We are dressed up, and the old kodak with the long bellows is brought along and pictures are taken out of doors. A stranger must have been stopped and asked to shoot us all together. We are visiting the New York Botanical Garden in Bronx Park, posed in front of the Museum Building, Carl Tefft’s sculpture The Fountain of Life visible just behind us.
The photo is one of many my father sent to his brother in Norway and which was passed on to me many years later by a cousin. My father wrote on the back of this one “Juni 1945—Her ser du hele familien paa Sondagstur i N.Y. Botaniske have.” The whole family, he says, you see here on a Sunday outing in June.
There is a problem with this. The Bronx is a long trip from Brooklyn on the subway; not by any means a typical Sunday excursion in our chapel-going household, considering Sunday School and Morning Worship and then dinner, with time only for a rest or a stroll before the Evening Service. Nor are the clothes we are wearing—my father’s three-piece suit, my mother’s hat and coat—suitable ones for any Sunday in June in New York City. No, this is clearly Easter Sunday, a day when people commonly went to a botanical garden for the Easter lily displays and the early flowering shrubs and to parade their finery. The corsage just barely visible on my mother’s coat is the clincher.
Was my father confused about the occasion and the date? It seems unlikely. I think rather it was important to him that his family in Norway regard his life in America as including such splendid and apparently routine expeditions. An ordinary Sunday outing.
And perhaps something else. A delicate bit of tact. In 1945, as it happens, Easter fell on April 1st. The German occupation of Norway will not end until the 8th of May. My father’s family have had a hard war, with personal tragedy. Now communication is open for the first time in years. It is June. Normal times will come again. Sunday outings.
I see I am dressed in an Eton collar. And knickerbockers. I ask my brother, here pictured in short pants, if he remembers ever wearing knickerbockers and he says no, but he remembers my wearing them to school. And indeed I do have a memory of frayed stockinette cuffs below the knee, baggy corduroy swishing and chafing the thighs, long stockings with clapped-out elastic slipping down schoolboy shanks. From all of which I conclude I must have been in the very last cohort of children ever to wear knickerbockers.