I was looking through some old photo albums last week when I found an envelope of wallet sized photos. These were all photos of my sisters when they were kids. Based on their size, I would say they must be between the ages of 4 and 8. This make sense because a regular rite of passage for both of my sisters was their annual trip to Sears Portrait Studios. This practice ended right before I was born, but our house was filled with the results of their photo sessions.
Sears Portrait Studios visits were a ubiquitous component of so many homes in the past. My town growing up was no different. All of my friends had photos lining their wood-paneled walls as well.
One thing I remember very clearly was how mothers would give out these wallet size photos. Sometimes not just to family members, but also to friends they just met on the street. Many times I was with my Mother when she would hear a fellow mom speak glowingly about her child. Then the proud mom would whip out a wallet size photo and present it to my Mom. When my Mom would try to give it back, she would say, “No, you keep that.” My Mother would smile and put it in her purse or hold it absent-mindedly in her hand. Then, when we got to the car, she would look at the photo and ask, “Now what am I supposed to do with this?”
All those photos eventually ended up in a box that my family still has somewhere. Filled with the anonymous memories of kids I don’t recognize. I guess I understand why we have so many extras of photos of my sisters. My mother hated the practice of giving photos out to people outside of the family. So no matter how many photos she was given, it was way too many.