Christmas 1973

L-R: Me(?); Nanny, Grandpa, Mom

This time you can click on the pic to get a higher-res image, not that it’ll do much good here. Save for the Santa pic, all of the earlier pictures were scanned from new prints made from fairly pristine 35mm slides, but our family stopped getting pictures developed into slides early in ’74, and the negatives I have of everything else (when I have them) are pretty iffy. So, from now on, everything I post will be scanned from prints developed a week to a few months after the photos were taken. These photos are all victims, more or less, of aging and the stupid technological fads of the day. This photo, for example, lost a noticeable amount of blue since early 1974 (my parents were terrible slackers when it came to getting things developed) so I had to do a lot of Paint Shop Pro color-correction to restore some of the original vividness. The photo is also the first of many Christmas shots developed on this awful textured paper that, while preventing smudgy fingerprints totally retards image resolution. And when they get scanned, they throw off little pinpricks of reflected light, often making fields of dark color look positively starry. Later you’ll also see the Polaroids, which looked like shit right out of the camera, and the less said about Kodak Disc film the better. So my apologies in advance.

I can’t blame Fotomat for this photo, though — yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to look. Why this photo is so crazily off-center, I don’t know. My grandmother is clutching a red something-or-other that should’ve been the center of the photo: it could actually be me standing on the table, as there’s a little hand by her neck and I’m wearing crimson overalls in other shots from that day.’There’s no accident in it, no blurring from movement, and it’s vertically centered, too, so I’m tempted to say it’s deliberate. Unless Tommy took this photo and was being a brat (not likely), I’m guessing my father was probably caught in a moment of irrational contrariness, brought about by being as exhausted as my mom looks, as she gives off the kind of smile indistinguishable from amphetamined teeth-grinding. (She looks moderately insane here.) For a number of years, this one included, my parents would stay up all night quietly frosting the Christmas cake by adding to an already Christmassed-out house, arranging the stocking displays and assembling toys, and wrapping more presents for the tree (the idea being that the new presents that magically appeared on Christmas day — as opposed to the ones that had been slowly been massing under the tree all month — were Santa’s additions) That kind of fussing around was of course in the service of major Christmas-memory-creation for me and my brothers, and believe me, the payoff was enormous. I have two clarion-call memories (probably from 1974 and 1975) of waking early, going down the stairs, just as I did nearly every single day, then surveying a radically changed scene and being so overwhelmed with surprise that it was Christmas, Christmas was TODAY, I screamed in delight and surprise thereby waking up my brothers and my parents, who maybe had two hours of sleep.

To the right, you can see fragments of the family’s photographic legacy, including several Christmas shots. (A Christmas meta-picture.) The topmost one is of the infant Bobby in a Christmas photo with well-nigh iconic status at the Daddino household: him peeking through the metal guard railings and fake plastic Holly garlands on the second-floor hallway (and I forgot to scan that, sorry). Underneath are pendant-shaped frames, one of which has four mall-Santa shots, including the two I’ve already shown. Imagine having to look at those photos every single day when you’re a small child: your parents choose to highlight pictures of what they think are you at your cutest, and that’s you getting all neurotic on Santa’s lap. The big blue thing: that’s a plaque with the'”snips and snails and puppy dog tails” quote which still hangs in my mom’s house in a light-filled room largely dedicated to my brother’s children when they visit. Also, out of view, a picture of a tiny Tommy outside of my parents’ first house, and a Hallmark (or American Greetings) plaque with Snoopy on the doghouse saying some appropriately cute thing.