Every morning when I go to my computer for my modern technology fix, my desktop wallpaper reminds me of a very different time, almost 100 years ago. Taken in 1915, in Mobile, Alabama, this four-generation photograph includes (standing, on the right) my great-great grandmother, Mary Anne Davis Hagan; (standing, on the left) my great-grandmother, Mary Becker Hagan Higgins; (seated) my great-great-great grandmother, Luocretia Hall Davis, born in 1830; and (in her lap) my great-uncle Walter Martin Higgins, Jr., my grandmother‘s oldest brother. I love the way his mother and grandmother are looking at him with such delighted smiles, which I imagine he is returning. I think of how he would grow up to be a Brigadier General and how Mima worshipped him. I wonder about the dog–what his name is and who he belonged to. And I wonder if the houses behind are still standing and if on one of my now frequent trips to Mobile (where my oldest child attends Spring Hill College) I might be able to find out.
This photo is more formal and I don’t like it as much for that reason, although it is clearer. I wonder about that day–if they were posing for this formal photograph and then the photographer decided to play around a bit as he was leaving with the smiling shot on the front lawn, so different from most older family pictures. We will never know, but I am glad they took the time that day to have these pictures made. There is something awe-inspiring to me about seeing Luocretia, who was born in 1830, owned slaves, and lived through the Civil War, holding in her lap my Uncle Walter, whom I remember from his yearly visits to my grandmother, always around Halloween for some reason, as a kindly gentleman in a cardigan sweater.
January 18, 2011