Jan Wilberg, blogging at Red’s Wrap, wrote a beautiful post recently in which she imagines traveling back in time and meeting her parents before they became her parents. She then performs a sort of time travel by reflecting on a few photos of her father taken when he was a young man. In response to the picture of him that I’ve reproduced below, she wrote:
“When I knew him, my father didn’t turn his collar up like he has it in this picture. By the time I showed up, he had left his debonair self on the dresser forever; I never knew it was there until I saw this picture a few years after he died. I’ll tell you, seeing the photos explained a lot to me about why my mother fell for him and why her family was so wary. Right around this time, he was playing his horn in dance bands to make extra money. Can’t you see him in a dance hall, the ladies all over him? I sure can.”
She goes on to muse about the benefits of knowing who our parents were back then:
“It could change so much about our relationships with our parents if we could have even a sliver of a clue about the people they were before they were in charge, when they had only themselves to worry about, when they thought they could do anything.”
Such travel back to know our parents before they donned the respectable yet confining roles of family patriarchs and matriarchs is a way of freeing them. It grants them independence, something I’ve previously suggested is necessary if we are to attain our own independence from them. That young supply sergeant coming home from the war, taking a few business college courses so that he could get a job and have the wherewithal to marry his high school sweetheart; or that woman barely out of her teens who had sent him letters and waited eagerly for his return—do I need to concern myself with gaining their approval for how I conduct my life, or judging what they did with theirs? Thankfully, no; nor do I need to have such concerns towards the elders they became.