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  • My mother told me that when she was a little girl her godmother would take her out on Saturday afternoons for ice cream or civilized urban adventures. Sometimes they would feed the birds in the Common. I'd like to think this picture from 1953 captures the moment that determined her destiny, the moment where her love of birds ignited, and led her to get a degree in ornithology from Cornell at a time when few women did so. Her passion took her to study warblers in the Caribbean where she met my father, the son of an English doctor working in Kingston. I'd like to think this moment led to me.

    I'd like to think this is the truth, but it's not.
  • My mother's upstairs neighbor Mrs. O'Connor received a fur stole and $100 from the estate of the kind woman she worked for for nearly 20 years. She wore it on every occasion she could, not just because it was warm and luxurious, but because it reminded her of the woman, of her genuinely sweet embrace despite their class differences. Childless Mrs. O'Connor would sometimes take my mother and one of her sisters or brothers out to give their struggling mother a break. Once, on a windy early spring afternoon, she wrapped the stole around my shivering aunt's shoulders. I'd like to think my aunt, the fifth of seven children in an Irish Catholic family, felt protected, and loved, and rich.

    I'd like to think this is the truth, but it's not.
  • In his late teens and early twenties, my father was an amateur photographer. On school vacations from studying law at Yale, he would take the train into Boston and shoot whatever inspired him. "Bird Shadows" won first place in the Boston Globe's 1953 spring photography contest in the 21-and-under category. For a week after winning the contest, he fantasized about dropping out of school to passionately pursue photography. It was the most exciting week of his life. But once break was over and he was back at school, he found he couldn't recapture that joy. There was so much else to do, so much else expected of him. He went on to become a successful lawyer and then a partner in the family's wealth management firm. I'd like to think he lived a happy life.

    I'd like to think this is the truth, but it's not.
  • My daughter took a black and white photography class this semester. One Sunday afternoon, she found a green metal box in my in-law’s basement, inside of which was a lone roll of developed film in a tiny screw-top canister labeled 1953. She made a contact sheet and then this print. Thanks to fantastically accurate online maps, I determined that the photo was taken looking west on the corner of Arlington and Newbury streets in Boston in front of what is now the Taj Boston hotel. You can just see bell tower of the Church of the Covenant in the background.

    I'd like to think I know more about this image, but I don't.

    I can only wonder.
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