Last week I was at a lecture at the Philadelphia Historical Society about using various family documents to try to put together a family tree. One of the speakers was talking about how family pictures can be misleading. She put one up on the screen and was pointing out that the places in which people were standing made you draw conclusions that were not necessarily correct. In fact, a couple of the people in the picture were not even family members.
On my old computer downstairs, my desktop screen shows the following picture.
As I was look at it today, I remembered the lecture and thought that if someone in the future saw came across this picture, they might draw a few wrong conclusions so I decided to play a bit of a game with myself to see what I might think, if I knew nothing about this family. Here goes.
The picture is of a birthday party. The boy in the great sweatshirt who is blowing out the candles is probably turning about ten years old, though it is hard to tell because of the flames. Looking on are his two brothers. They all have similar haircuts. The youngest who looks to be about three has the same hair and skin color as the birthday both and the same eye color has his oldest brother who is about thirteen. Watching them is their grandmother or possibly an older aunt – she looks young to have a thirteen year old grandson, but a bit old to be the mother of the youngest boy. Both boys are wearing sweatshirts that, if you put the names together spell Eagles, so they probably live in Philadelphia. If it is football season, then this picture is probably taking place in fall. This is backed up by the fact that the grandmother is wearing a sweater in the house as is someone whose elbow we can only see.
These are the most obvious guesses, but one might guess that the elbow belongs to the boys’ mother. The picture on the wall behind them looks like a large family group, so it is likely that their mother would be there for the party. (As opposed to the boys living with their grandmother.) The house is probably a good size house – or at least not a small one because the stairs in the background show that there is a second floor. The table we are looking at is just a portion of what appears to be a much larger table so this must be the dining room. The display of plates behind them also has more the look of a dining room than a kitchen. It is a dining room that is actually used for eating, though, because there are salt and pepper shakers on the table and those don’t go too well with cake. The birthday boy likes diet coke, while the grandmother prefers crush which she drinks from a can rather than using a glass like her grandson.
Since this is a family blog, anyone who is reading this, will recognize that a couple of the conclusions drawn here are wrong, but I think it is an interesting exercise in making assumptions. No doubt some of you would have come up with different inferences.