Recently, a cousin shared on Facebook a photo of my family from the early ’60s on TBT, otherwise known as “Throw Back Thursday,” the day of the week in which posters share photos of the past.
Out of all the designated days of the week in which people share photos on Facebook, from MCM (Man Crush Monday) and WCW (Women Crush Wednesday) to SS (Selfie Sunday), Thursdays are my favorite.
TBT posters usually share real photographs, not digital images from a cellphone, but images captured by a certain shutter speed through a certain aperture that magically appears via a chemical bath on special paper. These are photos you can could hold in your hand, study for as long as you want.
They’re tangible things, not pixels on a screen timed to fade or scroll. I think they’re the best snapshots because they freeze time on paper; and, more often than not, they are candid and unrehearsed snippets of time, not the best of a zillion do-over selfies that are the norm now.
The photo Jennifer posted is of my parents, my five brothers and I at a backyard wedding at my aunt’s house in Winnetka, a suburb of Chicago. It is black and white and dated Sept. 1, 1964. I was 10 years old; my brothers ranged in age from 19 to 8 years old; my folks were in their late 40s. While I can’t recall the day — I’m not even sure which cousin was getting married, Vicki or Angela — I look at the photo and can remember the visceral hot-poker-in-my-chest hate I had for my two brothers closest in age to me, Rob and Paul, since they always ditched me in favor of my older cousins.
As soon as the photo posted, the comments came flooding in. People I hadn’t heard from in 50 years saw something in that photo that sparked a childhood memory. Long-ago friends from high school and college surfaced. Seeing the photo for the first time, my kids saw family resemblances they’d never noticed. Nieces saw traits passed down to their own kids, the third generation.
An old next-door neighbor from the 1970s commented: “Isn’t that Ritchie Rich on the lower right?” (We used to get that ribbing on our last name as kids a lot.) A high school friend of my brother Peter remembered a summer job working on a local farm. “Around the time I first met Peter, we were picking corn on Karl Bailey’s farm and riding around on the Lambretta. I was so glad to have Peter as a new friend then, and loved the whole family so much.”
Somebody from college posted: “I see you, Rob Rich from Eastern Mich Univ.!” More than one said: “Your mom looks like Elizabeth Taylor.” I can see my mother blushing at the thought.
A brother-in-law who knew my exuberant dad resurrected one of his go-to sayings: “Man-O-Shevitz!” My nephew said of his dad: “Pops looks like he just got slapped on the back of the head.” (He probably did.)
My daughter looked at me at 10 years old and saw my 29-year-old niece, Brenna. I can see 4-year-old Sage in her grandfather.
A few weekends ago, my 25-year-old daughter and I were in Chicago and took a drive through Winnetka, past the house where I grew up, my grade school, our church, past my cousin’s house where this picture was taken. My daughter could hardly fathom the surreal time warp I was feeling (“Right there is where Frank, the crossing guard, used to guide us across the street.”) any more than I could grasp what she envisioned of her mother as a little girl playing hopscotch on that very sidewalk.
But I do know this: I may pine for the days of yore with Polaroids and uncombed hair and fingers fashioned as devil’s horns behind an unsuspecting head (old fashioned photo-bombing I suppose) but my, oh my, what Facebook has done to connect people over time, in real time, and through time. It’s a sight to behold.