Some Snow!

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Brrrr! This is the kind of snow you somehow imagine when you are a kid, but never really experience – at least most of us won’t anyway, global warming notwithstanding. I think every kid who has built a snow fort has dreamed of something as grand and massive as this. Bigger even than the igloo I always imagined building, but evidently quite secure since our four formidable ladies perch safely atop.

It is indeed unfortunate that there is no indication of where or exactly when this was taken and I can’t help but wonder. It is a photo postcard and there is nothing on the back. The clothes lead us to realize this was probably no later than the teens, a full century ago, the women above in full length dresses, thick warm black stockings on all. There are coats of the heaviest wools with trims and bits of fur. I am not positive, but this image may be populated entirely by women. There’s one figure, on the bottom, second from the right, which may be a young boy, but I cannot see well enough to declare.

I assume that the tunnel through was perhaps of necessity – a path through this extraordinary snow drift – but maybe it was also for fun. I do wonder how someone even managed to make that tunnel though – and where did the excess snow, no small amount, go? Is it just off camera?

As I write this we are commencing the earliest days of winter after a notably mild fall here in the Northeast. (And I for one am heading for Florida for work as I write this – I will be searching the closet for something to wear in 80 degree weather later this week.) The other morning, up very early, I was surprised to see about 20 minutes of hard, fluffy snow – the first of the season, to my knowledge anyway. It didn’t stick. Our extraordinary and notable weather events have been more of the hurricane nature this fall. However, one never knows with winter and weather. Perhaps this will be the year of a big one and we too will make strange burrows and pathways under fifteen and twenty foot drifts here in Central Park.

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Esther and Houtas

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: A recent delving into and wading through old cat photos online has produced some unusual purchases in the form of mostly snap shots. I assumed that was what I was purchasing when I acquired this, but much to my surprise, although it had been pasted into an album, the black photo album paper has torn away on the back to reveal that this was indeed a photo postcard. It was never mailed and written in a neat inked hand on the back is, Esther & Houtas sitting on the wood pile. Ground is covered with snow. I went to the trouble of looking up the name Houtas. I do believe that is her name (it is neatly written) and was able to find some nodding acquaintance to it on the internet. I assume it refers to one of these girls – who I further assume are sisters – as opposed to that nice gray kitty one is holding.

This photo has a timeless quality, and it isn’t until we look closely at those wooly tights and button boots that we realize how old it probably is. Those matching, layered wool dresses and heavy tights look a bit itchy when we consider them seriously, but were probably just the thing for that cold day – no need for overcoats. These girls seem a bit mismatched as sisters, but my own sister and I did not look more alike than this – she of very curly hair and I of very straight.

I have no idea where this card is from or where it was taken, but this spare snowy landscape could stand in for my childhood in New Jersey. This big woodpile is more substantial than the one we generally had out back, although during the course of my childhood we always kept a sizable pile of logs. Much of the cord wood was purchased each fall, although some of it came from limbs that had been trimmed off of our own trees, or as the sad result of a tree that had reached the end of its life and had to be cut down. My mother was always very responsible about the trees and their well being. They were tended to by professionals no less than annually. I personally would have been reluctant to play on the woodpile however, as it was the likely home of mice and even the occasional water rat who wanted a pied-à-terre on dry land. Perhaps for that very reason it was something of a favorite spot for the cats. Although as I remember, some form of wild catnip also grew in the gravel driveway near the woodpile and our enormous cat Pumpkin used to go into rolls of ecstasy over it in the spring. That would have added to the appeal.

The house I grew up in had two enormous fireplaces although we generally only used the one downstairs in what we called the family room. If I ever buy a house a working fireplace will be a must. (I have met New Yorkers lucky enough to have functioning fireplaces in their apartments, but I am not the sort of person who lucks into outdoor space, fireplaces or rent controlled New York apartments. It think it is a skill you are born with, like the ability to hold your breath underwater for a long time or whistle well and on key.) I am endlessly fascinated by fireplaces and will do what I can to migrate to them at restaurants or bars this time of the year. I will settle for gas fires, although there’s nothing like real wood, with the smell, popping of sap, steaming of moisture and the sighing and rolling of disintegrating logs. Oh such bad news for the unsuspecting insects and spiders who took up residence in those logs!

My parents recently moved to a much smaller house, on a cute little patch of property one town over from where I grew up. The house does have a small fireplace, which works at least in theory. These days my mom and dad are too elderly to mess with a fire, even with fake, store bought logs. However, I just promised them the Christmas gift of an electric space heater that looks like a fireplace to ease the drafts in their new house. If I like it maybe I will find room for one here in our tiny New York abode as well.

