Photos are kind of a big deal in my family. We document everything and trade prints like baseball cards. Just about every moment of my childhood (as well as my sister’s, all 7 of our cousins’, etc.) is committed to film, and my grandmother houses a collection of photo albums that span 6 decades and the entire length of a wall in her living room.

Not only do we love taking pictures, we love looking through the albums whenever we’re all gathered at my grandmother’s (aka Moo) house–arguing over who was the cutest baby, reliving awkward pre-teen hair and clothing choices, and retelling embarrassing family stories. It’s what we do.

I was in Dallas last weekend for my oldest uncle’s third wedding (third time’s a charm, right?), and when my mother brought over an old box of pictures she had unearthed during a recent move, I was curious to see some pictures I’d never seen before (not that looking at the same fat, naked baby pictures of myself over and over again isn’t entertaining).

The pictures she found were mostly of she and my father–stills from their “courtship days,” a few never-before-seen wedding shots, and a handful of pictures from their days of early wedded bliss.  She let me snatch a few of my favorites for my own personal collection.  Even though these pictures are “old,” they’re new to me, and I love looking over them, weaving what I know about my mother and father with what I imagine, creating a story to go along with each snapshot. I thought I’d share a few…

Mom, June 1978

Mom, June 1978

The date on the back of this picture tells me that Mom was 20 years old when this picture was taken. That’s her dad’s Datsun she’s sitting on top of, and it’s parked in the driveway of the house where she grew up, the same house where me and my sister sleep in her childhood bedroom when we visit Dallas. I’m not sure if she’d met my father yet when this was taken. She’s such a sweet looking gal, with her bare feet and classic 70s ironed hair. Whenever I look at this picture, I think: “You are going to have a baby in exactly 5 years.”

Dad, 1957

Dad, 1957

And what do I think when I look at this picture? “Nice bonnet.”

Mom & Dad, Summer

Mom & Dad, Summer

Classic. I’m not sure when this one was taken, but they both seem to have that “we’re-not-yet-bound-to-each-other-by-law” glow about them, wouldn’t you agree? It looks like they’re at some sort of tailgating/picnic/pool party, and judging from the cup in my dad’s hand and the slightly smarmy expression on his face, there’s surely a keg nearby. And you might be saying, “Oh, well judging by the mustache, this picture must have been taken some time in the 1970,” but my dad had his ‘stache well into the 90s, so it’s not an accurate historical marker in his case… Looking at this photo, it’s pretty clear who I got my hair genes from (my crazy mop could certainly pass for a man-fro some mornings).

Mom behind the wheel

Mom behind the wheel

I may have inherited my ‘fro from Dad, but I got my penchant for sunglasses-as-headband and driving with both hands gripped to the steering wheel at 10 and 2 from Mom.

Mom on her wedding day

Mom on her wedding day

I so love this picture. My mother has been a Dr. Pepper afficionado for as long as I can remember and, as this photo proves, much longer than that. She’s always insisted that Dallas Dr. Pepper tastes different–better–than Dr. Pepper from anywhere else. Something about the “fizz,” she insists… When we lived in Knoxville and San Antonio, she would buy crates of the stuff during our Dallas visits so she could have her own personal stockpile. If me or my sister drank one of her Dallas Dr. Pepper’s accidentally (okay, sometimes it was intentional–I agree, they do taste just a titch better, but mostly, I just liked the cache), she would react as if we’d just drank the last drops from the canteen while stranded in the desert. She moved back to Dallas a few years ago, and I’m convinced that easy access to her favorite beverage was the main reason for her relocation.

The Honeymooners

The Honeymooners

I can’t remember if Mom told me or not, but I’m pretty sure this picture is from their honeymoon, taken on one of those islands in the Caribbean. They’re so painfully young and happy looking, I feel like this HAS to be from their honeymoon. Their faces in this picture–so open and innocent–make me love them both just a little bit more. I don’t remember my dad ever having such chicken legs since I’ve been around, but here’s the photographic evidence. And what better way to show off your chicken legs than to wear sneakers with no socks?

Mom, Dad, and the Dobies

Mom, Dad, and the Dobies

Unlike Dad’s mustache, the presence of the dobies in old pictures serves as a fairly accurate guage of time. This picture was probably taken around 1981 or ’82, after Mom and Dad had gotten married and bought their first house together, but before I was born. Mom’s holding Daphne, their first dobe, and Dad’s holding Rommel, the new pup. They loved these dogs–when my impending birth was announced, people were constantly telling them that they would have to get rid of the dogs, that Dobermans were a vicious, unpredictable breed and would most certainly maul a newborn. But as it turned out, the dobes were devoted to Baby Me, they’d lay by my crib when I slept; one time, Daphne even blocked me from falling down the stairs.

But even without the dobes, I can estimate the date of this picture if I look at my parents’ faces long enough. Dad’s ditched his mustache (don’t worry, the upper lip shaving stops again in ’83), most likely in an effort to appear more grown-up and professional, as he is now wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase to work at his dad’s company. Mom’s put on a little weight–maybe she was already pregnant with me when this picture was taken, or maybe she’s just fallen victim to the Freshman 15’s sneakier cousin: the Newlywed 19 (okay, it doesn’t look like she’s packed on that much, but I needed something catchy).

At any rate, this picture shows them a little older than the others, not quite as innocent and goofy looking, but still happy and hopeful. I like this picture because it marks the beginning of a family.  Sometimes it’s difficult to look at early photos and NOT look for the metaphorical clouds slowly gathering–false smiles or strained body language. But however hindsight may have afforded these people different choices, however unfamiliar Mom’s and Dad’s current selves may be to their younger selves (and vice versa), these photos offer me a strange sort of comfort. I can’t warn these happy, young kids about the monkey wrenches to come any more than I can foresee all the bumps and curves ahead in my own life, but that doesn’t mean any of us should spend all of our time anticipating disaster or heartache. All we can do–all we SHOULD do– is remain hopeful, make silly faces with friends, smile at the people we love, and take many, many pictures as we go.

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