A Sunday Afternoon, circa 1969

I saw this picture for the first time yesterday. It’s a picture of two children that I once knew – my brother and me. In this picture, I am right around 8 years old, he is probably six. We are sitting on a sofa in my Great Aunt Genie’s apartment in New York City, somewhere around 72nd Street and Madison Avenue – I can’t remember exactly. I have no recollection of this picture, or this day, or what we were eating – but I can tell you this for sure – I was mind-numbingly bored. My Great Aunt Genie was not a fun person, and visiting her was one of those things that we did because, well, we had to, I suppose. But look at our faces. Do we look like we’re enjoying ourselves?

I love this picture. I love pictures that capture moments that are ordinary, not staged or planned. I am fascinated by pictures of my childhood that I haven’t previously seen – not only of me but of my family. We carry images of ourselves mostly from old pictures, especially of our own faces – who can possibly picture their own face at 5, at 8, even at 25? It’s the pictures we have that remind us of who we were at any given time.

In this picture, I see my brother and me, as different as two children could have been, sitting quietly while beyond the frame the adults talk of adult things. There is no television, no radio, no outdoors (as I said, we are in New York City), and surprisingly I don’t even have a book in my hand. We are just children enduring a long Sunday afternoon with the old people – dressed up in our finest 70’s clothing, looking like we belonged on an episode of “The Brady Bunch.” Look at that sofa – it looks so uncomfortable. And that painting, above our heads – what is that about? She looks like an evil witch.

My brother and I were rarely compatible when we were growing up. I always had my nose in a book, and he always wanted to distract me. Every so often we would play together for a little while – we’d build card houses with hundreds of cards from incomplete decks, we’d watch “The Little Rascals” or “Bugs Bunny” and it would be quiet for a bit, but usually we would bicker, bicker, bicker. He didn’t like my self-contained demeanor, and I found him irritating and annoying (as most little brothers are).

But yesterday, when my mother showed this picture to us, my brother and I laughed because there we were, little children, a long time ago, and here we are grownups. Sometimes we still revert back to those little kids in that picture – and probably not a few minutes after it was taken, we were fighting about something. Even today, we bicker. I fight with my brother once in a while in a way I never fight with anyone else – screaming and arguing and full of fury. We may be adults now, but we are still those children when we are together sometimes – for better or worse.

Great Aunt Genie is long gone, as is that sofa and the painting – but we are still here, my brother and me – sharing a history unique to us, to our childhood, our growing up. We have each other.

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  • You both look so sweet! Is it the candy? Not only is that painting something the frames are great.
    I agree photos that capture the day are so much more fun then the posed and forced smiles.

  • You capture so well how photos can take us back–and then move us forward, in the relationships that last forever: siblings!

  • I loved reading this post–especially because I love old photos–I’m taken by them. I especially love the ones with me and my brother in them. Sometimes I remember what was going on when the picture was captured, sometimes I do not. I like to look back and remember a more carefree time. Thanks for sharing this post–awesome!

  • Lovely story, Sharon. I see so much of myself in this. My brother was also younger and very much different from me. He loved to tease me, and I was the one always in a corner with a book. He grew up into the outgoing, active one, while I remained shy and introverted. As children we had our times of being “best friends” as well as our fights. As adults we grew a little apart because of our very different personalities. He still remained a tease and loved to bait me with racist jokes and remarks just because he knew they’d get to me, though I did know he didn’t really feel that way. But we always loved each other. I miss him so much now. You are lucky to still have your brother with you, and I’m sure you both treasure each other. Thanks for sharing this.

    • I’m sorry your brother is no longer with you, Elaine. There’s such a unique bond between siblings, whether they’re close or not – growing up together is something only they share.

  • that photo is very cool, sharon. so natural. like you said, not posed. too bad you don’t remember the details (but, maybe there were none!)

  • Lisa

    Loved the picture. Your right about the painting above your head scary. I can relate my brother and I still fight in a way I wouldn’t fight with anyone else:)

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