I’ve been going through a lot of my old family photos lately (you know those old fashioned things called prints?) trying to catch up with scanning them into my digital archives. Don’t get me wrong I’m still all about the tactile nature of prints but so many of the older ones are starting their inevitable fade and I don’t want to lose them for good so I sit, sort and scan a few hours every now and then. Realistically this is going to take me MONTHS. Many of them are making their way to my Flickr stream as a sort of back-up of my back-up (I burn em to CD too).
Most of the pictures of my family from the 60’s through the 70’s are on slides and that is going to take buying a different scanner. I looked into sending them out to the scanning services but OHMIGOD those are expensive. I have a shitload of slides and I don’t have those kind of resources so I will do it myself. I found a bed scanner that can hold I think up to 16 slides at a time (back-lit) which isn’t too bad. Sure it will ALSO take me months to go through them, but I need to do it soon as my slides are degrading even faster than the prints. People are disappearing like the photo Marty McFly has in Back to the Future.
Choosing the first batch of photos to scan for this go round wasn’t difficult. In the “great summer purge” I was going through the many boxes of photos we had to organize them more in the plastic storage tubs instead and found a cache of my Dad’s old photos from the late 50’s which would have put him in his early 30’s. They are some fantastic old black and white photos many fading to sepia. I scanned them and kept the original as well as the p-chopped “restored” to their black and white origins. Not sure which I like better.
As I looked at his familiar yet also unfamiliar face it has me wondering who he was back then, back before he met my Mom. He seemed to be care-free and full of fun. He made silly faces in photos, yet could look killer sophisticated when dressed up in his custom tailored suits. It was like finding a treasure.
The Dad I knew wore work clothes that smelled of the wood he worked with.
At home wore old pants and shirts with cigarette burn holes in them from the tobacco that would fall out of his hand stuffed cigarettes. The Dad that put on one of his couple of “good” shirts and his one sport jacket (which I now own and used to steal, roll up the sleeves on and make smell like perfume which he HATED) and slicked his hair back with Brylcreem to go do the shopping on Saturdays or the occasional walk in the park.
The Dad that always smelled of Ivory Soap and was always always squeaky clean. The Dad whose idea of cologne was to slap on Old Spice (he considered cologne “fruity”) but only when he was going out so the bottle lasted forever. The Dad whose idea of a social life was watching the TV or being dragged out by my Mom a couple of time’s a year to a friends house or to host them. These were HER friends and their “dragee” husbands.
My Dad had wanted a boy. He was so convinced Mom was having a boy he had a boy name all picked out for me, William. I’m guessing it was for his brother Bill. He had taken on my Sister (my Mom’s first kid) and I’m guessing figured that it would make the family balanced if I was a boy.
When I popped out as a girl (surprise!) my Mom sat in the hospital with a baby book trying to figure out what to call me. She said my Dad was campaigning to call me Willamina (Will-a-mee-na) his oldest Sister’s name (and I’m guessing the closest to William he could get for a girl?) My Mom would have none of it (thanks Mom!)
My Dad really wasn’t sure how to handle having a girl. I mean my Sister was already something like 5 years old before she came into his life and he wasn’t raised with a whole lot of hugging and kissing and stuff. He would sit me on his knee and tickle me until I almost threw up from screaming and when he hugged me it was more of a brief man-hug with a slap on the back (made noise). I still looked up to him so much and wanted him to spend time with me. I was a pretty good kid all around but when I would get in trouble if my Mom got mad at me it was no big deal cos I saw her every day. If my Dad did though? Oh my gosh I CRIED.
I followed him around like a puppy. When i showed interest in gardening we would work together quietly when he turned the soil and I pulled weeds. He taught me how to split wood and didn’t discourage my interest in tools. He taught me how to hammer a nail and I built my own fort in the back yard. When I joined a softball league (and I was kick-ass at it thank you very much) he would throw the ball around with me now and then. I wanted him to PLAY with me more but looking back I realize this was his way. I enjoyed doing this “boy stuff”. My mother was the supplier of the girl stuff (the dolls and the like) my dad gave me my first Hot Wheel car which sowed the seed of my lifetime love of cars. I was allowed to climb trees and set fire to things. My Mom’s head would explode because I was a girl and girls don’t DO those things! She was always so worried I would fall off things that she would always hold onto the back of my clothes and never let me climb the back stairs when I was little (which I swear made me stair inept to this DAY!)
He wasn’t a TV Dad. He wasn’t one that you could sit and talk to like Mike Brady from the Brady Bunch. I used to fantasize that he was my Dad and he would listen to me and give me advise and the all important hugs and encouragement. I know my Dad loved me and he showed it in his own way but man I would have killed for some of that hugging stuff.
Despite all that and the ups and downs in our family over the years I did love my Dad and I miss him still. I miss his quirky sense of humour that we both shared. I miss his smokey laugh. I’m sorry that he didn’t get to spend more time with Chris than almost five years because Chris looked up to him as much as I did. Funny how so many things are cyclic, Chris followed him around like a puppy and helped him garden too.
Sean never knew him, he died when Sean was 4 months old.
The great irony was when I was pregnant he had secretly been hoping I would have a girl. Not that he didn’t love Chris in his way when he came along or Sean for that matter for the time he knew him. I had been kind of insulted at the time and defensive cos come ON I was so proud of my little boy. His kind of flippant comment of “try to have a girl next time” I took as a slap. I guess looking back I can take it instead as a sign that having a girl didn’t disappoint him after all.