Not as planned.
If I’m supposed to be writing these in birth order, well, I’ve mixed it up. Sorry, this one doesn’t follow the script.
Jean is actually the sixth of seven children born to Ira and Edna Hammond, the “baby girl” of the family. If you’ve been following along, you can thank (or blame?) her for these words and photos in front of you right now.
See, I’d had a concept brewing in my head to take photos of people. To practice, really. If you’re just starting out, why not start with some of the people you know best, that you’ll be most comfortable with? As long as you’re doing that, how about maybe documenting a little bit of family history along the way? That thought process led me to my father, his siblings and their spouses.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do or how to go about it, so the idea simply percolated in my mind for a month or two. Can I get everyone together? Will they cooperate? What will I ask? When and where will it be easiest to assemble a makeshift studio? Lots of questions I needed to answer, which was fine, since Jean and Robert and both my parents were still spending the winter in Florida anyway.
Then Jean changed the plans. More accurately, her heart changed. Out of sync. Both her heart, and my project.
Life (and death) happens. Nothing is guaranteed. Jean’s the youngest; she’s not ‘supposed’ to be one of the first to go. Don’t you know that by now? Of course you do. So what are you waiting for? Get your butt to Florida and start shooting and talking to your relatives!
Tell me about your father. (Grampie to me) What was he like? “Stern.” He dished out the punishment. “Spanked me for something I didn’t do.” Alright; how about a positive memory, what do you recall? “He was the one who took us places.” Educational trips. He was the one who always took us to see and do things.
What about your mother? “Loving and gentle.” “And strong.”
I admire this generation. They seem to set a great example. So I asked: “What is the key to successful marriage?” Jean replied that many people say it’s communication. “That isn’t it, we never communicate.” Really? “Well, we both have the same values.” We’re both the sixth child in each of our respective families.
Next I bring in Uncle Robert.
I ask him the same question: What’s the key to a successful marriage? “Keep breathing, I guess.” “That, and communication.”
I did my best to keep a straight face; he had no idea how his wife had answered the question just minutes before.
Perhaps marriage, like life, is a bit of a mystery. Take each day and be grateful for it.
Aunt Jean and Uncle Robert? Clearly you’re doing something right. Thank you for being you, and for giving me the nudge to get started with this project.