In tribute to our mother, I’m only certain of two things on each and every one of my birthdays: I will hear from both of my brothers; cards will arrive before my birthday, and phone calls and text messages will arrive on my birthday. I hold precious this family tradition. It is a celebration of more than my birthday. It is a celebration that, for better or worse, we three siblings share our family-of-origin attributes. And we carry forward traditions that our parents taught and loved.
I pause today to celebrate one of my brothers' birthdays. In celebratory spirit I share one of my favorite childhood family photographs:
Note the brother, far left, is sporting suspenders and a rough-and-tumble cast on his left arm. And a probable fist with his right hand, locked and loaded?And then there is today’s birthday boy to the far right, sporting a holstered toy pistol and a less-than-threatening choke hold on kid sister. This brother, then and now, carries a good bit of the kind-hearted Sherriff Andy Griffith personality and none of the outlaw personality. The probable riot this kid sister initiated to require the good ranger to respond is beyond my memory. Oh what I’d give to listen to, and watch, the “goings on” that led up to this freeze-framed moment in time.
But what I love most about this photo is our mother’s relaxed smile. She has a hand-hold on me and a smile for the record books. I have few pictures from my childhood that sport this smile. She has passed that smile down to at least two generations of women. But when she wore it, I’d never seen such beauty.Without knowing the before-hand events captured in this photo (and do you think I’d believe any brotherly stories?), it is obvious from our mother’s relaxed pose that no real ruckus is occurring. No correction or behavioral modification was about to be commanded. And more subtle (but known to this sister) is that both brothers are having fun in this one moment in time. I recognize both of those lop-sided smiles, still worn at family gatherings, some well-over-half-century later.
And as in all photos from our childhood, we four are all squinting as we look directly into the sun, our dad’s favorite framing to photograph his beloved family.
Happy Birthday, D.L.!