There was a photo at my grandmother's house that was sacred. It was an ordinary enough picture that sat quietly in its frame alongside many other family photos. I first realized its inherent sacred qualities when it appeared time after time in other living rooms or hanging in hallways at the homes of my cousins. It was a ubiquitous image in the small world of my childhood.
It was easy enough to recognize the people in the picture. There were only two, and they were my uncles. To my eye, they looked like they always did, but this was before I understood about the passage of time. The reason they looked the same was that the image was not very old, maybe only six when it first registered in my visual memory. It was Uncle Adam and Uncle Wilson shaking hands.
My father was one of eleven, so I had many aunts, uncles, and cousins who would gather at my Scottish grandmother's house for Sunday dinner and high holidays. It was during those years that I first heard the story. Though it wasn't quite apparent, my uncles were in "army clothes" and the handshake might have raised an eyebrow if anyone knew that the one on the left was a Major and the one on the right, a Sargent. In the picture they looked more like the brothers they were.
As the story goes, it was difficult to slip any real news past the mail censors who were sure that a letter in the wrong hands could give away the position of the army. The newspapers had been reporting on a battle in a bulge caused by a swift German advance. My uncle, the major, was in the Signal Corps and on Patton's staff, his brother was infantry, and the picture sailed by the censors telling an immigrant mother, without words, that her boys were both safe.
They are gone now, but the picture still tells a story that takes me back in sacred time.
Causes Robert Smith Supports
Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, Presbyterian Disaster Relief