Friday, February 15, 2013

The Day After...Remembering Relatives, Roosters and Rome

When I was a little girl, we often traveled from our home in Connecticut, to Rhode Island where my father's side of the family lived. While there, we usually stayed with my Uncle Henry and Auntie Ann. Uncle Henry was a well-known sports photographer, but on occasion took photos of special events, especially when celebrities like Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra came into town. He would also document all of the family events,  gatherings and parties, and for this I am continually grateful. It's hard to find a photo of him because he was always the one behind the camera.

I remember arriving at his home in those days, and upon entering the front door, Auntie Ann would loudly exclaim, "Watch out for the negatives, don't touch the negatives!" This was because Uncle Henry would hang long strips of film negatives from any rod or pole he could find in the house. Those gray, transparent ribbons were suspended everywhere from floor lamps and shower rods to bathroom lights and chandeliers, and still smelled of that acrid solution with which he used to process his film in the basement dark-room. Of course this was well before digital cameras existed.

I loved flipping through the newest batch of B&W photos he kept on the coffee table, and would listen with great interest, to the stories that accompanied each one. Sometimes, while pointing out the dials on the camera, he would explain how he shot the picture and would try to help me understand the intricacies of meter, speed, light and aperture. All too complicated for a ten year old mind, but fascinating nonetheless. I am convinced this is the reason why I grew to became obsessed with taking pictures of everything! My kids can certainly attest to that as can my photo albums and iphoto files.

Anyway, the reason I am telling you all this is because, although my uncle was a prolific photographer, I never once saw a photo he took of the places he traveled with Auntie Ann. I know they traveled around the world, but the only evidence I ever found, was a trinket I had admired each time we slept in the guest room at their house. In this room, upon a small shelf on the wall, sat a little bronze statue of a she-wolf and two human babies suckling beneath her. To say I admired this oddity was an understatement! I was transfixed. I was cautioned never to touch it and so, obediently I would sit on the bed and stare at it for what seemed like hours. A wild wolf caring for human babies? I asked all sorts of questions but was only told that my Uncle and Aunt had bought the piece in Rome when they visited there. The ancient myth was that the babies, named Romulus and Remus, were left in a basket by the river and were found and cared for by a mother wolf. Romulus grew to become the founder of Rome and so the city was named after him. Remus unfortunately, did not meet such a favorable fate.  The unabridged story of the babies, as I learned later in life, was far more sinister and was probably not appropriate to share with a child. 

Beneath the wolf the words read, "Ricordo Di Roma"
This means, "Remember Rome"

Before my Auntie Ann passed away, she remembered how much I loved the little statue and so she entrusted me with it. Even though it is only a simple tourist trinket, to me it holds so many fond memories and remains one of my treasured possessions. It now sits on a shelf in my cottage.

I tell you about it today because it is a symbol of the place of origin for Valentine's Day. Although there is not much that is definitively known about Saint Valentine, we do know that he lived during the Middle Ages in Rome and died on February 14th. There is a famous church there, named after him.

I found this lovely image on the website I've listed below. It gives a little more insight about       
 Saint Valentine. 

 Here are my two Valentine buddies. They were certainly dressed for the day! As I mentioned in a previous post, I've named them Romulus and Remus in honor of my favorite little characters in the statue. After going for a walk with me yesterday, they laid on the steps in the warm sun, while I continued my work at the table next to them. 

A perfect way to spend Valentine's Day.
I hope you had a good day too.

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