Last week we talked about family history, and it reminded me of this story.

I have inherited a few antique black and white photographs passed down from ancestors. I am lucky in the fact that I know who most of the subjects are. But my most special black and white photograph is hanging framed in my dining room, and I don’t know who it is. The little boy in the picture is not my ancestor. I bought the photo many years ago at auction. It was titled, “a cute photo of a boy and his cat”.

And it certainly was cute, with a boy around 5 years old looking very happy that his cat is standing on hind legs and drinking from a tablespoon the boy is holding out.

But what was more remarkable was the writing I found on the back of the photo, which was revealed only after I won the auction.

The photo is 8×10”, and someone wrote in large handwriting so that it fills the entire back of the photo:

This picture was give to me by Roy H____ on 7-2-77. We are breaking album, Roy & I & [3rd person’s name]. This is my picture TILL I DIE & then it belongs to Mabel.

And then in a different handwriting, it appears to be signed by Roy H, as if to confirm that he’s giving his photo away.

There’s no indication as to the name of the person who so passionately loved the photo. She seemed to have a fear that there was another family member who wanted to take the photo from her. I wonder what happened to her and what happened to Mabel? Did she not want the photo? Did she know she was meant to have it? How did the photo end up homeless at auction? For the seller was not a member of the family. I wish I could tell the original owner that I am taking care of her precious boy and his cat. That I found her memory and I’m doing my best to keep it.

Do you have any photos like that? Something that tells a story? Go through your boxes and see if a photo speaks to you. If you do not have any of your own, there are tons available at antique shops. You might not think that strangers could speak to you through their photos, until you give it a try.

And if you recognize this photo or you know Roy or Mabel, please contact me.

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