"Taking pictures ruins everything," opines Eliot Glazer, founder of the My Parents Were Awesome blog and editor of the book of the same title. And in our age of MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter photos have become even worse, he worries. They are "seldom accidental now.... We are all guilty of trying to be something we're not… our photographed self."
But in the days of our parents and grandparents, he insists, it was different and better. Things were more natural and candid. Photos had a more genuine sense of time and place.
That's why he started the My Parents Were Awesome blog. It's a collection of photos of readers' parents and grandparents, intended to celebrate both "old photos and parental devotion."
The book "My Parents Were Awesome" takes it one step further. The photos are now supplemented with stories about the parents – who they were before their children were born. Some are to do with various parental achievements and passions – a dad who was "Mr. Buick of central New Jersey" or a mom who made poodle scarves – but most are stories about how readers' parents met.
They are not amazing tales of "uncanny circumstances." Instead most are "stripped of glamour and glitter" – simple tales of " 'boy meets girl' standby" variety: two people united for life because a dog went missing or a roommate who threw a party.
But they are captivating perhaps in part because they are so comfortably familiar, finding their charm in both their lovely ordinariness and the deep affection that they ooze. (And the fact that they seem to have largely been written by smart young writers now living in Brooklyn probably doesn't hurt either.)
If I were a writing teacher I would pass this book out to my class. Because it's almost impossible to read more than a few of these without wanting to add your own.
So here's mine: "It was 1954 and my very pretty 27-year-old mom was at a party with a date she didn't particularly like. At one point she looked up and saw a dark-haired man with an intelligent-looking face come through the door. 'Now he looks interesting,' she thought. She watched him as he cruised around the room with a friend, ate a few things off the buffet table, and then left. 'Oh well,' she thought."
"A year later a friend asked her to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. At the church, just before the rehearsal dinner, she was introduced to one of the groomsmen. It was my dad – the same man she had seen cruise briefly into the party that night. As he would explain to her a few nights later, he was just getting over a bad breakup at that time. He wasn't ready to meet anyone new."
"But that night at the rehearsal dinner he was ready for sure. Exactly nine months and four days later, they walked down the aisle of that same church together as a newly married couple. They were together for almost 40 years, the rest of my dad's life."
What about you? How did your parents meet?
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.