It’s All In The Details-Childhood Revisited

Today’s DP Challenge: What is your earliest memory? Describe it in detail, and tell us why you think that experience was the one to stick with you.

My memory of a good portion of my childhood is like Swiss cheese at times; most memories I have are more like flashbacks or still photos of a time or place with no background to fill in the gaps.
However I do have one very clear memory.

I remember when and where this photo was taken though I don’t know the circumstances behind it.

It is a photo that my parents paid a professional to do. The first and last time they ever did, other than those packages you can buy taken at school.

I don’t know why my parents decided to spring for the extra cost of a professional photographer and since they are both gone now I cannot ask them.

It was taken in the spring. The year the photo was taken is lost as the only thing on the back of the photograph is Pied Piper Studios. I remember the photographer came to our dingy little rented house on Alexandria Street in Los Angeles with all his equipment, e.g., lights, cameras, assorted props and a platform that had two steps made from plywood. He arranged us to sit on those steps and snapped photos of us. Two kids on the top row because they were the older two; my brother and me on the bottom row because we were two years younger and known as “the little kids.”

I was about three years old which would make the “big kids” five.

Always and forever we were “the little kids” even though we ended up being bigger the “big kids.” The label I suppose came out of two sets of twins two years and a week apart. “Big” and “little” kids were easier for my parents to remember than four individual names.

I remember the color of the dresses my sister and I wore. Mine was yellow with orange flowers and hers was blue. I got to wear that dress for about three years– as was always the case. My mother dressed us alike; dressed the boys alike also. Maybe it was cute, but for me it meant if there was a dress in my closet that I hated it didn’t matter. I got to wear mine until I outgrew it then got to wear the hand-me-down from my sister.

I also know that my mother had let my aunt, her sister-in-law, cut my hair.  Why she didn’t also cut Erin’s hair I do not know.  What’s with those bangs anyway?

My parents told us that it was an important day. This photo session was important they told us.

We had to sit on that hard wood platform a long time. Then the photographer took individual shots of each of us.

Throughout the years, even when we moved from California my father hung the 11 x 14 portrait of this photo. As we grew up and moved out he still held onto that photo. Even after my parents divorced, my dad didn’t seem to care much about anything but that photo as well as those individual shots.

Something about that photo said something to him. He never said what but neither did he ever let it out of his hands.

This photo was hanging in his house until the day he died.

I look at that photograph now and remember it was a big deal for my parents—especially my dad. It contains a mystery though. What motivated an extra expense at a time when money was tight? What did that photograph say to my dad that he coveted it so much? Why didn’t he just tell us what his thoughts and/or feelings were about this photograph?

11 thoughts on “It’s All In The Details-Childhood Revisited

  1. That was so lovely to read. Maybe since your dad arranged for a special photo-shoot so he always held on to the result of the shoot, which is this photograph. And it is a very nice photo with all of you smiling and twinkling eyes. Any parent would hold on to it and cherish it forever! 🙂


    • I know, as a parent myself now I would embrace and hold onto that photo with love and adoration. But my mother didn’t. My dad did. I think there is some hidden story there why my dad did but mom didn’t. Curiously it always made me wonder about them. Their differences.


      • Oh! I guess that’s (differences) what led to their going their separate ways too. But now since both are already gone, remember the niceties and cherish the good memories. You can delve into the past but you’ll have no answers from them so there’s no point in thinking about the whys. Maybe even she did like it but wasn’t as much in love as your dad. It happens you know with photos and they speak differently to different people so…


  2. My early memories of being photographed are all of the dreaded Olan Mills. Tightly parted hair, starchy dresses, and stern reminders to sit still and pose nicely. There was only one of me though. Can’t imagine being one of a set of twins.


    • We were well behaved, ok? It was that or a beating. We sat and smiled for the camera if that’s what was required.

      I remember Olan Mills! I went once as a requirement. Our HS had contracted with them to have the graduating portraits taken. So I went, had photos taken and that was that. My kids didn’t have to go to a studio for that whole thing, instead the photographer came to the school with all sorts of props, including graduating gowns and they could each dress the way they wanted. The photographer even let me be involved somewhat, knowing how my kids looked best, in what pose since I’d been snapping pics of them for 18 years. They were very gracious really and the pics turned out great.

      Is Olan Mills even still in business? I know Wal-Mart, Sears, places in a mall and a variety of other stores offer photo packages probably cheaper and certainly according to our schedule rather than making an appointment. I imagine Olan Mills couldn’t compete with that.


      • Olan Mills was alive and well in Alabama a couple years ago – my folks insisted that we meet them for a family photo sitting with our daughter. Oh, the memories I got from that place. And the pictures are just as forced as I remember them.


      • Forced, yes isn’t that the truth? Not nearly as fun as those impromptu photos captured that are near and dear to our hearts. Those that are actually framed and hung in our homes rather than those one POSED and constructed and sent out in the obligatory mailings. So stiff some of them. I blame the photographers though. If they were good and really really good then they’d get the LIFE out of a photo. Or I’m being harsh perhaps. There is absolutely a place and a time and a need for posed photos but they really don’t reflect our lives do they?


  3. I love how you constantly allude to a special hidden meaning behind the photograph… like some huge family secret. It’s kind of eerie, but in an interesting way!

    Also, two sets of twins in your family!?! How cool!


    • Oh stop that! Stop reading between the lines ok? 😉 lol!!! You’re right though. There was all kinds of secrets with my dad, with my mom, that were separate from each other but intertwined. Of course I only found out the details as I was older. But each family has secrets don’t they? Sort of?

      Yeah the two sets of twins…2 years and 1 week apart. Ugh…I could fill up a lifetime of blogs about THAT set up! It wasn’t cool for us, the 4 twins as there was no clear birth order and maybe that makes a difference. Maybe not, it sure did in my family though!

      My mother used to lament that if they could have gotten the $50 to pay Lloyds Of London for an insurance policy against the odds of a twin birth again without a single in between, she’d have been rich! Yeah I wish she’d managed to do that too!


  4. On the walls of my parents house were many family photos. Now that my dad has remarried, my family’s photos are disappearing, either being taken down or moved to rooms no one goes into frequently. Photos of family members unknown to me are now in the open. It hurts but it’s the way things are. Because of an accident, my earliest childhood memories start at age 15. Pictures are my memories of my early life. Thanks for sharing.


    • Why don’t you take those family photos out of an unused room and display them in your home? Or is that not a doable proposition? I think you’re right, it is the way of things…but it doesn’t have to be.

      Thanks for reading!


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