Tonight I was nosing around in my scrapbook and came upon this picture of my sister, Ginnie Lou, and me. Mother was usually pretty good about putting our ages on the back of the pictures, but she missed this one, so I'll guess I was 8 or 9, making my sister 6 or 7.
But what caught my eye was its coloring. That was Mother's handiwork and it brings to memory a time when there was no color photography and hand-tinting was commonly used on portraits. When mother graduated from Colorado Springs High School in 1928, her first job was at Spofford's Photography Studio there in the city. I am not sure exactly when she started working there, but in 1930 they sent her to a school in Effingham, Illinois to learn retouching and hand-tinting.
As life often does, her world changed in 1931, when her mom's farmhouse in Mulvane, Kansas burned to the ground. When the insurance money came through, my grandma Jessie decided to take the 4 younger children to California to start a new life and called on my mother to come with her to help with the children. Mother gave up her job, and her boyfriend, and went. As it turned out, her boyfriend followed her and in 1932 they married. My sis and I came along in 1935 and 1937. Mother didn't bring much with her, but she did bring her hand-tinting paints and equipment.
As little kids we used to watch her "practice." She tinted all of our portraits as well as some older pictures that she had in her possession, and when she ran out of those, she practiced on snapshots. We loved hanging over her shoulders, watching her bring us to life in living color. As we got a little older, she let us try our hand at tinting, but we really didn't have the fine muscle control yet for doing a very good job of it. And soon there was color photography.
What so strikes me about this is that life was slow enough in those days that we could savor our mother's attention for hours at a time. What mother nowadays has that kind of time to spend nurturing her kidlets. And what child nowadays can sit anywhere for an extended period of time other than at the computer.
It never occurred to me to ask Mother if she regretted leaving a job she loved to help her mother out. When the little family arrived in California, Mother became the caretaker of her younger siblings - Marie, Bert, Hugh and Margie -while her own mother sought out almost non-existent work because of the depression. My grandma ended up being a live-in caretaker for a cantankerous old woman, while my young, vibrant mother and soon her new husband became instant "parents" of four little kids.
I think of Mother often when I start feeling put-upon or regretful for certain decisions in my life. My mother had no option. That she made it clear to Ginnie Lou and me that we were exactly what she wanted out of life is a real testament to the loyalty that was inbred in earlier generations to take them through the tough times, and that giving something up was not the end of the world.