March 26 • 04:39 PM

Photos make family history come alive

December 02, 2009
Last week, a friend sent me an email which had been circulating. Some of you may have gotten it also—the one about the old box camera found in a foot locker. When the film in it had been taken for developing, it was found to hold a perfectly preserved set of very clear snapshots of the explosive action of December 7, 1941, listed in history books as Pearl Harbor Day. At the end of the email were the words: "Share this with your loved ones of ALL ages...elderly will remember, young will be awed."

It's true, I thought. I'd committed that date to memory back when I was a not-so-diligent student, and the list of dates to memorize were just so many figures on a textbook timeline. Dry, dusty history with little relevance to the world of a self-conscious teen, or so I thought back then.

Of course, as I'd grown older, I'd gotten a little more "plugged in," but a blow-me-away awareness hit the day of that email. You see, an interesting juxtaposition of that email with another one really made me realize just how things fit together in the scheme of things where my own life was concerned.

Another email came the same day. A niece had been scrapbooking and ran across a black and white photo of her grandparents' wedding day. It occurred to her that she could share it with the rest of us by scanning it and emailing it. I'd seen it, of course—it was Mom and Dad's official wedding photograph, but there was something about seeing it on the computer monitor, right after viewing the Pearl Harbor footage, that made me notice things I'd never noticed before. Dad's wedding ring. His shoes. I guess I'd mostly noticed things about my mom before—her dress, her bouquet of Easter lilies and red roses.

But suddenly the era popped for me. My parents had married on April 14, 1942, midway between Pearl Harbor Day and Dad's leaving for basic training. I also realized anew that Dad's birthday is the same as Pearl Harbor Day. And I'd been born just shy of a year after their wedding day—on April 1, 1943.

The timeline wasn't just a list of dry, dusty dates anymore. My parents were on it. Dad, leaving his young wife behind, was on it. Mom, living with her in-laws while Dad was away, was on it. The pillow covers I remember seeing in Mom's cedar chest were on it—pillow covers from the bases where Dad was stationed. My birth date was on it too. And the timeline became a thread instead, weaving freedom through the tapestry of my family's life.

Willene Tanis is a longtime resident of the Imlay City area and an active volunteer in the community. Many readers find her 'Perspectives' column to universal and uplifting.
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