Power of a Portrait: All Because Two People Fell in Love

Great-Grandma Lillian and Great-Grandpa Raymond both grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. But under very different circumstances.

He was the son of a doctor. She lived across the proverbial tracks.

He was an only child. She the youngest of nine.

In his world, higher education was a given. In hers, she managed to squeeze in secretarial classes with part-time jobs and loans from her sister Mattie

But sometimes… differences don’t matter. They came together anyway--with a courtship consisted of picnics along the shores of the Ohio River, digging for freshwater mussels and giggling at the dramatic drop of the roller coaster at Fontaine Ferry

In the roaring 20s, life was good. Raymond loved to plink out a tune on the piano. Lillian made the best chicken n’ dumplings I’ve ever tasted. The Great War had been fought over a decade before. The flu pandemic was long gone. Electric lights were an exciting new invention. The stock market crash wouldn’t happen for another 5 years.

And in this snapshot, now nearly a century old, they are proud. Happy. Almost giddy. Just two people taking a moment. Capturing life as it was. Now three generations get together every 4th of July with deviled eggs, green beans, and fried chicken. Three children, seven grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 9 great-great-grandchildren. And counting.

All because two people fell in love.

What portrait holds power for you? What snapshot do you have, which tells the story of so many lives? Who are YOUR Raymond and Lillian?


Power of a Photograph: My Mom & I in NYC

I have a secret to share … not all of the framed images in my house are great photographs. In fact, one of my most treasured photos is a snapshot.

And I’m a little obsessed with it.

I have copies of this photo in two different email accounts and its backed up in at least 2 other places.  Plus, I have it in multiple sizes of paper copy, including 1 in my fire-proof box - just in case.

Why on earth would anyone go to all that bother, right?  For a photograph?

Because to me, it’s more than a photo.

It’s the last snapshot taken of me and mom together.

It was taken at Rockefeller Center - yes, the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, NYC. Neither my mother nor I look like the epitomes of fashion. We’re both the definition of the casual tourist. Disheveled. Exhausted. Smiling. TOGETHER.  

New York City was one of Mom’s favorites. She loved it in movies (The GodfatherSaboteur, The Thin Man) and I’d always promised myself that I would take her there. Since my parents’ divorce, mom’s vacations had been limited to a handful of trips to family living outside KY.

I wanted to do something special just for her.

She visited me while I lived in DC, so I booked us tickets on Amtrak, so she could travel by train - like in the classic black & white films that she loved sharing me with as a kid.  (Strangers On A Train, anyone?)

As we walked from Penn Station, she basked in the energy of the city. As we took a detour past FAO Schwartz, Mom giggled remembering Tom Hanks sliding along the long, giant piano keys in the movie Big.

If I take a deep breath, I can hear the squeals & giggles of the children on the ice skating rink below.  I can smell the hot dogs from the nearby vendors. I can see Mom grinning at some kids playing tag. I can see her making eye contact with young moms, reassuring them of their motherhood skills with a nod & a soft smile. I can feel her passion as she beckons me to the historic plaque nearby.

A single photograph can do all types of things, even bring back a few moments with a loved one no longer with us. 

What photograph means the most to you today? Are you protecting it? 

How will you preserve your memories for generations to come?