Someone Else’s Parents, July 1956

In my keepsake folder, I have carried a photograph of two people I’ve never met. Going on 30-35 years. Where I found it I can no longer rightly remember, though I have a vague recollection of watching it emerge while I was peeling another photo out of a frame.

The image is in black and white, 3 x 5 inches, bordered with a white, wavy-edged frame. The short ends are crinkled as if they’d been folded over too many times but the image itself is crisp and clear.

In faded blue pen, along the sides and bottom of the white frame, someone has written, “To our son Clarence. Mother & Dad Moldan. Our Love. XXXX”

The caption on the back of the photo reads:
“Taken of our apartment, 557 E. Mar Vista St., Whittier, Calif.”

I kept it because the two people in the image radiate such a sense of love and contentment that I wanted to invite them to tea. Throwing it away seemed like an erasure; from the instant I saw it, it was more than just the result of a chemical reaction on paper. I wondered how the photo fell out of their son’s possession, if it had ever made it there. I wanted to find him and return this beautiful icon of parental love and devotion.

Periodic, online searches have revealed little except that the address no longer exists. While traveling on the west coast, I entertained a notion to go to Whittier, California, southeast of Los Angeles, and find the house or, if nothing else, the place where the house once stood. I never made it, but the photo stayed with me, just in case, because I haven’t entirely let that notion fade away.

Recently, I taped the photograph of Ma & Pa Moldan to the wall above my writing/art desk. Looking at the image once again, I realized that to leave them tucked away without mention, all dressed in their sunny-day best, served as well as a toss in the trash. Their bright eyes and doting smiles were going nowhere, but here, in the great gallery of the global internet, their vision of love and contentment can be shared. XXXX

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