Jim Terry
Those pictures in my mind
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By Jim Terry
March 4, 2020

My grandmother's photograph album contains a snapshot made around 1945. Six youngsters pose on a sawhorse in order from youngest, that is I, to oldest, a cousin. Nancy Jo, Jerry, Kay and Patsy sit between us, each with arms around the kid in front. Nancy, Jerry, and Patsy, siblings, were our neighbors. Kay and her older sister, Zell, my cousins, were also neighbors. I don't know who came up with the idea for the photo, but, I suspect my mother had a part because she always had her camera handy, as far back as I can remember.

In 1949, Nancy Jo and her family left us to start a new life in California. I remember the day they left. Their Woodie station wagon, with a canvas water bag attached to the front bumper, was packed and ready to hit the road.

My mom, my aunt, and Nancy's mom had become great friends. We gathered to give our final goodbyes that morning; handkerchiefs wiped away tears. They consoled one another, "I'll write," or "Let's stay in touch," and, "Maybe we can come to see you when you get settled. We've never been to California." We watched the car grow smaller as it headed down our street toward Highway 80, which ran through our community. A left turn and they were on the road west, to that land of milk and honey.

My aunt and my mom traded letters and Christmas cards with our old friends for many years. One of the cousins in the pic also communicated with the girls. The two girls were blondes, very attractive, and older than I. Their brother was a handsome boy with dark hair and skin. We all thought he would be at home on those California beaches. My memories of them and those happy days were refreshed each time I looked at that old photo.

Several years ago, I opened a Facebook account at the urging of my daughters. It was the newest thing and so much fun, they assured me. To its credit, I found Facebook to be valuable in one respect – I have tracked down, and now communicate with, several cousins and a few old friends, using that forum.

In 2018, I noticed a cousin's Facebook page – one of the cousins in the sawhorse photo – had a post from Nancy. Unsure who this Nancy was, I looked at her Facebook page. She lives in California. I contacted my cousin and asked about this Nancy; she confirmed. This was my Nancy Jo, the sweet little girl behind me in the seventy plus year old photo. I sent Nancy a Friend request; she accepted and my first message to her contained that iconic snapshot.

After all those years, my memories came alive. I have now seen, through a twenty-first century electronic album we call Facebook, how the little cotton-haired girl with the cherubic face, perched behind me on that wooden sawhorse for an instant more than seventy years ago, grew to be a beautiful woman.

Memories are powerful. Several years ago, in a creative writing class, the instructor gave us an exercise, "Reflect back as far as you can and write about everything you remember." I thought, this won't take long. However, as I began to write of incidents from childhood, my mind opened and memories spilled onto the paper.

I re-read my journey through life and it occurred to me that many of those scenes, put down in words, were also pictures in my mind. Later, I looked through several old albums at images, many sixty to seventy years old, and reflected on how many times I had looked at them over the years. It was they, those old photos, and Mom's handiwork – her sense of capturing time with her camera – that had kept many of those memories alive.

My wife and I occasionally visit antique stores. I am often saddened to see old family photos, probably abandoned to an estate sale, stripped from their albums and tossed into some antique basket or bowl with their price marked in pencil on the back. Families' legacies, memories, and stories in pictures, no longer reminding descendants of those good family days of the past.

Author Rodman Philbrick wrote, "The only real treasure is in your head. Memories are better than diamonds and nobody can steal them from you." Those are beautiful words. However, in my experience, old photos help to keep those memories fresh.

© Jim Terry

 

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Jim Terry

Jim Terry has worked in Republican grassroots politics for 40 years. Terry was an administrative assistant to a Republican elected official in Dallas for twenty years. In 1996, he ran for and was elected to Justice Court 2 in Dallas County where he served eight years. Contact Jim at tr4guy62@yahoo.com

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