Back To The Future

Mom as a junior in hs


Mom at hs grad

dad at hs grad








In the movie BACK TO THE FUTURE, time travel transports the main character back to his parents’ teen lives, so of course they don’t recognize him as the son they will some day have.

I’ve seen many pictures of my parents—as infants, toddlers, young children going to school—and then there’s a gap followed by their pictures as a couple, then as parents of their own children as infants, toddlers, young children, teens and adults.

Recently I found several old photos in a folder stuck at the back of a drawer in my mother’s apartment. I’d never seen these pictures of my parents as teens, and based on the serious, hard working stories I’d heard about them, these pictures were a surprise. In these official class pictures, they have a cocky kind of rebelliousness. For instance, in the picture of Mom as a high school sophomore, she and her front-row classmates (except for one grinning, mischievous boy who looks like he’s going to set off firecrackers) are all posed with crossed arms. And look at the frown she gives the camera. THAT was my sweet, happy mom?

And then in the formal group portrait of both Mom and Dad as part of the Plattsburg (MO) High School Graduating Class of 1936—formally wearing caps and gowns and posed in front of the school—look at the jaunty, defiant angle of their caps!  I noticed this immediately because on the morning of my own high school graduation, my dad very seriously straightened the cap and told me to wear it properly.

I look at these pictures not just as the daughter of these two teens, but also as a high school teacher who for thirty years watched many of my students resort to the same antics just as the photographer clicked the group picture for each graduating class.

And actually, I’m not complaining. During this month of graduation ceremonies, I’m thrilled to finally have pictures of my parents’ graduation. I miss the stories that go with these pictures, the snippets of their lives that I could pass on to my grandchildren. But it’s enough to say, “These were your great-grandparents when they were only six or seven years older than you are now.  And you’re here because these two very real people fell in love, married and had a daughter who grew up and had her own baby, and that child grew up and had her own babies…the two of you.  It’s a long story, but it’s all part of who you are, and that makes it quite wonderful.”

My daughter, holding the portrait of Baby Grace, given to her daughter Grace and her son Gannon when they are 2 and 1.

My daughter, holding the portrait of Baby Grace, given to her daughter Grace (named for her great-great-grandmother Grace) on her 2nd birthday.

Baby Grace Shipley, my dad's mother. She died when my dad was not much older than she is in this picture.

Baby Grace Shipley, my dad’s mother. She died when my dad was not much older than she is in this picture.

My granddaughter Grace, age 2 1/2, posing with a lawn figure.

My granddaughter Grace, age 2 1/2, posing with a lawn figure.  There’s something so sweet about the two little girls named Grace, and how they pose for the camera.



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids, Things to be thankful for

52 responses to “Back To The Future

  1. juliabarrett

    Your father looks rakish! Your mother, determined– as if she’s challenging the world! What great people those two are and were.

  2. What a find! This week while cleaning out dresser drawers I found six-years’ worth of journals recording my first years’ teaching and meeting my husband. I may blush or cry or laugh (maybe all three) when I read these.

    Precious pictures. A line from Dorothea Lange comes to mind looking at these: “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” The last photo could win a prize in the “Innocent Charm” category. Wowza!

    • I love that one, too, Marian. Lange’s quote is perfect for these pictures.
      Enjoy those journals! And be glad you found them, instead of someone else. I had a good friend who was moving to a condo and having a huge yard sale of all the furniture she wasn’t taking with her. She sold a small dresser to one of the bedroom sets, and she realized later–when the man was nice enough to bring the box of letters back to her–that she hadn’t cleaned out the bottom drawer. 😉

  3. What wonderful photos to find. I recently discovered a Christmas card, hand drawn by my mother. I think it was from the first Christmas of her married life. I had no idea that my mother could sketch so well!

  4. There’s just something about looking through old pictures that sends the mind into question mode, isn’t there? These are fabulous, Marylin! Funny, I recall a photo of my mother, taken during high school and she has a similar expression. Like your mother, she’s thinking, “This is so lame.” 🙂 Thanks for sharing…I love the photos! Interesting, my father’s mother died when he was around two years old.

    • I love this, Jill. That IS what it looks like she’s thinking: “This is so lame.”
      When my father’s mother, Grace, died, it was to spinal meningitis, a painful death. I have a toddler picture taken of him not long after her death, and he looks so confused and lost. And then when his beloved father remarried several years later, it was to a woman who after a few months decided that Ray (my father) should go live with the grandparents and great-aunts so she and his father could set up their own home together. It was such a hard time for him; when his great-granddaughter was born, and Molly named her Grace after my dad’s mother, I think it was very important to him.

  5. I love the generations seen in the photos here–your parents as teens to your charming granddaughter (and her equally charming great great grandmother).

    I laughed at your exchange with Marian. I recently happened to catch the famous “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld–the soup recipes are in a drawer of an armoire. 🙂 I also like Lange’s quote. I didn’t know it, but I’ve often thought it.

