Untold Stories From Pictures: A Brother-Sister Relationship

One of my tasks before my mother’s recent funeral was to put together a slide show of her life. I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that my father and maternal grandfather both took many photographs over the years, so the problem was not finding pictures of my mother. She lived for 81 years, and there were pictures of her from babyhood until her last months.

The problem was that the photographs were in a variety of formats from snapshots to slides to 8mm movies [CORRECTION: 16mm] to digital, and even a newspaper clipping or two. Fortunately, my father had had the slides and movies digitized a couple of years ago.

Even more fortunately, cellphone cameras are so good these days that one can use a digital camera to take a picture of an old snapshot, crop it to remove any extraneous material, and thereby create a digital record of the snapshot . . . or just about anything else.

In fact, the digital image can be cropped to make a much more effective picture than the original. Or with photo editing programs, faces can be highlighted and smudges removed. (One does have to watch that glare doesn’t creep into the image, I found to my dismay.)

Still more fortunately yet, my mother’s mother had kept a photograph album of her children labeled with dates and locations. But she didn’t write the stories behind the pictures.

Here is one of the pictures from my mother’s childhood I found:

1938-2 circa 20140708_084539

My mother and her brother as children

I know this snapshot is of my mother and her brother. I know that it took place in 1938, when my mother was five and her brother seven. I know that they are sitting on the steps in front of their home.

But I have no idea what caused them to look so stubbornly away from each other when the photograph was taken.

My mother talked frequently of how her big brother teased her mercilessly when they were children. Since I was the oldest in our family, I really couldn’t relate to her stories.  I was the one who teased younger siblings as I was growing up.

But here is my mother’s and uncle’s relationship, preserved for posterity, after both of them are gone. I smile at it, and wonder . . . what would it have been like to be the little sister?

What pictures show you stories you would like to hear?

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  1. A great writing challenge/project is to write a short story or essay based on what you perceive from a photo. I’m wondering who took the photo and what did he/she tell the children to do? As you said, the separation between the two speaks of not even wanting to touch the offending sibling of the opposite sex. In addition to that, like most of us who have our picture taken, these two had no clue of how to act or pose. Looks like your mother and uncle experienced that same predicament but it can be interpreted as simply abhorring each other. 🙂

    • Either my grandfather or grandmother took this picture of their two children. Because of the lack of posing, I suspect my grandmother, though the usual photographer was my grandfather.
      I look at the expressions on both children’s faces, and I wonder if one or both are smirking. Which is why I wish this story had been told.
      Thanks for commenting,

    • Joan,
      You’re right — the picture tells the story.
      But I always want to know the details. What caused them to turn away from each other like that? Which one caused the dispute?
      Thanks for reading,

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