“Caption This”

“Caption This”

It is safe to say nearly every family owns a box of old photos in which no one knows the names of those in the photos. Someone in the family is storing the box, and if it is not you, be thankful.

The next generation in line to inherit the photos will have fun sorting through them. They will naturally ask the oldest relatives in the family who those people are.

There will be lots of comments about the where and the when as they look closely at the clothing and the faces. There may be family resemblances. Eventually the defeated feeling sets in when everyone admits they have no clue who the people are.  

Then the fateful day arrives when someone decides to find a new home for the photos. A garage sale or an estate sale. Out they go.

What if the characters in the photos could talk to each other – would their conversations revolve around the fact no one knows their name?  

When I meet with my writing friends, I realize we don’t tend to recognize our own talent as much as we see the talent in others. Many of them are great fiction writers, or writers of poetry, and I don’t know how they do it.

If writing skills really can ‘run in the family,’ I must tell you the ability to write fiction has not caught up with my family. My mother could take facts and make a story out of the facts, but she stayed away from fiction writing.

I’ve sorted through a lot of saved homework, and I’ve read the writing my mother and siblings came up with. One of my brothers wrote a story about Jesus – who turned beans and Kool-Aid into something that fed the crowds. I’m too embarrassed to share the story with others so that is all I will write, even though his story made me smile.

My mom wrote several short stories in her elementary school composition book, and I was hoping to find something I could share with others. But her stories were terrible. I did appreciate the vocabulary back then – she used words such as ‘swell,’ and ‘full of the dickens,’ and ‘acting a fool.’

It is fun to read how my Aunt Goldie used the word ‘dandy’ so seriously in letters to her sister.  

I use an online urban dictionary to look up the modern-day meaning of phrases, and it has saved me a few times when I realized I was about to type something I should not.

There were times I had to tell my mother the words she was using had changed meaning, and of course she wanted to know what the new meaning was. She was embarrassed to know what she had typed in an email to her children, but it was rather entertaining to the rest of us.

My siblings and I loved the way she messed up the spelling and punctuation and didn’t bother fixing it. She was 90 years old and still typing emails to let us know how her day was going and what she was up to. One of the things we missed after she passed away was a daily email from her.

According to the urban dictionary, ‘full of the dickens’ refers to a young person with a slightly unbridled youthful spirit of adventure.  Acting the fool means you are ‘that’ guy at a party.

Grandpa Imm left me with 7 photos of himself with friends. He was a young man during the ‘roaring 20s.’ There he is in these photos with several others, a hundred years ago, full of the dickens and proving we have a different kind of fun when we are in our twenties. What happens to us?

I have a few questions for Grandpa regarding those photos – first of all what were you thinking – acting a fool like that. Why are you dressed up? Who are your friends and how did you meet them? What did you talk about on that day and how many laughs? Whose car is in the road in the background and why didn’t you get a good photo of the car? What kind of camera was it?

Grandpa Imm was married to Mary Matilda Smith, who passed away two months after their wedding. I found a copy of her obituary, and she was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Smith. She died on Thursday, April 26, aged 20 years, 7 months, and 9 days. She was married to Albert Imm on February 6, 1917. It goes on to state her cause of death was complications from diseases following an attack of the grippe – which is an old fashioned term for influenza.

On June 1, 1966, my Aunt Luella sat down with Grandpa, who was 71 years old at the time, and recorded a 16-minute tape of his experiences as a soldier in World War I. Interestingly enough, Grandpa spoke of the vaccinations the soldiers received.

The 1918 flu has always been a topic of interest for me – knowing my grandfather lived through that era and was a WWI veteran. Unfortunately, the flu is back in the news, and I have done a major amount of reading on the topic.

My friends and I have logged an unspeakable number of hours in personal study regarding the current world situation. This past year became the year we studied the terrain of the body as well as germ theory, and we found ourselves saying you never know what it is you don’t know. Thus – never quit learning and growing.

Being an avid reader of non-fiction has made the sorting of my mother’s saved newspaper clippings a bit of an interesting task. I wish my mother had been a scrapbook kind of girl – but she was more of a ‘saver’ kind of girl. I am left trying to figure out some way of organizing it.

There are plenty of photos in my parents’ collection with no names on the back, and I cannot help but wonder if a picture of my grandfather’s first wife, Mary Matilda, is amongst them. If I could interview Grandpa, I would ask him how he met Mary and what their story was.

The pictures of Grandpa and his friends are stamped on the back with “The Folsom Studio” located at 602-4 Jefferson Avenue in Toledo, Ohio. I wonder if anyone, anywhere, knows who these people are. Perhaps someone will identify them as their grandmother or grandfather.  

Possibly Grandpa showed these pictures to Grandma and told her the story of his younger days.  If only he would have found a pen and wrote a few notes to me on the back of his photos.  

So until I find out more, I am left looking at the pictures, writing my own captions, and wondering what the story is. If I ever choose to do some fiction writing, it may be what happened on this day, one hundred years ago, when my grandfather was out acting a fool and having a swell time with his friends.

© Marlene Oxender 2021

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