My mom and dad were ages 20 and 22, respectively, when they got married. They wanted kids, but I didn’t show up until six years later. My dad was pretty thrilled with a bouncing baby girl. He’s actually the reason my name is Beth and not Elizabeth. Under no circumstance did he want anyone calling me Liz (which is funny to me now because I have two good friends who go by Liz). He still calls me Bethie and, in the tradition of all things southern, Beth Anne. So do his two sisters. I suppose that I’ll always be his baby girl… even though I’m thirty-seven.
When my parents bought the house in these photos, they did so in partnership with my papa, Dad’s father. It was this great lot in Long Beach, California that had a three-bedroom house with a detached three-car garage that had a two-bedroom apartment over it. Papa lived in that apartment. He’d come downstairs and into the house to visit, join us for dinner, or to get the grandkids roused up before fleeing back to his haven. He was with us on Christmas morning and just about every other day… unless he was down at his fishing cabin in Mexico, about ninety miles south of Ensenada. I remember him bringing back fish that he and Dad would clean and debone. Then Mom would batter it in cornmeal and fry it up. To this day, I love fried fish. Southern style. Papa died on my baby brother’s third birthday. I was nine. For all intents and purposes, my grandfather lived with us for the first nine years of my life. Was I blessed or what?
Longevity is one of the hallmarks of my paternal family, although Papa died at an earlier age due to extenuating circumstances. My great-grandather was born in 1887; he died in 1982. I was five. He grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas and eventually settled in Littlefield, Texas where he owned a farm and raised his family. We visited him in Littlefield along with my Aunt Tommy, Uncle Otis, Uncle Muggs–and you thought your family had weird names! It was fantastic visiting Texas and the greats. Great-Grandpa came out to Long Beach on more than one occasion. He walked with a cane and would hook my overalls to lift me out of my crib or playpen. I was his Goldilocks. While a few people in my life refer to me affectionately as Bethie, only one person has called me Goldilocks and that was Great-Grandpa. I love this photo of the two of us because we’re sitting on the itty-bitty back porch of the house I grew up in. There we are, sharing a candy bar (I think it’s a Snickers–this is before all the whoop-de-doo over peanut allergies) in the afternoon. When he finally gave up his driver’s license, Great-Grandpa sent me the photo from the license. I still have it and the letter it arrived in. I treasure those. Most kids don’t have memories of a great-grandparent.
I know Mom shot the photo of Dad and I, but I don’t know whether she or Dad took the other pictures. I do know they were all shot with a Canon A-1 and Kodachrome slide film. When I was laid off a few years ago, I embarked on a project to scan all of the family slides so we’d have digital imagery available for use whenever it was needed. Case in point… three pictures you wouldn’t have otherwise seen. As I’ve said multiple times, I’m not the greatest when it comes to shooting candid photos so I love that all three of these pictures are candids.
I have lovely memories of my great-grandfather and my grandfather, and thankfully I still have my dad around to enjoy time with. So please excuse me… I have a strawberry cake to make for the only dad I’ve ever had. And a happy Father’s Day to those of you blessed to have children. Enjoy your day!