7.17.2010

This man is not happy

I've been doing some genealogy research lately (hurrah ancestry.com!) and discovered that the gentleman to the left was one of my great-great grandfathers.

Take a look.

Exactly. This is not a happy man. In fact, he'd be a shoo-in to play Ebenezer Scrooge in 'A Christmas Carol.'

Looking at some old pictures my mom had of her grandparents doesn't yield better results. Her grandmother's expression says less "Have some cookies!" and more "I'll cut a bitch." Nice.

These were rural people at the turn of the last century, so I understand that life wasn't exactly easy. I probably wouldn't last a week (a day?) with the manual labor required. Still, you'd expect that for the rare, big event of having a picture taken they might want to, you know, smile or something.

I'm no historian, so I have no idea if a severe expression was the norm of the time in portraits, a product of a worldview that frowned on frivolity, or if I come from a long line of grumps. Maybe all three.

I wonder what they would make of the hundreds of pictures Kurt and I have taken. We're usually dressed casually, often celebrating or traveling, and inevitably smiling like we're having the time of our lives.

Would they think we were childish? Manic? Not to be taken seriously? Or would they just say, "Of course they're smiling! They're playing on a beach and haven't done a real days work in their lives."

Would they be surprised to learn that while we're blessed beyond measure, we may not be as uniformly thrilled as the pictures imply? Given great-great-grandpops expression above, I'm sure he'd have a thing or two to say about it.

2 comments:

Craig Miyamoto said...

Maybe it was the solemnity of the occasion. All of the pix I've seen of my grandparents and their parents were totally expressionless as well. Maybe they had to stay still for so long? So maybe it would have hurt their faces to hold a smile?

You present a good point to ponder, Becca.

~ Craig

TMC said...

I've enjoyed researching my family's history. You're so lucky to have found a picture!

I suspect this unhappy man was either missing teeth or else had to frown to keep from laughing. : )