What's Not Said

I love this photograph. I found it recently and lifted it from my mother’s house. (Sorry, Mom. Will send back soon. I’ve never done that before, I swear.) Here’s what I love: it’s a moment between moments. Two sets of parents at the wedding of their only children, from two very different backgrounds and social demographics, aligned for the rest of their lives through the lovely young man and woman at center. The moment between things, where looks are being delivered in the raised-eyebrow packages that they are. Proverbial ribs are being elbowed. Dreams are being re-charged and debunked. I wish I had a bubble over each of their heads. What is my mother saying to my father out of the side of her bridely mouth? What is my father’s father communicating to my mother’s father with that over-the-spectacle look? Is the whole iconic experience of their only child’s wedding not as they had dreamed after all those months of planning? Is myth in the end just that? Is there talk about virginity about to be lost? Dowry content? Does someone have to go to the bathroom? Or do they feel like MGM Hollywood greats for a day? Superstars. Alabaster sculptures. These are my elders– all such ladies and gentlemen. But here, to me they look like kids. I love this picture for that.

Do you remember the exact moment when you realized that your parents weren’t just parents, but that they were human beings with needs and weaknesses and fears and dashed dreams? That they were young like you once? Looking at photos like this help. It didn’t make it into the wedding album, where everybody’s lips and teeth and arms are in the “right” place. But still it wasn’t ripped up and thrown away either. Something about it was worth saving. The heart doesn’t want things all lined up. It speaks a different language– the language that is being spoken here. And so it doesn’t really matter then what they were saying. Only that they were saying it, and that one generation gets to be let in on the heart language of another.


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9 Responses to What's Not Said

  1. I think in these situations at least one person is thinking about needing to use the bathroom. The expressions in the photo suggest all kinds of communicating, as you’ve noticed.

    Your mother looks beautiful and your father very handsome. I can see your father in photos of you.

    In the case of my parents, the challenge of accepting them for who they are/were has taken all of my life, but that’s a different story.

    Have a beautiful weekend!

    Best, Susan

  2. My picture like that is when my father is pouring dirty water over my mother’s hands and my mother looks startled, and my father’s face is like the man in the moon, old and happy, though he was only nudging forty. They’ve just found water on a farm that didn’t have water, water that sprang up from the old Mohawk riverbed. I found the picture in a box with my mother’s wedding pictures, pictures never pasted in an album. This one is framed on the wall, where you turn to go down the hall to our bedroom.

  3. Laura,
    I think just like you do. I look at pictures of my parents and now as an adult, I wonder what they must have been thinking and feeling. Did they every worry about their futures? Did they ever discuss getting older, broken dreams, fears?
    I recently had a discussion with my best friend and asked her if she ever wondered what her Mom and her best friend discussed when they were young like us. Might be a cool book concept. :-)

  4. I bet your mother was saying, “My mouth is hurting from all this smiling.”

    I love looking at photos and imagining all sorts of things being said and thoughts thought.

    • lauramunson

      I asked her today and so we might just find out. But I’m with you– I’m in the imagining. Thanks for stopping by, Angie. yrs. Laura

  5. We have an amazing photo of my inlaws off to their honeymoon in NYC in 1947. They are standing outside of the train that’s taking them. . I love thinking about what must be running through their heads. .

  6. Noreen Methven Sibley

    I was a WWII baby just like you, (9 year gap between the first 5 siblings and myself), while I was in school, my parents were the age of others’ grandparents and I was often embarrassed by this. The age problem gave me parents who were too old and tired to “play” and older siblings who became burdened with child care responsibilities. Sister-mothers to my child-self.

    It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I understood my mother’s dreams for herself and how her upbringing and the culture of the times kept her from pursuing those dreams. Sadly, we only had a few years together were we truly understood one another. They were really good years, I was grateful to have every moment.

    I thank you (and your husband) for recording your challenging summer and sharing. I’ve had some (if not all) of your struggles. Your book was passed to me by my friend who has heard them all. I had been practicing “not suffering” in one area of my life, when your book arrived with my friend one night, I chuckled. I’ve just finished your book today. I will be extending my practice to other areas of my life.

    • lauramunson

      Noreen, it sounds like we are birds of a feather. To that end, could you possibly be related to the great Sibley birding folks? That’s one of my bibles. I will thank my husband for you. Thank you for your thanks. yrs. Laura

      • Noreen Methven Sibley

        We are not related to David Sibley to my knowledge. We found it quite funny when our name set off a twitter of excitement among a group of birders on a sight-seeing tour this summer.

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