The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Vanity, I Digress

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I set the feature image on my post yesterday to one of my favorite photos of myself that happened to tie to the mushroom mines. It was taken in 1976 when we went on strike. I was a member of the USWA 8025. Later I was on the opposite side of union.

I took my miner’s hat and belt home in case we never returned to work—a souvenir. Thus, here is this photograph of me taken by my boyfriend at the time. I have several photos of myself that I like and hundreds I don’t. The ones I like of myself are those moments in time when I felt I looked my best or the photographer simply captured me in just the right light and angle. I even have a drawing of me; it was drawn by a Japanese girl I worked with at Cedar Point one college summer. The artist’s name was Mariko. She and her friend were going to college in Tennessee or Kentucky and somehow ended up working the summer at Cedar Point. Later, her friend ran off with some American guy. I wonder what ever happened to those two.

I have a few selfies that aren’t bad. I like a photograph from my son’s wedding in 2013; it is of my husband, daughter and I dappled in sun and shade standing in the side garden at Phipps Conservatory. I hate the photograph though because of the negative emotions any thought of my son’s connection with his ex-wife and ex-family brings. I love it and hate it; I can’t decide whether to destroy it. I keep it, waiting for the memory of that day and time to fade as they will someday. That’s what photos are—memories. I really like a couple of photographs from my niece’s wedding in 2002. There were a couple taken with my husband and son in my in-law’s kitchen and then the one taken with all (minus one) Claypoole first cousins at the wedding. The photo is not great quality, but I like it. It invites a comparison to one of all (minus one) those first cousins as children at a family reunion in Ellwood City. I was about eight in that earlier photograph. That minus-one cousin who is the oldest of us Claypoole cousins did not live in our little town of Worthington. The last time I remember seeing her was at my Grandmother Claypoole’s funeral in 1969. Her name is Mitzi, and she lived across the state in Tunkhannock. What great names: Mitzi, Tunkhannock, like Punxsutawney.

I like specific photos of my kids when they were preschool age. I like photos of my husband in his younger days with smiling blue eyes. I told him recently there is one particular photo of him that always jumps to mind of his younger days. I wonder now what happened to that blue-eyed person. My favorite photo of him though is one taken at Christmas of he and his dad.

My photo yesterday got me to thinking about my obituary. Here’s the leap from photographs to obituaries. I read the obituaries regularly now looking for the names of people I know, then I look at the ages for early endings and late endings, and finally at the photos for some hint of recognition. I look at the age and then back at the photo realizing the photo is decades old. This is perhaps the last act of our vanity or maybe you had nothing to do with the choice. But why not chose that last photo? I want to choose mine for an obituary, if there is one. My children have instructions that I want no service and perhaps not even an obituary. I will go out without fanfare. This was something my husband and I agreed upon in our last instructions. Sometimes family doesn’t follow instructions though. After all, this whole final thing really should be for those left behind. Anyway, I think I will choose one of these photos that I like that will be decades earlier than my death. Why not be remembered as I choose as far as physical appearance? With the internet, that last writing about you may last for centuries unless you become famous or infamous, in which case every bad picture of you may surface.

Perhaps those groups who believe photography is a graven image that you worship or that photographic capture of you also grabbed your soul may be right. It may be vanity for us to like ourselves in photographs. But what can I say? I love certain photographs of myself, but I also love photographs of my family. But I hope someday I will capture some stranger in an unforgettable moment that reveals so much more than just physical appearance.

And now I will attach one of my all-time-favorite photos. Perhaps you will see it again in my obituary.

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