Life, etc. · Vintage images

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I’ve been browsing through the collection of old photos found at yard sales, consignment stores and flea markets looking for some that could be turned into holiday cards.  I did find some that were pretty and some that were typical holiday snaps, and I also found some intriguing surprises.


The couple pictured above, for example, is anything but “merry and bright.”  There they stand, surrounded by the detritus of Christmas morning, posing for some family photographer.  Her fuzzy slippers were likely one of her gifts.  His bow tie is jaunty (even in the original black and white), or is it just askew? The more I studied their faces the sadder I felt. I want to know more about them, but they won’t be gracing this year’s holiday card.

Then there is the photo of “our first Xmas Tree.”

first-tree                           1941

There is a special feeling to that first tree you share with someone.  This tree is small and the ornaments are few, but it has been given lots of glitter with garlands and icicles. This one was a lot of fun to color and makes an attractive card.  But there is more to it once you look carefully.

The date is 1941:  seventy-five years ago, in the month that saw the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the entry of the US into the global war.  According to some sources, more that 50% of men of military age were in uniform during that war, and over 70% of those were sent “overseas.”  About a million were either killed or wounded. (National WW2 Museum)

What happened to this couple? We can’t know. We can hope that the joy of that first tree was repeated many times during their lives. And we can remember that life is unpredictable. This photo reminds me to appreciate all I have and enjoy the “now”.  To quote Thoreau, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

Both these photos bring me to thoughts on compassion. The Dalai Lama has said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

I chose one final photo to alter for this holiday season.  It comes from a glass plate negative, probably taken early in the 20th century. A  young woman stands in front of two snowmen. She looks cold, protected by only a light shawl not a heavy coat. I have paired her with a guardian angel (recently photographed at Swan Point Cemetery).  The result is intended to illustrate our need to both give and receive compassion.

snowman1                 guardian-angel

One final quote, from Mother Teresa, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

May you find peace, compassion and belonging in all you experience.

If you would like to see the before and after of the holiday photos, please visit the gallery.

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