Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Memories. . . .

Mother's Baby

Sunday, I went to an antiques fair. It was an outdoor event probably modeled after the European equivalent. It was the perfect day for a stroll although I arrived at the fair just as the vendors were packing up. This meant I didn't have to pay for admission and I didn't have time to spend very much money. Both good things, in my books.
Speaking of books, I found an old baby book which I bought because the family in the book lived practically down the block from me. I thought it would be fun to go over to the address listed in the book and see if things had changed much. After taking a lot of Chicago photos, I became interested in the architectural history of what I saw and started a small collection of postcards in the hopes of taking "before and after" shots. Alas, my first few attempts were doomed as the areas in question had changed so as to be unrecognizable. I still plan on getting back to it. So this little baby book also had a photo of a recognizable building and now I get to check and see if the apartment building still exists.

7831 Drexel

There is a bit of voyeurism to reading someone else's personal records. I wonder what happened to the family and why they lost track of their book. Did the whole family die off or did no one particularly care about their family history? I guess there is no way to tell. I am enjoying owning a tiny bit of Chicago history.


There was a second baby book with the one I wound up buying. It was in much better shape and a lot more money so I didn't buy it. It might have been from the same family so I feel a little bad separating them but the book lacked the Chicago interest being about a New York family that only moved to Chicago as an afterword in the last few pages. And I did need to attend to my budget. I also had more trouble treating the album as a collectible after reading one of the pages. It looked like a fairly innocuous page in the baby record. A couple of milestones, one illness, then two entries at 4 years old. The first reported the child had Scarlet Fever. The next entry 4 days later noted her death. The entry felt dispassionate. It could have been a calendar notation of a doctor's appointment. That made it all the more shocking in a way.
It is so easy to forget as we all get in a tizzy over the Swine Flu that we are so relatively protected from infectious diseases. I had Scarlet Fever as a child. I vaguely remember having a rash and a fever. A few days of penicillin and case closed. It is hard to bear in mind that in early 20th century America and in some parts of the world today, infant and child mortality is routine and not exceptional.
I see too much grief in the here and now as part of my work. I couldn't own that baby album and be forever reminded of that mother's loss. I'll stick to the album of happy little smiling baby faces and the illusion of immortality through photography.


Jud said...

Very intriguing. Make one wonder what will happen to all those little bits of things that seem so neat to us now in two or three generations. Probably it will be just so much stuff.

A Free Man said...

It's true. I was a sickly child in the early 70's but most of the things I suffered from are vaccinated against today. I guess that lack of emotion stems from the fact that kids used to die. That was just part of life, so to speak.

LaY hOoN said...

Beautiful vintage mother's baby book !!!