    • Oh, Merril, I was the one who moved my parents from their house to their apartment at the assisted living. I don’t know how I missed the folder of pictures caught at the back of the drawer all these years. But I’m so glad I finally did find them.
      I remember the “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld, too. Maybe this leaving/losing things in drawers is common after all. 😉

  6. I love the pictures of your parents as young adults ready to embark on their life journey. They say so much.We are so lucky to have these photographs as reminders of where we came from. (and our children and grandchildren) The Grace pictures are so adorable.

    • Thanks, Darlene. When we gave our granddaughter Grace the portrait of her great-great-grandmother Grace, she was about the same age of the Grace in the portrait. I think she’s just now fully realizing how important that connection is. Molly and I have always loved two Graces in the family and all the pictures that share the lives of all the generations.

  7. I adore the name Grace, so beautiful. I also love looking through my mother’s box of black and white’s with all the old family photos. How wonderful to have found these teenage photos of your mom and dad, especially exhibiting a little teenage rebellion 🙂 It’s great to be able to share these photos with the generations to follow. The photos of the ‘two Grace’s’ are so adorable. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your family history with us dear Marylin. I hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend my friend 🙂 ❤ xo

    • Thank you, dear Sherri. I am having a wonderful weekend, planting my garden–adding a row of beets because that’s what I planted when my mom gave me my first gardening space of my own!–and finally setting out flowers now that it’s truly sunny spring weather in Colorado.
      The photos of the two Graces–one of the grandmother of my past, the other of the granddaughter of my present and future, makes me feel grateful and blessed. ❤

      • Oh that feeling of having your own veggie patch…I loved that as a girl and I couldn’t wait to share that experience with children! I’ve never grown beets…but I did grow a lot of zucchini and tomatoes in California 🙂 Your weekend sounds wonderful Marylin….nothing like that beautiful sunny spring weather to warm the bones and the soul! And yes, you are blessed indeed my friend 🙂 ❤

      • I chose beets as a child because I loved the color! I also liked to eat pickled beets, and thought it was so funny that cutting the beets turned my fingers a blood red. 🙂
        My weekend started out wonderful in the sunshine, Sherri, and Jim helped me dig out old flowering bushes in the front flower bed and replant with all kinds of gorgeous flowers. But by the end of the weekend I was SO stiff and sore. There’s nothing like gardening.
        It’s always so good to hear from you, Sherri. ❤

  8. It’s so much fun to see our patents in old photos and try to think what they were like then Super post Marylin

  9. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story and family photos. Especially the ones about each Grace. Simply beautiful, Marylin! ❤️

    • Thank you, Tracy. These pictures are now as precious to me as the Picasso-type portraits Grace and Gannon painted of me. As it turns out, their great-great-grandmother was quite an artist on her own, so the tradition continues! 😉

  10. What a find, Marylin! Love the photos. I’ll bet the photographer asked them to fold their arms. He didn’t study body language!

    • I thought that, too, Nancy. But I cropped to just the section with Mom. In the big picture, most of the students in her line, and also behind her, did NOT have their arms crossed. Oh, how I wish Mom could tell her story that goes with this! 😉

  11. Jim

    A graduation antic that makes a statement! That’s how I see it. Your mom and the two gals on each side of her have their mortarboards tilted at the exact same angle as your ‘non-conformist’ dad, who stands head and shoulder above his peers. I surmise all three ladies are pining for your tall, handsome dad-to-be as all prepare to move separate directions in life. Each young lady tilted her mortarboard like your dad so as not to be outdone by the other two in a show of public affection and loyalty for their beloved Ray Shepherd!!! And if your readers find my imaginary scenario a bit cheesy, now might be a good time to reply with another lovely and true family story for posterity on your blog. Tell us about the moment in time when your mom and dad knew they wanted to marry each other. As I recall, it happened in a classroom with an “accidental” look! 🙂

    P.S. I love the pictures of G&G and also the one of the original little Gracie, all posing so sweetly for the camera.

    • Molly

      But Dad, the original Grace did not want to be called Gracie! She was known to put her little hands on her hips and say, “My name is Grace!” Does this sound a little bit like someone who said they didn’t want to be called “Lil Mol”? 🙂

    • I don’t think it was an “accidental” look, honey. I think it was Fate or love angels or two sweet kids finally looking at each other. But I’m biased. ❤ ❤

  12. Molly

    I love how “sassy” Grandma looks! I’m sure she was just as amazing as a young woman as she was once she was a grandma! This week while cleaning her room, Grace found an envelope that said “tooth fairy” on it in her dresser drawer. The envelope still contained a tooth, pretty broken up, but still a tooth. She immediately thought it was one of hers, but after closer examination of the tooth and the envelope and the handwriting, I think it was mine. Her dresser used to be my dresser. What s fun week of finding things!

