Tuesday, June 04, 2013
It was the chair that caught my attention in the picture above, a chair in the corner of the living room in the house where I grew up, my grandparents' house in Springfield, Missouri. That chair had a story behind it. If the dog in the picture had a story, I don't remember it; the dog didn't belong to us. That beautiful rug is the one on which I once accidentally dumped a dishpan full of heavily buttered popcorn after stumbling when I caught my toe on the edge of the rug.
It's funny how a single photo can grab you, suck you in, make you spend hours searching for clues about it. My search this morning led to this picture, obviously taken the same day:
Same chair, same dog, same rug, this time with the addition of my little sister, Judy (on the left), and me. I wondered what year this was and tried to figure it out. The first clue was Judy's teeth. Her permanent front teeth had grown in, but the ones around them hadn't caught up, so I guessed her to be around seven, which would have made me about eleven. That made sense, too, because my chest was still flat as a board and my legs were still bruised from childhood play, but acne had flared up on my face. I'm guessing that would have been the summer of 1954.
To further substantiate that date, I found an earlier picture, one in which Judy's front teeth were missing:
If Judy lost her front teeth at the typical age of six, this photo would have been taken in 1953. Here, we were posed on her bed in the upstairs bedroom we shared with Mother. Judy's favorite stuffed dog, Snoozy, was on her lap. Snoozy was her equivalent of a security blanket. The doll between me and the foot of the bed was named (not very imaginatively) Clownie. On the wall over Judy's head you can see about half of the doll collection that disappeared when we moved to Texas in 1957. The portrait on the wall above me was painted from a photograph and sent to us by our father when he was stationed overseas. I was always curious about that, because he and Mother had divorced when Judy was about a year and a half old, yet she was clearly older than that in the painting. The last time I saw that portrait it was hanging in the guest room of my sister's home in East Texas.
Back to the chair, here's another picture of it:
In this one the chair's in the same corner but has been pulled away from the wall to put a desk beside it. I don't know who's in the framed photo on the desk; though he must have been someone important to our family, I don't recognize him from any other photos I have. The framed paintings on the wall were part of a shipment my father sent us from Germany when I was ten. They, too, are in Judy's home today, still part of the family. I think I was probably about twelve in this picture (my bangs had grown out), and, since I was wearing summer clothes, I know the cake I was holding wasn't for my late-autumn birthday. The only other thing I can think of that would have caused someone to photograph me holding a cake is if it was one I had baked, maybe my first one. And if there was a special reason for me to bake a cake that summer, it might have been for my grandmother's birthday or my mother's, which would have put this in either July or August of 1955.
So many clues, but no dates on the photos.
Now, back to that chair one final time: My grandfather, Packy, worked at Martin Bros. Piano Co., which actually sold a complete line of furniture, not just pianos. This chair came from Martin's. Packy retrieved it from their trash pile and brought it home. He said there wasn't a thing wrong with it--except that it was crawling with the tiny, white larvae of some kind of insect. I don't remember what types of products he used to fumigate it or how long it was relegated to the porch before it was ever allowed in the house. And I don't remember how long it had been in the house before I ever got the nerve to use it. A loooonng time, I think. Once it was debugged, it was the newest, best chair in the house, and it's clear from that last photo that I did sit on it eventually.
Now, be honest: Did this post make you feel itchy?