This is probably my favorite picture of my grandparents. Is it because of the composition? No. The lighting? Hardly. In fact, it’s a bit out of focus and you can’t see much of my grandfather’s face. By objective aesthetic standards, this photo might not even be a keeper.
I’ll tell you what’s so special about it. The magic of this photo is the feeling it evokes whenever I see it or think about it. Immediately I’m transported to my childhood, sitting with my sister in the kitchen of my grandparents’ home.
My grandparents, Phil (short for Philippina) and Louis, were Italian. Real Italian. As in my grandfather arrived at Ellis Island from Corleone, Sicily in 1920 at the age of 11. That kind of Italian.
We were fortunate to live just a few blocks away and got to spend countless hours with them. There always seemed to be a lot of cooking and eating going on in their house – spaghetti and meatballs, braciolone, pasta aglio e olio, homemade pizza and so many other delicious dishes.
While my grandmother cooked, my grandfather took it upon himself to entertain my sister and me. That typically entailed some sort of shenanigans behind my grandmother’s back while she stood at the hot stove stirring a big pot of red gravy, otherwise known as red sauce or pasta sauce if you’re not from around here. When she wasn’t looking, he would mimic her or make silly faces, all the while giggling to himself. He’d do practically anything to get a laugh from us. Most of the time we obliged quietly, careful not to be so loud as to tip her off to what was happening.
Then there was That Day. It was just like any other, except that my grandmother bent over to reach for a pot in a lower cabinet. For some unknown reason my grandfather thought it would be amusing if he pretended to swat her backside with a pound of bacon. He picked up the bacon and swung it, stopping just before making contact. He was so pleased with his effort that he started laughing out loud. My sister and I started laughing, too. The only person not laughing was my grandmother.
“You’re not impressing anybody, Louis.” Bam. She uttered those words even before she turned around. How did she know what was happening? Did she really have eyes in the back of her head? Did she feel the gentlest of breezes? Maybe it was just experience from living with my grandfather for so long. She returned to her cooking without missing a beat.
Did her sharp words that day deter him from his crazy antics in the years to follow? Of course not. Undaunted by her admonition, he kept at it whenever he had the chance. We continued to laugh.
That photo of them together – the expression on her face – instantly takes me back to that day more than 30 years ago. I can still hear her voice. “You’re not impressing anybody, Louis.” Oh, had they only known what an impression they made on our family.
Our photos are amazingly powerful. Be sure that yours are backed up and properly preserved so that your family can savor those memories for years to come.
What’s your favorite photo? Share your memory in the comments below.