My mother kept a small (it’s only 1¾”x2½”) framed photo in her bag. It’s from my father’s 70th birthday party.
From left, it shows my daughter, Christie; my sister, Carla; my father’s sister, Helen; (in front) Carla’s daughter Emily; me; my father; and my mother.
In 1987 my parents had been divorced for about three years; he’d moved to San Diego, and she’d stayed in south Florida. It was an amiable parting, at her instigation, and they remained close friends, because physically distant. Carla was also divorced, from her first husband, and had not yet met her second one. Helen was widowed for the second time; the first was when her children were young and she was a single mother for many years. My husband hadn’t come all the way across country for this party; he wasn’t much for family reunions, his or mine, in those days.
Emily was just eight, looking oddly formal and solemn in cotton skirt and blouse. I don’t recall her being like that. Christie was 15 and seemed to be enjoying her teenage self at this gathering of family and friends.
Who was taking the picture? My brother? Possibly. He also lived in California. How had our family settled with the men on the West Coast and the women on the East? That sounds like a Disney sit-com, and while my family may have been a sit-com (whose isn't?), it wouldn’t have been a Disney one.
Four of those in this picture are now dead – but their smiles remain, cheerful as long as the photo exists.