Columns

2006.02.22 Nothing but a child's photo will do

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

By RICH FOLEY

I know what you’re thinking. There’s no Parent’s Pride in this week’s paper and now you’re stuck reading this column instead of checking out the children. How about I try to fill the gap by writing about children’s photos instead? OK, don’t answer that.

You’ll notice that unlike the practice at most big city papers, my own photo doesn’t appear here with the column. I’d much prefer that people read my column and decide I’m an idiot than make that snap judgment from my photo alone. Besides, I just haven’t had that much experience having my photo taken.

As the youngest of four children, I suffer from the same fate as the junior member of many families. By the time I was born, the newness of having children and novelty of photographing them had long worn off. The result being very few photos of me exist and I never got much practice posing for them.

My standard joke used to be that there were about 800 photos taken of my sister as a child, 500 or so of my oldest brother, 150 of my next brother and about 10 of me. I was always told that it wasn’t the case, but no  large stack of photos were ever introduced in evidence to debunk my statement. And what few photos I was shown usually included the other children.

My Aunt Liz was visiting us to attend my high school graduation when I happened to mention this phenomenon. A day or so later, I came home to discover she had purchased one of those large collage frames, perused the boxes of family photos, and had assembled about a dozen photos of me in the provided frame openings.

“Now, see how many photos there are of you!” Aunt Liz said. “How many did you have left over?” I replied. “Not many,” she answered sadly. And several of those she used featured the other children.

The one photo I remember most from childhood seems to have disappeared. When I was about three or four years old, a new Kroger store opened in Adrian. As part of the festivities, Top Value stamps, whose logo included a cartoon elephant, had a real elephant at the store to give rides to children. They even took your picture with you sitting on the elephant.

I remember the elephant, I remember riding it, I even remember the photo that was taken of me riding it, but where is the photo today? Did a jealous sibling tear it up?

I  currently have a total of four photos of me as a child. My favorite is one of me lying on the kitchen table at nine months, either waiting for or in the afterglow of a diaper change. I look pretty happy, so I’m guessing after. My favorite part is the chair sitting behind me. It’s one of those typical 1950s kitchen chairs with the tube frame and heavily padded seat and back. I wish I had a couple of those today.

Once I got old enough to start taking my own photos, I seem to have followed the same family practice. Even though I never had any children, I have lots of photos of my first few cars.

I have photos of my Mustang in the infield at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and at Castle Rock in St. Ignace. I have photos of my Dodge Charger along Route 66 in Oklahoma. Then, as with children, the novelty began to wear off.

 Photos of later vehicles include my Ford Tempo in front of my apartment in Adrian, the Ford Aerostar in front of the three bridges in Blissfield, and inexplicably, my Chevy Malibu sitting in the Meijer parking lot. No photographic evidence exists of my noble deer-smacking Caprice or any of its later replacements.

Going through some of my auto racing photos is interesting, too. Some of my favorites were taken at one of the Formula One races in Detroit more than 20 years ago. The organizers actually cut a small hole in the fencing on one of the curves, large enough for a photographer to stick a lens through. If the photos look like I was only about three feet from the cars, that’s because that was the case. I’m sure that wouldn’t be allowed today.

I also have photos of a couple of attractive women attending the race. One of them waved when she saw me taking her picture, then came over and demanded that I send her copies. I told her she’d have to  give me her address. Then she decided she didn’t want it after all. Too bad, it’s a great photo.

But sometimes, only a kid picture will do. At my Aunt Sue’s 99th birthday dinner last year, half the people there were sharing photos of their children or grandchildren. I offered to pass around my AAA card, but no one was interested. I’m just going to have to find that photo of me riding the elephant.

– February 22, 2006

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