|Sitting on Train Tracks|
It could almost be set when I was a young girl, spending all day outside with my friends or my sisters. But I never set out through endless fields with no homes in sight, or crawled up an embankment to rest on railroad tracks. The lollipop looks familiar; playing outside wearing dresses does not.
What makes the photograph even more special is knowing that my grandmother, Susie Elizabeth Flemming O'Donnell (1909-1999) is the young girl laughing in the center of the picture. She looks to me to be about 12-13 years old, but I'm not sure. Next to her is one of her best friends, Adelaide Atkins, looking at Susie laughing, no doubt at something silly that one of the other girls just said.
Standing behind Susie is Agnes Marie O'Brien (1908-1979); to her left (our right) sits her youngest sister Helen (1911-1988). Marie, as the older sister was called, and Helen are the children of Edward Joseph O'Brien (1867-1922) and Agnes Gertrude McCaffrey (1879-1919). The sisters' mother Agnes was the youngest surviving child of thirteen children, and the youngest sister of my great-great-grandmother Charlotte Agnes "Lizzie" McCaffrey Flemming (1858-1922). This makes Susie a "first cousin-once removed" of Helen and Marie. [Susie's mother Pearl Alphonsine Horst (1864-1861) was Marie and Helen's first-cousin.]
The photograph seems to have been taken around 1921-22. Two short years prior to this picture being taken Helen and Marie had lost their mother to uterine cancer - she was just 40 years old. When she died her husband was left to care for their six children, ranging in age from eight to eighteen years old. Only three years later their father Edward also died; he was 55-years-old.
So it seems that Marie and Helen were probably visiting their mother's niece, Susie, who was the perfect age for them to play with. After the death of their father, around the time the photo was snapped, the girls and their older siblings moved to Elizabethton, Tennessee (for the exact reason I don't know). Susie, Marie and Adelaide would each marry within the next decade and have children; Helen would remain unmarried, living to be seventy-seven.
But leaving home, having husbands and children, was all for another day, another time. This day was for laughing and dreaming, sitting on train tracks until the sound of a whistle blew. It was for enjoying a lollipop and talking with good friends. It was a day to escape. And lucky for us, someone had a camera nearby to capture it all, so that we could enjoy the day, too.
[NOTE: This post has been corrected from its original form after it was pointed out to me that I had two of the girls incorrectly identified - Adelaide is on the far left and Susie is laughing in the middle. Thanks to Adelaide's granddaughter for letting me know!]