Photos bring back memories

Published 11:59 pm Friday, June 5, 2009

How I wish I could recapture just a few hours of that time, I thought, as I gazed at my favorite photograph of my two cousins. They were from opposite sides of my family. Betty, my senior by about three weeks, was my aunt’s child on my daddy’s side. Harold, almost six years younger than me, was my mother’s youngest sister’s son.

Betty often accompanied my parents and me on our annual summer visit with Harold and his parents. Harold and Betty even claimed “cousin-ship.”

Using my prized little Brownie camera, I took that picture of them standing on a little footbridge near Harold’s house in St. Andrews, Fla. Tucked under each one’s arm were the rat terriers I grew up with. Harold’s dog Pee Wee stood beside him. I remember how excited I was when I dropped the film off and picked up the pictures a few days later at a drugstore within walking distance of Harold’s house.

We three often took walks in that direction during those lazy, carefree summers. We skipped along the sidewalks, gazed at cattails near the bay, and occasionally took another route home to cross a bridge at what we called the channel. Sometimes, with supervision, we played in the sand and waded in the water at the channel. Pee Wee frolicked on the beach with us.

During our visits, Harold’s daddy enjoyed cooking barbecue. He got up in the wee hours of the morning, fired up his barbecue pit, put on the meat, slathered it periodically with his own “secret recipe” sauce, and tended it until it was done. During the noon gathering, he proudly piled our plates high with the delicious barbecue.

The years flew by and all three of us grew up and had families of our own. I traveled around with my husband during his military career. Betty, a teacher, lived in north Alabama and later in south Florida, and then returned to Alabama to live in Huntsville. Harold had a successful career as a carpenter and contractor in the Panama City, Fla., area. I kept in touch with both of them. The only time they saw each other again was at my daddy’s funeral in 1974 and my mother’s funeral in 2005. By the time my mother died, both of them were battling cancer. Both have departed this earth.

Harold and I had never corresponded, but when his children gave him a computer, I began receiving poetry he was writing. They ranged from topics like “Motherhood” about his own mother, to a frivolous one about courting his wife on her parents’ front porch swing to a very deep one titled “Life.” Sometimes when I read them, they are a comfort. Other times I can’t stop the tears.

I miss them both. Losing myself in that old photograph helps me relive those happy summer days we spent together.