Christmas celebrations come in many forms, including, this year, the graduation from nursing school of one of our granddaughters. As part of a celebration event, we dug up pictures of her when she was only 3; she had a massive amount of chocolate on her face. What a difference from the competent and confident college graduate RN walking across the stage to collect her diploma.
Of course when you start looking at old photos, memories flood the mind and it’s hard to stop pulling out those simple pieces of paper with such loving and valuable images printed on their surfaces. This becomes a virtual trip back in time. You can be there, on the very date these images were created.
Two photos in my big cardboard box filled with priceless images, come to mind and flood me with feelings both melancholic and happy. One black and white and the other color; there are two people in each. The black and white has a hand written date on the back, “March 23, 1947.” Two people are in this photo, an older man and a small boy. The ground is white with snow, about five inches; in the background, a typical ’40s white clap board house. The small boy, packing a snow ball, looks up at the older man who looks back with an expression that says, “Please don’t throw that at me.” The older man has on a long black overcoat, a gray hat, a dark a tie. The boy wears a toboggan cap, thick coat and dark trousers. There is dignity in the face of the older man, not harsh, but a gentle expression of caring about others. It is easy to see that he cares very much for the child.
The second photo, color, is also of two people, and like the first, an older man and a small boy. White sand covers the ground, not snow; it is a beach scene with frothy green waves in the background. The man has on a long-sleeved white T-shirt, a wide-brim straw hat, dark green sandals and a pair of black shorts. The boy wears a blue bathing suit with red strips down the sides; he is looking up at the man and smiling. The man is smiling back, and like the man in the other photo, you can see caring for the boy in his face. The machine imprinted date of this photo, Sept. 24, 2009. Both photos tell a story of fun and special times. Unexpected spring snow and a trip to the beach are not everyday experiences. Sixty years separate these photos, but they are linked very closely in several ways.
If it weren’t for the photos’ dating, it would be easy to believe they were made in the same year. It would be easy to believe there weren’t four people at all, but only two, photographed about six months apart, not six decades. Both men have the same expression of affection; both boys have the same thrilled expression and there is a remarkably strong physical resemblance.
One person is in both photos which are separated by 60 years, and both boys were celebrating their 5th birthdays. Their relationship is grandfathers and grandsons. The child in the black and white is the grandfather in the more recent color print, and I am that person in both prints. We all have the same first name of Raleigh. I was named after my father and grandfather and my grandson was named after me. So there are four Raleighs, in addition to their names and some common DNA, they have another similarity, humor. We group of Raleighs love a good laugh and jokes flow easily when we are around. My grandson and I often text jokes back and forth, usually corny, silly and requiring a warped sense of humor to understand. For instance, did you hear about the horse that walked into a bar? The bartender said, “Why the long face fellow?”
My father and grandfather loved jokes and laughing, they would have easily understood this “bad” joke and laughed uproariously.
Because of his early death, my dad never met the latest version of the Raleighs. If “real-time” time travel were only possible, the newest version of Raleigh could meet my dad. Oh, how I would love for that to happen. My dad never had any grandsons and often complained very loudly about that. I can actually imagine a meeting of my father and my grandson; it would be a wondrous experience for both of them and a hoot for me. My dad, who had desperately wanted a grandson, would finally have one. The latest version of the Raleighs would meet one very interesting character; my dad was a three-ring circus with something interesting going on all the time. I believe my dad’s spirit resides in his great-grandson who can be an interesting character himself. With photos we can actually travel back in time, often looking at old photos stimulates the mind to see possibilities that can only be seen in our imaginations, but they can seem as real as any memory — that, is time travel.
The original Raleigh, a minister, was born in 1890; the latest version, a neat kid, 2004. The color photo of me and the fourth Raleigh at the beach has been lost.
Rod Hunter lives in East Bend and is an avid hiker, biker, photographer and nature lover. He is the past state chairman of the Sierra Club of NC. He volunteers as a court-appointed children’s advocate for children in foster care and with Cancer Services Inc. He is a two-time cancer survivor. He has backpacked in Alaska, Arizona, California, Utah, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Georgia, Virginia, and of course North Carolina.