    • If the tooth was broken up, I think it might have been one of your wisdom teeth that the oral surgeon had to break to get out. 😉
      Think how long ago that envelope with the tooth pieces had been in that drawer. Wow! ❤

  13. Grace

    I like how you described your mom in high school! Also love to see my mom ,my brother, and I all holding the portrait of grandpa’s mom.

    • Molly

      Grace, I love that you still get confused on who is in the portrait. Is it me? my mom? Mor Mor? I grew up thinking it was Mor Mor. I really think it’s pretty “amazing ” how much you and the original Grace looked alike at that age!

      • Molly, I was so happy when Grandma agreed to give the portrait of Grace Shipley to little Grace Mosher for her birthday. Our family is so much more creative, happy and loving because of its TWO Graces!

    • Oh, Grace, you belong to a funny, loving family that takes such joy in old pictures and stories. And I still smile when I think of your reaction to the portrait of your great-great-grandmother Grace when she was your age. You thought she was your mom, and then maybe she was me, and it was just so precious. You make us so happy, Grace! ❤

  14. Gannon

    Mor Mor look how handsome I was as a baby. You should of painted a picture of me! Lol! Gannon

    • Sweetheart, I didn’t paint a picture of anyone! That was a portrait that was painted probably over 100 years ago. My mother was in her 50s when she found the painting carefully rolled up and stored in a box. She hired a restorer to mat and frame it. But you’re right, Ganno, you were so handsome even then. Absolutely!

  15. Great photos! Yes, it’s too bad that we’ll never know about the crossed arms. Now, what about that story Jim mentioned — the “accidental” look”? Can’t wait to hear that one.

    • I should write a post on it, Darla, but it’s a very short story. Mom said that in high school when she first met Dad she thought he was the cocky and annoying new kid who didn’t fit in. Then later she saw him watching her seriously, almost timidly, and she smiled. He blushed, and when he smiled back she realized how hard he was trying to be accepted. Short but sweet, and their relationship and marriage lasted more than 70 years before my dad died. 🙂

      • That is the sweetest story. People would love to read about this, I think, even if it’s short. So precious!

      • And the really “awkward boy” proof is in his graduation picture, Darla. My dad wore glasses from the time he was a little boy, yet at graduation he took them off to look better. But he wouldn’t be able to see better; I hope Mom took his hand like a girlfriend and gently led him around that day. 😉

  16. Priceless! You have such a way with words, Marylin. The story of your father’s own graduation cap and then him telling you to wear your’s properly is so sweet. Through your words I can hear him saying it to you. And, the portrait of your grandmother is more than precious. It is so very special that your grand-daughter now has it. Have a wonderful week!

    • You’re such a talented photographer, Robyn, capturing the emotions and honesty in your pictures. I’m glad you appreciate the portrait of my grandmother Grace. I love how she got shy and lifted her little arms and in that sweet gesture. And I’ve seen my granddaughter Grace do the same thing when she got timid as a toddler.
      Wishing you a wonderful week, too, dear Robyn. ❤

  17. Marylin, you see so much when you look at these photos. The little detail I loved most was the way your father straightened your cap and your evidence now that he himself had a youthful rakishness you seldom if ever saw in him. Photos of the past yield so much self-understanding, even when their subjects can no longer narrate the backstory. We can take the fragments, the expressions, the past memories, and make our own narration. You give this gift of connection to yourself and your progeny. What a great way to spend the Jubilación Years.

    • Thank you, Shirley. You so clearly–and kindly–help me see why my dad straightened my cap at my graduation. I believe you’re right on target!
      I love it when Grace and Gannon respond to some of the posts with their feelings. When they’re adults and read the posts and comments (we plan to have full copies of everything made for them), I think they’ll remember the details about their great-grandparents’ lives…and also how they reacted to the details. 😉

  18. Jane Sturgeon

    Ohh Marylin, the love the pours from this story and your roots is there for us all to feel. I love reading about your family and I hope you share many more stories. The ‘look’ was heaven sent. ❤ xXx

    • Thank you, Jane. Now you know how I feel as I experience your writing groups and journeys “across the ocean” as told in your richly described scenes. ❤ ❤ ❤

      • Jane Sturgeon

        So much ❤ flowing back across 'the Pond' for you my lovely. Ohh, I thought of you the other evening. I took a walk to get some fresh air and a wonderful Border Collie called Zac dropped his ball on a rope at my feet. I feel into conversation with his 'Mum and Dad' and threw the ball for him till I wore him out. It was a magic moment. Hugs for Scout too. Xxx ❤

      • Oh, I love it, Jane.
        Scout is 7 mos old now, still into everything but also such a warm, snuggly, happy part of our lives. Adjusting to a puppy is a real life-changer!
        Tonight when we throw her toys for her to fetch, I’ll tell her that her Aunt Jane from across the ocean sends her love! ❤

      • Jane Sturgeon

        Oh yes please…there is a pure joy that springs from little ones and dogs. ❤ xXx

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