On a Daily Prompt, or Putting Leaves on Trees

This post is in response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt “Snapshot Stories,” which asks you to open the first photo album nearby (real or virtual) find the first photo of yourself and write about it. The gem below is that photo. And, yes, I did edit it myself. Marvel at my MS Paint skills!

We look so much alike!

This is a snap taken Christmas Eve 2003. My cousin, M, is on the left; I’m on the right. Behind us is an overly decorated Christmas tree and tons of wrapped presents for the family.

Despite being a Queens-born native New Yorker (Flushing, represent!!!), M moved to Michigan in her childhood and has lived there long enough to say things like “dang,” pick up a midwestern accent, and go fuzzy on the details of her once-large Italian-American family. A year or so ago she asked if I could help her fill in some of the gaps, provide context to memories warped and faded by time, and, I guess, help her path forward by illuminating the trail behind her.

Mission accepted.

Many years ago as an undergraduate, I skipped class one day (too blah to go in, you know how it goes) and I wandered around the City until I found myself in Battery Park looking at Castle Clinton and came across a ticket booth for boat rides. Why not hop a ferry? So, I took one to Ellis Island. Walking around the museum I saw a sign announcing the digitization of ship manifests. “Give it a try! Find family!”

So I did!

And I did.


That began a little side project to fill in the branches and leaves of my Italian family tree, and maybe figure out the stories and other graffiti that had been carved into the trunk over time. The roots spread in different directions and entwined with those of other trees. I put it all on paper and eventually saved it to the digital ether. I didn’t have much, but it was more than what others have. It was more than M had when started asking me about out family, but now she knows her way around the twigs and I’m happy to have helped.

The above-mentioned prompt was to provide the backstory of this photo. At first glance, it’s a family together for the first Christmas Eve in ages standing in front of a decorated pine. And I thought that’s where the post would go. Looking again, I see something else: one person with questions, another with answers, and the tree that brings them together.


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