 

Backyard

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I saw and bought this to ultimately give to a Jack Russell owning new colleague at work. I liked this little guy sporting this sort of homemade looking doggie garb. It is keeping him warm on this snowy day and he also wears a collar. Dogs rarely get center stage here at Pictorama. However, I grew up with dogs, some of you have read those stories, to the same degree as cats so it isn’t like I don’t like them. I do. I am sure if I didn’t live in a tiny studio apartment I would probably live with at least one. And although I have generally lived with medium and large dogs, I have over time developed a soft spot for small ones too. Jack Russell Terriers in particular seem like the right kind of lively canine companions – the kind of dog that likes having a job and takes it seriously. Bred for fox hunting I understand they are high energy and smart. According to the back of the photo, this fellow is Mickey II (I have a friend who has named a seemingly endless line of Poodles Pierre) at 10 weeks, and the photo was printed on December 6, 1937.

He appears to be perched on some sort of wooden storage container – for garbage cans perhaps? For some reason as I look at this photo today I get a yen for having a backyard. There doesn’t seem to be anything especially glorious about this one, but I am not sure it matters. I think any patch of outside you call your own is a special thing and something we unconsciously yearn for sometimes in the city. When you are a kid you learn every inch of it. The designated safe space to be sent out to inhabit when your parents were tired of you inside, or for some other reason felt like you should be “outside playing” it often fell to you to figure out how to activate that space. We didn’t have yards with swings or other features – in retrospect other than the river running behind it, the yards were somewhat barren growing up. I can still remember what they looked like though – the trees that we played under (none of them were climbable) and the docks with their dead fish smells – seagulls having smashed oyster shells on them heightening the familiar stink of seaweed and crab shells in a trap. Still, you always knew that life was teeming in the water just below the surface and just lying on the dock and watching the sea world below was a failsafe activity. We lived on the river in both houses I grew up in, but the one I knew best had a floating dock and the water was calmer. By that time we knew how to swim and my parents worried less when we spent time by the water.

It is only just now starting to grow chillier here in the Northeast, a fall which is being discussed for being more like extended summer this year. However, the yellow light tugs me back to my childhood as it does every year. First the light of September which reminds me of back-to-school from my earliest years – at least those are the ones that come to mind. The school smells of those hallways new to my nose which for some reason still plays over in my mind. But the light of October and early November make me think of playing in our backyard, even more than the long days of summer when I surely spent more time outside. This time of the year reminds me of being about twelve years old and just old enough to feel like I should be outside doing things. Still young enough that making forts and hideaways among the trees appealed and that’s what I remember.

This guy in someone’s backyard in 1937 makes me nostalgic for a backyard this morning. A place where you were out in the world and you could imagine all sorts of adventures, but you knew you were nonetheless home safe.

 

Snow Day

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Happy first snow in Manhattan! I’ve been saving this one for you!

Another area I have trailed off into a bit is photos of cats in snow. Those of us who have lived with cats in the suburbs or country know that they have mixed feelings about the stuff, at best. On one hand, they love to watch it fall! For apartment cats this is pretty much where it starts and ends – although I used to bring snowballs into the bathtub for my cat Otto who enjoyed them immensely. The world as a snow dome. Few things are funnier than watching a cat try to negotiate outside in the snow – especially deep snow. They can walk on it for a second before breaking through – which eventually leads to hopping until they get to a secure dry spot. It is worth noting that none of the cats pictured are actually touching any of that cold wet stuff.

The cyanotype is the photo I have owned the longest and, I assume, the oldest of the bunch. Like many other things I have shared, it lives in my office where I see it everyday. It is backed on a bit of cardboard so I am unsure if it has anything on the back. I believe it came via Canada. It takes a moment and then you realize that it is a photograph of a good size cat clinging onto the front of a very large man. Ouch! Good thing he has layers on. Probably turn-of-the-century, but the farm probably already looked that way for fifty years – and perhaps did for fifty more.

The featured photo is marked December ’49 and I love this kid with his double-fisted cat hold. He too is dressed for the snow around him (snow shovel seems to be right behind him) and a good looking barn behind him. Boy, do they have some snow! Look how high it is on the ladder in the back. He’s got two nice looking cats and they look pretty pleased with their perch on his lap. He’s a pretty old guy today – wonder how this photo got away from him.

Lastly we have my most recent snow cat purchase. It is marked on the back 1942 John Duke & Honey.  Cannot say if Duke is the cat (my vote) and Honey the dog or the other way around. These folks had some serious snow drifts as well, up to the second floor of the house. This kid has his arms around a contented, fat tabby – the dog (dogs really like snow) is guarding them in that proud way dogs do.

I don’t know why, but these photos remind me of my own childhood – which had what probably amounts to an average amount of snow.  Still, no one can resist the thrill of a snow day.