Ancient History

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Six brothers

Back when cameras and film were expensive, photographers had to be very deliberate regarding they wanted to capture.

The events on film meant something. I’m not sure they snapped photos on random Tuesdays, simply because the light in the kitchen looked nice.

I feel I am looking at a red letter day in every black and white or sepia rectangle.

These six men are brothers. One of them is my great-grandfather. I do not know which man is my great-grandfather because the photo isn’t labelled. I’ve studied the faces, trying to discover a flash of resemblance or something familiar. I gave up.

The photo must have marked an important occasion, or at least it marked the important occasion of being in the same town at the same time. When adult siblings grow up, it can become a rare and impressive feat to gather in the same place at the same time.

I wonder if the six brothers ever found themselves standing in a line again, wearing smart suits.

In between takes, they reminisced. Maybe one of them took out the old photo and remarked how much they had changed. Now they had thinning hair. Greying hair. More topographical faces. More stout, less stout, and finally, sadly, inevitably:

Five brothers, in a row, gathered for an important occasion.

(Edited to update: Talked to my dad. Great-grandfather is the third man from the left. Albert. Turns out he’s in another photo on my blog. I wrote about the bar my dad’s family owned. Some of the other men, he remembers, were named Otto, Henry, and Louis. Great names, all. My dad estimates the photo was taken in 1910 or so.)

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