Family Portrait with Pets

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo struck my fancy the other day. It is the sort of photograph which I liked better and better the longer I looked at it. It is, if you will, the sort of bread and butter photograph Pam’s Pictorama is largely made up of – early 20th century photos of people posing with cats. This one, identified on the back as taken in May (with a ? in place of a day) 1936, with nothing else written on the back. It is a photo postcard, but it is printed on a lesser, lighter stock than they usually are and as a result feels and looks more like just a photo – curling a bit with age. It was never mailed and I don’t know how well it would have stood up to those rigors.

I assume this is a portrait of a family, or at least mostly so. There isn’t a strong resemblance amongst them, but enough to convince me when I look closely, especially around those participants in the center. Only a single man and boy show up in this preponderance of women and girls in mostly spring finery. And of course what sold me was that between the dozen people crammed in here, no less than five of the family pets were scooped up for inclusion. While the three cats and the puppy caught my eye initially, it was the little girl holding the rooster that really made it special. I have debated on the possibility of Mr. Rooster actually being stuffed, but I think he is just standing at attention – there’s something about her hand around him that make me think he is alive. The kitten next to him is taking it pretty well if that is the case, but perhaps they know each other well. In general the cats seem to require a certain two fisted clutch in order to be kept a hold of – the puppy is content with being held, as they often seem to be too. I like the idea that when someone said family photo all these critters were scooped up too.

On this spring morning these folks are presented as a neat and well dressed group, boasting Depression era fashion including sporty berets on three of the girls, the toddler among them. Warm enough day that most of them are in short sleeve dresses, although they range from that to coats. I am somewhat undecided about whether that is some old snow stuck on the fence behind rooster-holding girl, although I land of the side of probably when I blow the photo up. I think you could have that on an early day first warm day in May where spring is just beginning to sort itself out.

When I began Pam’s Pictorama it was for the sole purpose of organizing my photos, mostly those of people posing with Felix, so that they could eventually be published in a book and to entertain myself with this project while recovering from foot surgery. Pictorama took on a life of its own expanding almost immediately and, more than 400 posts later, it has covered a lot more territory than that. Still, when I purchase a photo like this, I mentally file it in a future chapter devoted to photos of people and their pets, and oh what a book it will be.

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Trophies

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Fair warning, you Pictorama readers who have followed these posts for a bit know that occasionally I fall out of my self-designated lane of discussing toys, photos, early Felix and black cat items, and instead head down a tributary which is another which is purely personal. That’s what we have today. I wrote this a few days after Thanksgiving, although I am sending it from Arkansas where I have been on business this week. I am posting it as we start the inevitable countdown to Christmas and New Year holidays. All around, it is a time when family is at the front of mind and this post has been scratching at my brain for awhile.

Some of you who follow me on other social media have been privy to bits about of my parents selling the house I grew up in New Jersey, moving first to a house they rented (briefly) and finally into an adorable, little house in a town adjacent to the area I grew up in. As someone who tends to put emotional currency in objects that exercise was especially difficult at times. Many items were lost or damaged making me crazy – although I guess others were found or discovered too. Ultimately, I focused on just a few items and attempted to ensure those survived the tousle of moving. Among the items were my sister Loren’s (oddly fragile) rugby trophies from her undergraduate years at Princeton. My sister, who died in 2003, had her share of awards – she was a PhD in mathematics and had a pile of academics achievements, some of which are memorialized in plaques and certificates that decorated the walls of my parent’s house. Perhaps some of those were more important to her than these which resided in her old bedroom at my parent’s house, on display on the dresser there but these are what I held onto.

Loren played rugby during her undergraduate years at Princeton. Very athletic all her life, she was full of restless energy and it was often said among us in the family that if she didn’t do at least two different work-outs a day she would drive you nuts – swimming and biking, running and lifting, tennis and so on. My mother says that from the time Loren was old enough to get herself out of bed she would roam the house at night, a reality my mother evidently learned to put up with early on or she never would have slept again herself. An older Loren would practice her violin way into the night each evening and we all became accustomed to being lulled to sleep that way. (I on the other hand was the family sleep champion and evidently slept through the night the first day my mother brought me home from the hospital – prompting her to wake in a panic thinking I must have died, or so the story goes.)

Captain of her cross country team in high school and involved in as many sports and teams as the schedule of each season would allow, rugby was new to Loren when she arrived at Princeton, but she took to it quickly. If I knew how she landed on rugby, I don’t remember now. Her academic schedule was very rigorous though and perhaps the schedule was one that suited her.

I believe that it was during my senior year in high school, her sophomore year, that I visited her and spent the weekend. I went to my first and only rugby game – and loved it! It was fast paced, bloody and muddy as I remember it. Loren was a good size and very muscular, but her co-captains and some of the women from the other team dwarfed her much to my surprise. She held her own on the field though and I cheered her on in scrums. There was robust drinking by both teams after the game, which I believe Princeton won. As for me, I got an advance taste of collegiate life. I was under no illusion that I would or could follow her to Princeton. I was never as academically gifted as she, but nonetheless the visit gave me a taste of anticipation for college life as I applied to schools and mapped my own future.

So a few months ago, out of everything I took out of my parent’s house and secured the safety of, I took these two rugby trophies to a friend’s house for the duration of the move. I have yet to install them in the room now designated for Kim and I when we visit, but when I do it will feel more like a second home to me too I think.