Writing about an old photograph

Assignment for Writing group at Holyoke Senior Center
January 21, 2006

Photo: Framed photo of pond and 120 Nichols St house

1941 photo of pond and house at 120 Nichols St, Danvers

This old photo has been sitting above my desk for several years. It shows the little house that was my home as a child. The view is across the pond in springtime, when the water was high. Today in Northampton I saw high water in the Oxbow almost touching a little garage and I thought back to the springtimes of my childhood when pondwater rose into our yard.

I love this photo and the memories it brings of that house, yard, and pond. I lived there 14 years, growing from baby to teenager. I experienced many a wet spring, wading around in rubber boots, catching polliwogs in the pond with my mother, and hearing my parents talk about our wet cellar -- how to drain it, or dry it, or seal it to prevent the entry of more water. Over the years we came to understand the futility of our efforts and the certainty of a wet cellar; our cellar was in the line of flow between the hillside spring above us and the pond below us. We sort of accepted the leaks and told each other funny stories about things floating or bubbling in our cellar. And we loved that pond!

We watched muskrats swim across the pond and build themselves a home. We set up a wood duck nestbox (constructed from a WWII ammo box, according to instructions from the Boston Museum of Science) and watched generations of wood ducks come and go. In winter we skated on the pond; in summer we rowed or paddled in small boats with my father. In August when the loosestrife plants bloomed, my sister and I walked among the hummocks and examined the now-dry pond bottom. My father took careful photos of the pond from the house in all seasons; we delighted in showing that series of seasonal slides to our visitors.

But this photo is not by my father, nor from the house, It is the opposite view. It is a very early photo, taken before the dogwood trees had been planted on the south side, before the blueberry bushes and laundry yard, before the addition to the kitchen. Today I am curious to learn the date of the photo and turn it over; pencil notes there are barely-legible:

    May 4, 1941
    By Bill Goding
    Yonkers, N.Y.

Thus, this photo is older than I am. But it serves well to trigger my childhood memories.