Soul Thief

Mother was fearful of photography. Her grandfather had taught her that it was a thief of souls; no one should submit to being photographed.

Father was a heathen (Great-Grandfather’s words) and took no stock in such nonsense. He had his photograph taken locally once a year, and lo and behold: his soul was intact as ever it had been.

“How can you be so sure?” Mother asked.

Father laughed and replied, “I’m still the nicest guy you know, aren’t I?”

Father was nice. He never argued with Great-Grandfather when the old man told us to turn our faces if we ever saw anyone point a camera our way.

He never argued with Mother about it, either. His parents had gifted them with a photography session for the occasion of their wedding. Mother didn’t decline the gift, but wore a thick lace veil over her face and closed her eyes.

That photograph looks like my father married a ghost.

Mother was beautiful, but the only other image of her is a drawing my brother did as a gift for Father. He treasured it all his life.

One fall, we begged to go with Father for his photography session. I was fascinated with photographs; I wanted one of myself. I was insistent; naturally, my sister wanted what I wanted.

Great-Grandfather, unwilling to outright forbid it, fashioned us masks to wear for protection from the soul-thief.

Imagine our glee when we saw the giant pumpkin masks he’d made for us! We were delighted.

The photographer was horrified.

Still, he posed us professionally; behind our masks, we closed our eyes tightly. Just in case.

Decades later, my daughter laments, “The only photo from your childhood, and it looks like a Halloween greeting card!”

She’s a photographer and steals my soul on a regular basis.

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