This post is a day late but yesterday was one of those days where much as done but not everything accomplished. A trip to the Vet for our Nicky – we’re helping to feed Dr Porcino’s 18 daschunds – followed by a laugh-filled pranzo with my friend Marco, then champagne and dolci with Maria Luisa and Laurent capped by an evening at the opera with Riccardo Muti conducing a special performance of Rossini’s Moise et Pharon just for my birthday. Okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration but its a nice thought. Between that and greetings from friends it was an almost perfect birthday.
When I packed up things for the move to Warsaw 11 years ago I had a large box of family photos to bring with me. I had retired and was going to have the time to go through them, scan them, burn them to a disc and have family and friends help me identify some of the people I didn’t recognize. Well as they say the best planned lays ….
Over the last week or so I’ve been thinking about that box sitting on a top shelf here in Roma. I have come to realize that most of the people who could have helped me remember or discover the names behind the faces smiling or squinting into the Brownie Box lens have left the scene. Now many of those faces and the events those photos recorded will fade away as in time will the images. And that fills me with, if not a sadness, a profound melancholy.
Though the bulk of the photos record events in my parents life – both in Ireland and Canada – many captured people and places from my childhood. Unlike today back then I didn’t seem to have an aversion to a camera flash. When I took the box of its shelf yesterday, in a fit of birthday nostalgia, I came across three photos that would have been taken, if not on the same day, certainly around the same time.
These would have been taken in the late spring or early summer of 1947 in the backyard of our house in what was then the countryside outside of Toronto. I had been born on December 9 of the previous year – according to family legend a snowy, blowy day in Toronto. My mother had been told – after losing two children – that she could never carry full-term so on the 8th my father announced that he would be off work as his wife was giving birth at 0930 on the 9th! And thus little William John came into the world – I recall that later I delighted in quoting Macduff that I “was from my mother’s womb untimely ripped.” Given the period and state of medicine at the time perhaps a more honest description than I thought.
This would be me with my Aunt Vic who lived across the street from us. She wasn’t really my aunt but in our family close friends were referred to as Aunt and Uncle. She had no children of her own and fawned over and spoiled me no end. She was a tiny French Canadian woman with a strong accent who’s life was the stuff of novels. She didn’t have a phone and would use ours occasionally; however she believed that the further away a person was the louder you had to talk. When she called her family in Rimouski all her sister really should have done was open the window she would have heard her just fine.
My father, Ab – a nickname he got because his little sister couldn’t pronounce Albert, was the centre of my universe for the first 14 years of my life. I don’t ever recall once in that 14 years going to bed without kissing him goodnight. I’m sure I’ve allowed time and circumstances to romanticize both the man and my relationship with him. Like most people I’m sure he had his faults and foibles but I only remember him as a loving and caring father. Fifty years later I still miss him.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve ticked off another year but I think maybe I should dig a little deeper into that box before any more memories or photos fade away.
09 decembre – Juan Diego nato Cuauhtlatoatzin