There wasn't much snow in Elizabeth New Jersey when this picture was taken in 1919. That's my grandmother, Athalia (Ogden) Barker, with her little brother Dayton. The Great War had just ended, reflected in the cut of Dayt's winter garb of military coat and overseas cap. Gran had recently survived the Great Influenza that took one of our Gracie relatives in pregnancy as well as the lives of 20 million other souls around the world in that terrible plague. There was not enough snow for a sled, but their wagon makes a serviceable photographer's prop.
The younger of five children, Gran and her little brother were especially close throughout their lives. Here they enjoy skiing together in 1936 when Dayt was was at Williams and Gran was engaged to my Grandfather, Robert Barker. None of us in my generation had ever seen Gran on anything so incongruous as skis, but here was proof that she was capable of even more than we imagined. Likewise the two piece bikini, a gift from my Grandfather in 1944 while on duty in the Pacific, always made us grin when we looked at the picture at left. The glowing smile on my grandmother's face is evidence not only that she adored her brother, but the joy the whole family felt at having him posted stateside after more than 2 years of active duty as a naval intelligence officer with a bomber wing in the South Atlantic.
Uncle Dayt was the life of any party, and his recitals of "Casey at the Bat" at weddings and banquets were legendary. In one notorious episode, his reunion class at Williams called for Casey and when he reached the climax, not just "the air was shattered by the force of Casey's blow" but also a plate glass window as the magnum of Champagne flew from his grasp and out of the restaurant. His classmates promptly passed the hat, paid for the window, and undoubtedly called for another round.
Gran will be 96 next month, and Uncle Dayt passed away last year at 92. Gran and Aunt Lib, Dayton's wife, are the last of their generation in my family. These are the days when the veil between gathered loved ones and those I imagine celebrating with us on that other shore grows as thin as a flurry of snow.
update: (12/26/2006) At least one holiday spirit seems to have objected to the inclusion of the bikini shot of my grandmother, as it mysteriously vanished from this post after it was published. Sorry, Grandpop, but here it is again. :-)