My Parents Were Awesome (and Yours Were, Too)

7 years ago

What did your parents look like before they were parents?

Eliot Glazer, a professional humor blogger searching for a counterpoint to the typical online snark set out to answer this question in My Parents Were Awesome, a simple Tumblr photo blog that is one of my favorite new online destinations. Glazer says,

Before the fanny packs and Andrea Bocelli concerts, your parents (and grandparents) were once free-wheeling, fashion-forward, and super awesome.

The site features photos of parents and grandparents in their younger years, presumably before they became those things (although that's not true across the board. A post-procreation shot or two has snuck in.) 

Glazer told NPR that he wanted to create an Internet destination "that was very warm and fuzzy," combined with photos of "parents and grandparents looking very cool." Even a cursory glance at the site shows that he has succeeded. Couples and singles in clothes that look like they were found in just about every decade in the last century are posed against Datsuns and old road signs, holding old-style Bud cans and previously-acceptable cigarettes. They're getting married, hanging out at the beach, being, in many cases, quite clearly in love.

The names get me, for some reason.

Ron and Lenore, submitted by Jason.

Gisèle, submitted by Jean-Pierre. (Oh, Gisèle, how I want that coat.)

Tom and Cynthia, submitted by Katie.

David, submitted by Jade Erin. (I hope you're still somewhere rocking out, David - or maybe Jade Erin's in a band.)

I tend to go on and on about the stories that photos tell, and a scroll through this site immediately brings person after person, couple after couple, beautifully into view. While I can (and do) giggle a Awkward Family Photos for its focus on the ridiculous in the family, this one just makes me smile. Why does it work?

I think what works is that the pictures and names alone are left to tell the story, and the story here is just real life as best as you can tell it from one snapshot. We don't know anything about these people apart from the moment the camera captured. I'm guessing some have split up, that while good has gone down in many of their lives, that they have also known great struggle. Given the age of some of the snapshots I imagine that several are dead.

But I don't know. I don't know anything but what I see. And because these aren't my people, all I can do is look at what their own child chose to share. Talk about a slice of life.

This was film. Somebody had to dig it out of an album or a box or a bag - or take it out of a frame or off of a bedroom mirror - and decide to scan it in.

I have scanned through the site looking for families who do not fit heterosexual norms and I can't find any, but like I said these snapshots only tell a small part of anyone's story - what may not have been told as much as what was. I am guessing this is a sign of the times reflected here more than anything. I am also mindful that not everyone feels warm and fuzzy about Mom and/or Dad, but this is really designed as a nostalgic space. I just wanted to recognize different experiences in this context.

I wrote about old photos on my site the night I started scanning in albums full of our own sadly-neglected family collection.

I love old snapshots with a deep and abiding love. I love their haphazardness, their scratches, their odd, dated borders and their bottomless pit of history. My mother's mother is probably responsible for my intense love of photography, particularly of people and relationships. She had stacks of photo albums in and on her coffee tables, and I looked at them almost every time I went to her house, which was often. When my father's mother died I took the big picture books and her wedding album because besides the ring she gave me, a few Boston Terrier figurines, the pictures were all I cared about. I had everything else I needed in my head.

There is a picture of my grandmother on her wedding day in 1947 that I think about often, and I plan to have framed as soon as I'm set up in a place where my photos will really take center stage. She is sitting in a folding chair in her mother's D.C. backyard in her dress, with a Boston Terrier at her feet who is drinking beer out of a bowl. She is smiling at that dog like she smiled at all of our dogs. She is both herself as I knew her and before I was alive. She was awesome.

Glazer says that most e-mails he gets are entitled "My parents were - and still are awesome," and I have to agree. 

Anne and Joe, before me.

Cindy at Coral Dust Between My Toes is a fan of the site who posted a great picture of her parents.

Claudia at Life and Its Little Pleasures scanned in some great photos of her parents then and now after she saw the site.

Kate at Lovelorn Unicorn posted a bunch of photos from the site on her blog but the one of her mom and dad at the bottom is too good not to share.

Dawn Reiss at A Quirk in the Road says that the site is awesome, just like her parents.

Megan at Time After Tea has submitted her parental shot as well.

Laurie White writes at LaurieWrites.


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