I’m taking intermittent breaks from the calendar entries to focus on some of my grandfather’s photographs, which tell just as many stories as the calendars do.
What we have here is a demonstration of how five individual people will interpret the same unambiguous request.
It looks like all five members of the Stamford Blumenaus are gathered around the table in perfect concord, at the same sort of al fresco dinner that millions of Americans will enjoy this month.
Here’s the story as I assemble it in my mind:
- My grandpa has set up the timer on his camera to get a genuine family photo, rather than yet another shot that has everybody but him in it.
We can gather this from, among other things, his side-saddle posture (which also gives us an excellent view of his work-stained khaki pants.)
He is either sitting that way because he doesn’t have time to get his legs swung in before the shutter clicks, or because sitting the “right” way will turn his back to the camera and detract from the shot he has in mind.
- In a radical departure, he seems to have urged the family to eat for the camera, to simulate a candid shot. This is not to be one of those sit-and-grin pictures; he wants a slice of life.
Certainly, his own posture leaves no doubt as to what he wants the rest of the family to do for the camera.
Behind him is his teenage son, later to be my father. Young Rod seems perfectly fine with the paternal edict, stuffing something into his mouth for posterity.
My grandmother is less convinced. She is obligingly holding a piece of food — a cherry tomato? a strawberry? But her facial expression says: You people can be silly if you want. I’m not going along with these wacky ideas. I’ll eat after I hear the click.
My great-grandma is old enough to remember when getting your picture taken meant putting on your Sunday dress and holding your breath for five hours. Eating for the camera is an unexpected convenience of modern life, and, judging from the slant of her mouth, she is content to join in.
Next to her is my future Aunt Elaine, a member of a budding generation of women who will go to college and hold jobs and do everything men can do, only better. Game for new experiences and adventures, she chomps right in.
So, we have four eaters and one skeptic. That’s a pretty good percentage. I guess there’s a holdout in every crowd.
(I wonder if my grandpa saw the developed picture, looked at his wife and sighed in exasperation. It is possible.)
We will end this post as my grandparents appear to have ended the meal — with a pot of campfire-style grill-brewed coffee, the sort that today’s Starbucks-coddled generation would probably spit, horrified, into the weeds.