Looking Back

I came across an old photo I’ve been saving over the years, a photo from 1917. Pictured is my grandmother (Mabel), surrounded by her three children, Ronald (8), Barbara (4 1/2) and Kenneth (1).

I know quite a bit about the lives of these three through the words of my mother, who happens to be the little girl Barbara in the photo below

Mabel Barbara Beyer Ronald Kenneth 1917

Mom as a little girl looks awfully sweet to me. I hardly recognize her with long hair and those wonderful shoes! Later, my mother was serious and academic. There was little humor in our home and often financial worries and moral and political issues to debate. I love seeing her as a happy child here. Her older brother Ronald looks gentle and content in his sailor suit, while baby Kenneth resembles the thoughtful quiet person he became.

But photos don’t always tell the truth. Ronald was not gentle or content. He ran away from home very early. He was a complex opinionated being, a geographer, a prolific author,  a man who worked for the military, who defended Mexicans in court because he understood Spanish, who was a ski rescuer,  a geology professor and a man who always remembered his nephew and nieces on special occasions.

Kenneth was always the quiet agreeable one. Or was he? He always said yes when asked by his mother to do something…but he seldom followed through. He did not want arguments. He went to jail for his opinions as a pacifist, then eventually was permitted to work in hospitals instead. He married in his 40s. He too wrote a great deal, for the Society of Friends.

And then there was Barbara, the middle child. Barbara did well in school and skipped several grades. She was always insecure because of that however. She loved nice clothes…but never had money for them. She was forced to wear black stockings as a child, which she hated.

She attended good schools, but not those of her choosing. Her mother wanted her to attend more prestigious ones. In the end, mother left the graduate program and married a handsome Frenchman in uniform. The war split them apart for several years, but my father came at last to the USA and began his long career as a professor of French literature.  After the Korean War, my Mother became a professor of Art History. Their lives were not easy…but I suspect few people have easy lives! Photos can capture a moment, but they certainly can’t capture a life.


About fromourisland

Gardener, knitter, wife, mother of 2, grandmother, and lots more.
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6 Responses to Looking Back

  1. Debra says:

    A VERY interesting post! 🙂 Love the old picture….your grandmother was quite pretty and what a lovely hairstyle!

  2. Diane says:

    How nice to know so much about relatives– many do not. I also love your grandmother’s Gibson Girl hairdo!

  3. Jeanmarie says:

    Great story — to hear what happened after the camera captured a moment in time. That picture is unique, too. So many photos from that era lack smiles!

  4. Jeannette says:

    Pictures are not always what they seem that is for sure. I enjoyed this post very much.

  5. Claudia says:

    This is fascinating! Photos freeze moments in time, but they don’t tell the whole story, do they? I love this peek into the childhood of your loved ones and the portrait of who they became.

    Thanks so much for joining in this week!


  6. Susan says:

    I was fascinated by this accounting the lives of these three. It is hard to know what lies ahead for each of us. When I was young, there was a little girl who lived across the street from me. She was quite the bully and was often trying to push me around. One day I had enough, and with the help of another friend, I punched this girl in the nose. Gayle and I were friends after that and she never bullied me ever again. As she matured, she evolved into a very kind compassionate young woman and became a pediatrician with a large practice of young children. You just never know …

    Big Hugs,
    Susan and Bentley

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