The Christmas presents I remember best are not the ones I received, but the ones I was able to give my parents. This gift is still the most special.
My parents got married at Mardi Gras in 1946. Their wedding invitations were handwritten so that when my dad visited on Navy leave, the dates could be filled in and the invitations mailed. I guess the wedding is over before many of the invitations reach their destination.
I remember seeing pictures everywhere of my beaming parents, my father and my mother in military uniform, and their wedding in the living room of my grandparents, but I don’t remember seeing much of the wedding itself. Reason for photo loss? Our home on Plaquemine burned down in 1958.
The fire started upstairs and the contents of the attic, including all the old photographs, were destroyed. Our home was rebuilt, this time with matching fire escapes to keep us safe since most of the eight of us slept upstairs. What can be replaced is replaced over time. Sadly, many of the photos are now just memories in the mind.
Fast forward to many years later and I was at the local baseball diamond with my three kids. Orney Hebert, a Plaquemine native, approached me and asked, “Aren’t you one of the Ohlmeyer girls?”
“Yes, I’m Hedy.”
“Well, Dr. Cameron used to take all the pictures at Plaquemine and his wife gave me the negatives after he died. I just found an envelope that said: ‘To Mercedes Postel O Ermeyer. “I wonder if you like them.”
Imagine my thrill when I opened the envelope to find all the negatives from my parents wedding long ago!
My parents raised eight of us, hosted our wedding at home, and provided each of us with a wedding album. So, with baseball season over and Thanksgiving and Christmas looming, plans quickly formed for how to surprise my parents. I let my siblings know that I have received this Christmas gift. I found a photo studio in Baton Rouge that prints old negatives and chose a wedding photo album for my cherished collection.
Finally, Christmas Eve arrived. Our family gatherings can only be described as organized chaos. Eight brothers and sisters have given birth to 22 children, and they are excited to tear the package.
Finally, after all the craziness, it’s time to gift our parents. Crickets could be heard as they opened photo albums they hadn’t seen in years; photos of what they thought were our homes burned down.
Needless to say, my parents were very excited about the album. It’s the first time in a long time that they’ve seen many of the photos they’re viewing, and we’re so excited to be back to such a great time in their lives.
With the excitement and screams of joy from the grandkids in the air, I still think my parents gift was the best gift of the night.
— Carville lives in Plaquemine.