Being as how she and photography came of age contemporaneously, and given the fact that she lived for a century, it shouldn’t be surprising that my family has more photos of my grandmother, Jennie V. Coffin, and of her husband James, than of anyone else. Here is another of the woman whom family members of my generation and later knew as Granny. Cousin Nancy and her first husband, who happens also to be my cousin Don Stake, took this photo on a trip to Bandon on the Oregon Coast when they were first married and Granny used to visit them a lot. Nancy recently scanned it for me.
It’s a smashing photograph. The scanned image is of a print, but to me it has the look of having been a Kodachrome slide first. The color is richly saturated and the shadows are fathomless. I forgot to ask Nancy if she remembers, but maybe she’ll chime in with a comment.
The older I get the greater the melancholy I register in images like these, although it’s very possible that this is pilot error…it could just be my melancholy nature seeing what I would inevitably see. But consider: in 1963, when Granny sat down on this log to rest on a visit to southern Oregon, she had been widowed already a decade. I was a year old at this moment, and I grew up and knew her for 26 years more. Everything I know about my grandparents suggests that, while they were very traditional, buttoned-up Victorians, James and Jenny were also crazy about each other. She must surely have missed him. When I see this image of my grandmother, now understanding her to have been a real woman with 74 years of history behind her and another quarter century ahead of her, and not just a woman named Granny who looked like this and was related to me in such and such way, I cannot help but imagine the swirl of thoughts, feelings, griefs, joys, yearnings, wearinesses, and yes, even further hopes, that surely broiled and fumed within her bosom, the kind of emotions that are apt to awaken and make themselves felt in windswept moments like this. But humans are so inscrutable. Even if I’d been there that day at the beach – even as my mature now-self – I still would never have guessed at any of it. The camera caught everything that one might have seen on that sunny afternoon, and here it is. The rest – quietly stowed away in an aged heart that had begun beating in a different century – was hidden even then. -mdf
Image archive ID:
About the physical photograph:
Unknown. Scanned image from the collection of Nancy Stake-Reynolds.