An Oldie But a Goody (In My Humble Opinion)

So if you’re reading this because you received notice about a new post here at Cathy C. Hall, then this random essay might not make much sense. But if you’ve come here from my Muffin post, then yes, this is the 2007 opinion I mentioned and thus makes perfect sense.

(And if you’re totally confused, don’t worry about it. Just enjoy my essay that originally was published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 2007. It’s probably in the archives but who can figure those out?)



 Photo Fallout

pexels-photo-242433This past Thanksgiving I was visiting with my parents when I found a box jam-packed with grainy, fading photographs. My dad sat down with me and we had the best time looking through the pictures, figuring out which woman was my grandmother, which gentleman was my grandfather, and especially, which little boy was my dad.


My dad is eighty-four years old. I’m no math wizard, but some quick subtraction told me these photos were taken in 1933. Or ’35. Or ’38. The point is, way, way back in the day, photos were taken pretty regularly. Imagine that.

Because a search through my mom’s scrapbook will produce an extremely meager stash of her young family’s pictures. Especially when it comes to me, otherwise known as the third-born.

My two older brothers, at two and three-years-old, show up in some dandy pics, wearing cowboy suits and boots, pedaling a tricycle. Or in the park, dressed in little jackets with those ear-flap hats on their buzz-cut heads. Then I was delivered and wham! Welcome to the photographic black hole.

“But what about holiday photos?” you ask. Surely, there’s a precious picture of that only daughter, dressed in red velvet and lace or even footy pajamas. What mother doesn’t have a bounty of black-and-white memories of her little ones, opening presents on Christmas morn, or sitting on Santy’s lap, their tiny eyes all aglow?

Well, okay. There is a holiday photo. I suppose the only reason we have that picture is because my mother didn’t have to take it. There we stand, my two older brothers and I, sort of close, but not really, to the fat, jolly man. We look distinctly uncomfortable. Probably because we had no idea what was going on, being as unfamiliar as we were to the whole picture-taking process.

It’s the only photo I’ve ever seen of me or my brothers with Santa Claus. When I asked my mom about this phenomenon, she claimed nobody took pictures back in the day. When pressed further, she’d say she was too busy raising her children to bother with pictures, especially around the holidays. Like that’s any kind of an excuse.

So I vowed to be the best darn picture taker ever after my first-born arrived. His baby book is crammed with page after page of snapshots, documenting his every move. And Christmas pictures? Too many to count. I’m surprised we didn’t have to take out a loan to pay for all that December adorableness.

When his sister followed a few years later, I clicked away. Her baby book is full, too. Maybe not crammed. Maybe not chronicled month-by-month. More like quarter-by-quarter. But in my defense, she leaped from one milestone to the next, unlike her brother, who crawled at a snail’s pace. Is that the photographer’s fault?

And can you really blame the photographer if at Christmas, a certain little girl had an aversion to sitting on strange men’s laps? There are a few photos of my daughter with Santa, but she’s usually standing to the side of the chair, looking distinctly uncomfortable (like mother, like daughter). So can you blame a parent if those holiday photos weren’t taken at the expensive mall Santa hot spot? I mean, we still had to pay something for the pictures, even if it was a donated can of peas or box of tuna helper.

The third child joined us in 1991, I think it was. And I truly believe that 2008 will be the year I finish his baby book.

But, and this is the most important thing to remember during this holiday season, I do have a picture of my youngest with Santa Claus. There’s a darling Polaroid of him with a teenage Santa taken during a Secret Shopping Day extravaganza. Sure, the photo was free. And maybe I wasn’t exactly there to take the picture. And it’s possible that my child is leaning against the chair because he’s way too big to sit in the scrawny Santa’s lap. But there’s a definite look of wonder on my son’s face.

Maybe the poor kid’s wondering what he’s doing with this fake fourteen-year-old Santa? And I think I know the answer to that. But first, I’ve got to call my mother.

She’s getting an apology for Christmas.






13 thoughts on “An Oldie But a Goody (In My Humble Opinion)

  1. Love your essay, Cathy. My problem with photos is I have so many in boxes and albums that are now looking pretty shabby, I need to get them organized.

  2. Cathy–I have a box of pictures too. They’re all mixed up, out of chronological order.

    You were a great mom. I only have two kids, and the first one got a partial baby book filled up… the next kid got nothing.

    Did your mom appreciate the apology? 😉

  3. Loved reading your essay! I have boxes of pics, that I can’t remember where they were taken or what year! Really wish I had written some info on the back as soon as I got home with them! Most of them will go in file 13 when I am gone!

    • Thanks, Mary! Yes, there’s something really depressing about picking up photos and not knowing the people in them. All you can do is toss them but I feel bad, like I’m throwing those people away. Makes no sense, I know, but I know myself well enough to know that I’m not going to write down all those names on the backs of the photos!

  4. I, too, have boxes and boxes of photos, totally jumbled and unorganized. With the advent of cell phone cameras, I can’t remember the last time I had physical pictures made. Now my pictures are all sitting on the computer or phone, subject to being lost forever if any devices decide to crash.

  5. To this day Barbara the third one of our sister group still reminds us she didn’t have as many pictures taken!!!! I remember the times we did all get together on rare occasions in Savannah or at Tybee we weren’t worried about taking pics we were just happy to be together and it was like oh yeah let’s get a picture and they would have to drag us all together for a quick shot!! Of course I have literally thousands of pics of my 3 grandaughters…how time simplifies and complicates at the same time….enjoying your memories!!

  6. Cathy,

    I’m not commenting on your post right now, though I do really enjoy reading them. I want to say thank you for posting the information about my book signings. The information looks real good.

    Sincerely, Patricia Cruzan

  7. Think I commented on FB about this one, but I’m not sure! I know I read it, and recently, so . . . (I’ve got to stop reading stuff on my phone, because then I can’t remember if I commented or not.) Anyway, this is a great post, even if it’s a repeat. Before my parents died I visited them in Arizona and we went through all their old b&w photos. I wrote down names and estimated dates on the back. It was fun, and I “met” a lot of relatives I’d never heard of before. The other, with the third kid not being in as many photos, is something I experienced. My dad owned a photography studio when my brother and sister were little. By the time I came along he had closed it up in favor of going back to college, so there are a lot fewer photos of me in all my gap-toothed glory. That might be a good thing. lol

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