Photos in a Cookbook

dining room (my parents still have that table and chairs)

Back in 2008 when my cousins were moving¬†Aunt Anne¬†out of her house, Scott and I drove out there one rainy evening to pick up my great-grandfather’s desk and a few other odds and ends. After we got the furniture loaded into our rented pick-up, Lisa handed me a grocery bag and pointed to a large box sitting where the coffee table once had been positioned. It was filled with old photos, letters, and other family ephemera. She told me to fill my bag.

At first, I didn’t really get it. I started glancing at things one at a time. She shook her head and said, “Oh no. Fill that bag on up!” And so, handful by gentle handful, we stuffed that brown paper bag with several generations of family paper. This is how I ended up with the receipt for my grandfather’s birth at Pennsylvania Hospital and a tight little roll of Thanksgiving photos from 1942, among many, many other things.

Bunny, smoking (she died of lung cancer when I was 15)

I rediscovered those photos again over this last weekend. I had tucked them into my copy of the Gourmet Cookbook several years ago, in the hopes that they’d flatten out a little, and promptly forgot about them. I pulled that book off the shelf on Sunday afternoon and the snapshots came tumbling out.

Flipping through them, I wished like crazy for the power to time travel, or at the very least, to be able to slip back in time and observe the past for just a few minutes. I thought of my family’s most recent Christmas dinner, in which we gathered around that very same table (my parents inherited it when my grandma Bunny died in 1994) and the many hours I’ve sat on the hard chairs that go with it (my great-grandfather had the whole dining set made. We all wish he’d gone for a little more padding).

Most of all, I wish I could whisper in Bunny’s ear that the cigarette she’s holding will eventually kill her and that she should really consider giving them up. I often think that she’d still be alive if she hadn’t been a smoker. I so wish could see the wacky career I’ve carved out for myself. I know she’d be tickled by it.

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