A Memento of the Day

I’ve seen the photograph of Clyde, a ten year-old boy in 1926, dressed in his best clothes, sturdy boots, and cap, standing alone on the grounds of the Oddfellows Home in Kansas City, Missouri, a place where orphans lived. I’m guessing the picture was taken by a professional photographer, as it was one of those sepia-toned photos meant to commemorate a special occasion, back when those kinds of pictures were taken to remember everything from christenings to funerals. I’ve always wondered why Sarah didn’t pose with her son, her arm around his shoulders.

Sarah had assured Clyde that it would be for only a little while. Long enough for her to secure her intention of a life with some security for them both. In the picture, he looks stoic, impassive, as if he has rehearsed what his reaction to this awful day will be. But, in his gaze toward the camera and in the set of his shoulders, you can see abandonment — a small boy who is feeling that there is something about him that has caused this day. You can sense the beginning of his life-long pattern of testing everyone who is close to him to see at what point they will leave.

We have very few photos of him as an adult. He always avoided the camera at any family gathering, putting his hand in front of his face or looking the other way. His children sometimes joked that he probably thought that having his picture taken would steal his soul. Perhaps that photograph taken of the ten year-old boy standing alone on the grounds of the Oddfellows Home had stolen his soul. It was a picture of a small boy whose mind comprehended why he was standing there alone, but whose heart never had.
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Made with real cheese for a melt-in-your-mouth flavor you can’t resist.

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About Paula J Wray

I am a writer and I live in the Rocky Mountains of southwest Colorado with my husband and a balding black cat. I write humor, flash fiction, creative non-fiction, inspirational essays, and poetry. When I'm not writing, making lists, or forcing a family member to listen to something I've written, I'm reading, gardening, or laughing with my friends. I also, occasionally, sit and stare.
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9 Responses to A Memento of the Day

  1. atrm61 says:

    Wow!This is so beautiful!Liked the way u used the photo as a thread to unroll a larger story-lots of reading between the lines for the imaginative reader:-)

  2. How well you portrayed an entire life in 333 words. Sad, nostalgic, heartbreaking. I can see that boy standing there, and later when he shielded his face from the camera. Beautiful…

  3. deanabo says:

    This is beautifully sad. Well done.

  4. Scriptor Obscura says:

    Wow. What a story. Haunting. Stays with you, lingering images long after you have finished reading it…Sad…Wow…This has impact…wow…So sad…A man forever haunted by his past…Shows that we can never truly unshake and forget what happens to us, that it haunts us throughout our lives, often having unintended consequences in our lives…SIGH… 😦

  5. Draug419 says:

    This is tragically beautiful ;__;

  6. What a thoughtful reflection on how a person’s soul might get stolen.

  7. Linda Vernon says:

    Paula this is beautifully portrayed. I think this happened so much back in those days. How much harder life was then. This just breaks my heart.

  8. jannatwrites says:

    You wrote the emotion into this story so well. The last line was like a punch in my gut. So sad. (Makes me want to go wake the boys up and give them a hug :))

  9. lexy3587 says:

    such a poignant picture of his life, all tied up in that one defining moment in his life. wonderful.

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