78: To Be Continued

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In the photo are my grandma and grandpa, newlyweds, fresh from a courting that involved some time apart while pops flew plane parts to patriotic pilots during WWII and, somewhere along the way (Prague sounds nice to me) picked up a fancy-looking golden-colored wall clock to gift, and hopefully impress, the young blond nurse back home he’d been eyeing.

For her part, she spent this part of war time teaching soldiers (a specific type, those returned home wounded) how to use their hands again. She taught leather embossing classes, a craft dexterity lesson disguised as a manly pursuit and a pounding of hammers to wallets or belts, accoutrements to use whenever their minds and bodies stopped phantom-limbing the butt of a gun, stopped buzzing with air sirens, long enough to get back to work.

Work is very important to these people. Even to the other people in this photograph, my grandma’s parents, who spent their adult lives living mostly off of money handed down from them by her father, who had it handed down by his father, who invented a type of hay rake and steam engine that made manning the land a hell of a lot easier.

In this photo, they’re posing in front of a two-story farmhouse that sits on land once farmed out by the semi-famous inventor ancestor. The land and the house were still in the family circa 1954 and it was handed down to my grandma and her new husband, the airman. (The hands doing the handing down of these things are getting slipperier and slipperier, emptier and emptier. Less dexterous, more ham-salad fisted.)

Also in the photograph: a house standing at attention, in profile, behind this well-dressed family. At the time the shudder snapped, this house had recently been or is about to be remodeled. To become a mid-century modern farmhouse. Company employee residents gently evicted, to become a home for this bright young couple and the five children written in their stars overhead.

They keep the renovations simple. It is a farm, after all, and they are publicly pious Christians, and, perhaps most influentially, my grandma has a rusted metallic taste in her mouth from growing up with wealth. Wealth had never allowed her to get to know her parents, who always seemed to be dallying about somewhere she wasn’t, toasting whiskey sours with the Warren G. Hardings (also once children in this small town) or whomever the debutante du jour may have been. Wealth had her childhood buttoned up in itchy, unrelenting skirts, crisp as an autumn apple plucked from the tree in their backyard—a tree that she was not to climb, apples she was not to eat, if she wished to be considered a respectable young lady…

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Click to see original image:

“Portrait of an unidentified man in glasses” by Dorthea Lange, 1935