Friday, September 11, 2009


My parents needed only two photo albums to completely document their lives: their own growing up years, their marriage, and the subsequent birth of their six children. Imagine—two albums. A baby born in the 21st century has the equivalent of two albums of pictures on a memory card in the family’s digital camera within an hour of birth.

That’s why this picture is special. The picture was taken in the spring of 1953—most likely Easter, because we appear to be dressed up at someone else’s house and all eight of us are on the photo, a rarity. There’s no snow, so it’s not Christmas. Martin Luther King Day hadn’t been invented yet, and we weren’t Irish so didn’t dress up on St. Patrick’s Day. Process of elimination: Easter. Lutherans always dress up for Easter.

My youngest sister would have been about three months old or so—and no disrespect to Michael Jackson (may he rest in peace), she was the first, the original “Blanket” baby. Evidently, in our culture, we believed that babies could not be photographed until they were a year old or their spirits would be stolen by the camera.

Not only that, but my younger sister and I (front row, center and right, ages 3 and 4½) appear to be emerging from our blanket status. Instead of having our blankets over our heads like our baby sister, we have been promoted to baring our faces and tying the blankets under our chins.

My mother and my two older sisters, who were 7 and 11 years old at the time, are completely bareheaded, indicating that they are now fully grown women of marriageable age. I believe we were allowed to discard our blankets when we learned to bake lefse, a symbol of womanhood.

My brother and father, of course, wear hats. Males in our culture wear hats forever (see TA AV EDERS HAT, PAPA) unless the women or children in their lives remind the men to remove them. It has to do with male pattern baldness and, in the case of young boys, preparing for male pattern baldness.

Every old photo has a story. Every story is a peek into a time and place that no longer exist, but which make us who we are. Blankets and hats—part of my cultural history.

1 comment:

bd said...

Those were the days! New dress for Christmas, new dress for Easter. And 2 good pairs of pants for school, the ones you wore everyday all week and the ones "in the wash". Love all the old pictures!