My father took pictures of everything. I have dozens of black-and-white prints labeled “European Campaign — General Eisenhower 1942-1945,” and hundreds of slides he took later, after the war, after I was born, which he showed for years in our parlor on a big white sheet, until one day when he bought a real screen.
He gave me his photos long before he died. I scanned them into my computer and it’s where they live now, at my fingertips, pictures of people and places long, long gone. But just a few clicks, and they fill up my screen.
I have pictures of the small trees my father planted, which separated our neighbor’s yard from ours, in all their many stages of growth; of my mother’s rock garden in every season; of a trellis laden with roses and laced with snow; of two weeping willow trees that Hurricane Carol uprooted; of my friend Diane and me going to our first dance.
I have pictures of every first day of school, of Christmases and birthday parties, of my mother in a zillion different outfits, of Gregory Campbell holding a dead fish, of Elyse Lyons washing a car, of Echo Lake and Story Land and Buzzards Bay, and of a squirrel eating a nut on a sidewalk in Washington, D.C.
But I don’t have a single picture of Nantasket Beach or Paragon Park?
How is that possible?
My father was a Metropolitan District Commission police officer, serving on a now-defunct branch of law enforcement that patrolled the strip of Hull where Nantasket Beach is and Paragon Park was. For a while he was stationed there, and even after he wasn’t, he had friends at the station. And every time we went to Nantasket, day or night, we’d stop in and say “hi,” and it was a big deal to me — my father handsome in his navy blue uniform, and handsome in just a regular shirt, too. I was 7, 8, 9, 10, and his No. 1 fan.
He took me on the rides, the Rocketship, our favorite. He tried to win me things. And never did. He stood beside me and feigned fascination as we watched taffy being made, the silver machine stretching it thin and shiny. He always brought some home for my mother, strawberry, her favorite. She never went with us to Paragon Park. It was something my father and I did together.
Where are the pictures?
I told my grandchildren about all this, about the Rocketship ride and the taffy machine and how handsome my father was. We went to Nantasket Beach three times last week because the New York City grandchildren are here and the beach is a treat to them, the sky, the sea, the open space. We packed tuna fish sandwiches and plastic toys. And the little kids chased the waves and built sand castles. And the oldest and I looked for sea glass, and at the end of every day, we all got ice cream and the little ones rode the carousel, the only ride left from the amusement park, which closed in 1985.
And I told them about my father taking me on this ride and about how different it was at night with all the blinking lights and the roller coaster clacking and the barkers yelling “Step over here! Step right over here,” and everyone laughing and screaming.
“Where was the roller coaster?” they asked. And I pointed and said, “Right there. Right where that building is.”
And they looked where I pointed. They looked every day. But they couldn’t see.
I took pictures of our time at the beach and e-mailed them to my kids so that they have copies. And I will print the best and put them in an album. And hope that this is enough, that when my grandchildren are as old as I am now, they will remember blue sea glass, cotton candy ice cream, the Paragon carousel. And me.