At the Feet of Serenity
Journal Entry by Henry Clayland: August 10, 1934:
Sweetheart, we had a very enjoyable walk and talk tonight. Afterward, we went over and sat at the feet of old Serenity in Euclid Park. Remember, dear, I bought you a bouquet of gladiolas as a token of my love.
The one-car garage at the home where I grew up was a mysterious kind of place. My siblings and I were banished from explorations into our father’s possessions that were in storage there. Garden tools were of no interest to some of us; however, his collections from a strange and foreign land where he had once lived held much curiosity for our childish natures. We were allowed into the garage only with him present. There was a small plywood structure squeezed into the far corner of the garage that was filled with magic. Daddy allowed me in with strict instructions when he worked his magic. The fumes of the chemicals within burned my eyes, filled my sinuses, and punched at my brain. He worked his magic methodically, careful to not miss a step in the timing and procedure of the assignment. From his magic, he created an artistic blend of history and truth tangible to the touch. I asked questions. There was much to learn.
“Who is that man standing in front of that statue, Daddy?” The photo lay fresh and wet from the chemical. My amazing father had produced an image of a tall, thin man in a suit and fedora standing in front of a handsome statue. He told me the man was him, but twenty years had elapsed since the time the camera played its role in the magic. I would have never guessed it was my father. Later, he picked up a pen and wrote his name on the photo, the date, and the place. The statue’s name, he did not write.
From that time on, I never thought of the photo again until the day my curiosity was riled. Some photographs had a way of wandering away from memory, waiting for an awakening.
My father’s pain was plastered upon that stiff piece of paper, wet from the freshness of its development.
1934: An evil man was rising to power in Germany with an ambition to rule the world; the Great Depression was taking a toll in America; mourning continued from disease and war that raged two decades earlier. My mother, Grace, was offered a job as assistant to Congresswoman Isabella Greenwall, the first woman elected to represent the state of Arizona. Grace left her Arizona friends and family to begin a new adventure in a city far from home.
What thoughts must have rambled through my father’s head just then? Should he tuck the photo into a secret place? Should he frame it and hang it on a wall for the memories that would haunt him? Should he destroy it for the memories to die with it?