Discussion in 'Vietnam Stories: By John H. Wilborn' started by Guest, Feb 26, 2003.

  1. Guest

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    (8/15/01 6:51:46 am)

    It seemed very apparent something was amiss for the photographer who was bending over with his
    head under the black cloth hood on the large box style professional camera. The assembled family,
    though appearing upside-down in the cameras view finder, appeared just too perfect-- too handsome.
    Ducking from under the blackened cloth he looked at the family with his ‘bare eyeballs’ as if he had to
    make sense of this perfection.....The man pondered in his professional manner why could’nt they all
    look this grand. His long established professional bearing was tested again as his bare head darted
    back under the black hood.
    The father who was seated midpoint in the family grouping, was a mild looking man. His dark
    straight hair was parted in the middle--his facial features clearly European. Pale blue eyes looked
    from under bushy eyebrows. The man appeared to be completely at ease-- dark suit and a tie with an
    overly large knot was up tight against his throat. He was holding a tow headed baby with hair so light
    in color it looked yellow, like oat-straw.
    The mother was a large matronly looking lady, probably in her late 30’s. She stood easily to her
    husbands right side. A slim little girl, only slightly older than the boy on the fathers lap, stood in front of
    her. She was holding onto her mother’s hands, which appeared folded together over her daughters tiny
    The mother reached over and gently tucked the blanket around the baby sitting on the fathers lap.
    The young child looked up at the beaming mother and smiled a spit-strewn smile and then looked
    back toward the photographer. The mother and her small daughter were dressed in the same printed
    cotton fabric-- both dresses very pretty-- so neat and feminine.
    The photographer’s practiced eye did not miss the remarkably handsome and sturdy looking boy
    who was sitting in front of his dad’s folded ankles...the young lad was probably the most relaxed of the
    entire waiting group. He sat there with his legs folded, hands under his chin, elbows positioned on his
    knees, waiting patiently. His Osh-Kosh -Bgosh brand bibbed overalls looked very blue and crisp. It
    was the first time he had worn them and according to the plump little mans Mother, he’d have the
    knees out of them the first time he wore them. The rest of his attire was a long-sleeved flannel shirt
    buttoned all the way up to the collar, just the way he liked, and high-cut style leather shoes with a
    different color shoe string in each shoe.
    This scrutiny by the photographer only took a moment for he had already determined the color of all
    the family members eyes. The lighting and exposure time needed to be accorded with that feature
    whereby, the color of the hair was not as important...Amazing thing the photographer noted--- the
    entire family group had exactly the same color of eyes--- the pale blue of the father, and though not by
    a blood line, the mothers eyes was that special blue....the picture man, as the children called him,
    thought of robins-egg blue, and quickly, almost as a second thought, noted the hair color...seemed that
    of the eight individual family members, there were four with a burnished brown tinge, while the other
    four had the straw color, with mild variations.
    There were the three older children, two teen-age girls and a strikingly handsome youth, at or very
    near his teens. The aurbon haired young woman, her hair tinted ever so slightly, stood to the left
    shoulder of her Mother, appearing to slouch slightly, but still confortable. She wore a purple colored,
    long sleeved sweater, and probably a skirt, for standing as she was, behind her Mom, one could’nt tell,
    but, for that period of time, skirts and sweaters were the fashion. The young man, with the straw-
    colored hair, combed in a fashionable pompadour, stood centered between his older sisters,
    immediately behind his Father, straight and proud, probably realizing this was an important event in his
    families life. The styled forelock of hair, the most bleached out looking remmanent on the young mans
    head, moved rythmically in the sringtime breeze. His ruddy complexion, contrasted with the stripped
    polo shirt he wore, and like his older sister, other items of clothing could not be seen, as he was back of
    his seated Father. And lastly, in all her subdued beauty and ambient charm, standing slightly sideways
    to her sibling brother, probably slightly touching her Fathers left shoulder, was the family favorite.....the
    Rock, the social and domestic mediateor, the final decision for the important as well as the trivial
    matters; though her well styled hair, did not have the pronounced flair of her brothers pompadour, it
    was a style, that some of the Hollywood starlets as well as the legends, would display on glossy
    promotional pictures in the heyday of the silver screen. The white, longsleeved blouse, proclaimed her
    stature and bearing, not flaunting, not at all, just proud and knowing why--the blouse was covered with
    a colorful item of clothing, not unlike a vest... it had equally, colorful figures or designs of some sort,
    embroidered onto the tan, suede looking vest; at a distance, one could conclude, it may be Latin,
    Spanish, or German motif. The gentle breeze, caused the equally attractive, brown skirt to be seen
    moving, and readily see her attractive, fashionable footwear near the legs of her Dads chair.
    Once again, this time the final go-round, the picture man thrust his head into view again,
    what his lens and film would record....he knew,with no doubt whatsoever, this was choice, this would be
    his premium, his accolade. His smile flashed, ever so breifly toward the family, the neat well-mannered
    children, the proud parents, and now , to the sun lighted backdrop, the green oaks and elms, the
    graceful,white, church spire, centered on the slight hill back of them, and the cloudless, blue sky,
    looking ever so much like the families eyes. Now, back under the hangmans looking, black shroud, he
    thought humorously of the youngest girl, who called him, ‘picture-man’, because she could’nt pronounce
    photographer. There it was again, the upside-down looking view, and again it appeared almost unreal
    for him, such perfection, as he called out to the waiting family, ‘one for the money, two for the show,
    three to get ready, and four to SMILE’, he shouted loudly, and a nano-second afterwards, activitated
    the remote,wire plunger device attached to the big box camera. A telltale click was heard by the entire
    family, grabbing all their attention, and the Mr. Picture man shouted out again, “WHAT A SMILE”, and
