, the contents take my breath away. The first time I have seen images of my father as an infant, a boy child, a young man. Every photograph I’d seen up until now dated to after mom and dad married in 1945.
Where did these come from? I tear into the box again and there it is — a note from my cousin. She had found these in her mother’s trunk, and her note explains that two of the photos are of my grandparents.
This was as joyous as holding a newborn — a branch of my family tree was in my hands. Here was a grandmother I looked like, my son looked like my father, and the all too familiar stance was in the photo of Dad when he was 15 or 16. What treasures! I count them among my greatest possessions. Objects which bring to life branches of my family tree.
I understand the prompt was singular, but these photos, as objects, are inseparable. They are a group object in my life and will never be anything else.