    at the same instant the families reaction was to smile again, and once more the mechanical click of the
    magic box.
    A short time afterwards, the Mother told the photographer the names and relative positions of the
    children, as they were seated for the photo session. He told the Mom if was necessary to list what the
    family was wearing, and to keep track of it for he may need that information, when the process person,
    his wife, tinted and colored the picture. He remarked to Mrs. Wilborn, numerous times, what a spendid
    portrait she would have, and how handsome her family was. Well, the Mother beamed, no, in fact she
    glowed, to his remarks, and the onlooking Father who was watching the three younger Wilborn children
    was quietly proud also; in his staid German manner, he was like a proud lion sire, quiet, yet strong.
    ‘Alright now, let me see’ exclaimed Mrs. Wilborn, as she looked over the sketchings on a sheet of
    lined tablet paper,’this is the church back of us, so here is Florence, or Onkie, we call her, you know
    she was named after my departed Mother, and next to her is Merle James, we call him Bud, James is
    after my brother Jimmy, and then is our darling of all the kids, Faye Marie, they all love her, believe me,
    and I remember there was this singer in New York City, I named Faye after’. The photographer listened
    patiently as he followed the vibrant, Mothers declarations on her families pedigree, and transcribed the
    names onto the rough sketch. She may have sensed his wanting to complete his mission, for when she
    mentioned the fact to him, he stated so graciously, that he was anxious to develope the pictures, and
    ultimately see the finished product. ‘And thats Paul, my husband, and the childrens Father, and he has
    my youngest sitting on his lap, that’ll be Loren Alden, and you better believe ALLDONE, is exactly that’
    as she guffawed with a throaty laugh. ‘And standing in front of me is my youngest girl, and her is
    Pauline, named after Pauline Penny, a friend of mine’. Again, an item of trivia, the picture man really
    was’nt questing for, but the professionalism prevailed, and with the patience of Jobe of old, listened to
    the proud Moms ramblings, “and finally, last of all, is Daddys Little Man, just like Paul, and we named
    him after Pauls father; this sir, is John Henry, he was the biggest baby of them all, still is’, Mrs.
    Wilborn chuckled, again that hearty sound, from down deep in her throat. ‘ This young fella weighed in
    at a whopping 12 pounds when I had him, and he’s been eatin’ every since, he thinks sourkraut is
    applesauce and all bread should taste like raisin pie; wow, whatta boy’, the proud Mom gushed.
    The picture man put his trappings away, and looked on, as the family group headed off toward their
    nearby home. He could not refrain from musing, to himself, the worth of a family, the building block, the
    foundation of our country, even our civilization. And then, almost as if driven, his actions speeded up,
    actions normally slow and methodical, became hurried and jerky, until in a fit of exasperation, litterally
    crammed the remaining articles into the cumbersome carrying case. Once again, he peered toward the
    almost out of sight family, grabbed his case, and rushed off to the big Terroplane automobile parked on
    the grassy incline. The opening and closing of the heavy door, the roar of the powerful engine, as the
    cars tires attempted to grab traction, on the moist, green grass lawn.
    Later that evening, at the photographers studio in nearby Manchester, the man studied and mulled
    over the proofs, then referred to the rough sketch the Mom had helped him with, and again, back to his
    scrutiny and study.....the photographers wife emerged from the work room where she had been coloring
    and tinting the finished product; as she approached the sitting man, she waved the portraits gently in
    the air, as if part of a cooling or drying process, and exclaimed not at all in a shy way, as she neared his
    side, ‘You know Flash’, not his name but that’s what she called her husband of 40 years, ‘you sure had
    them marked Flash, for these just turned out lovely’, I can’t believe such perfection, what a take, and
    you only shot ‘em twice, look at all them kids, not an average looking kid in the whole kabash, wish I
    could give you all the credit Flash, but when you got perfection to work with, ya get perfection back. I’m
    really proud of you Flash, I just know these will be the best you’ll ever do----and as time goes by, you
    find out that this will be a picture that you’ll set your standards to, this’ll be your crowning acheivement’.
    The slouching husband listened, absentmindly to his wifes rambling dialoge, contentedly gazing upon
    the colored portrait; the same as the scene etched into his inner eye, litterally recalling all the sights
    and sounds, and smells associated with todays photo session, his minds eye digesting the unbeleivable
    sensation as he first looked at the family, on the lens of that inantimate camera, recalling the times he
    had to look at the real scene of parents and offspring. Most assuredly, he would enter these
    remarkable portraits, in the International Display, to be held in Chicago, this fall. For the first time in
    many years, of diligent and devoted work, he felt completely and emphatically at peace. Surely, he’d
    never forget the family portrait, for he’d keep copies of his own, to boast about, and in times of doubt,
    reinforce whatever shortcomings that could ever come to taunt him.
    Just as we read or hear any story, sometimes we ask, is the story true. Recall when you delightedly
    watched the movie FORREST GUMP, and the marvels of photography was delightful,
    but sorry for raining on your parade, not true. As I have penned this story for my satisfaction, and I
    hope yours, the reader, please allow me to quote some phrase that I kind of remember, so
    heartwrenching but very pertinent........
    The family was real; they lived in Dundee, Iowa, and during the period of time depicted here, were a
    family....any attempt at levity or humor would, indeed be without the feeling intended. Times were very
    difficult, the Father was ill, and the Mother had to assume the entire load of the large family....the
    clothing of the children, sending them to school, and the monumental task of feeding and housing them.
    These long years later, I, the son John, take pride in the attempt to tell a fictional story. If members of
    our family, who are still with us, read these lines, please know in your heart, that the feelings are true
    and real as I write them.....I love you all, and may God bless us all, as we live out our days.

    John H. Wilborn Sr.