WHO: Rafael Dominguez

RESIDENT OF: Airdrie, Alberta

WHAT: Grampa’s Brownie

WHERE FROM: Granada, Nicaragua

WHEN: 1963

This isn’t my story. And the recollection of most of it has faded after three generations.

When my grandmother passed away, my mother and I had to dispose of her worldly possessions. We found many old things she had kept over the years, hidden in old pieces of luggage and in boxes. Most of them meant nothing to mother and she got busy separating whatever she felt could be donated as well as those things going to the garbage.

Tucked in a box I found an old odd looking small box with windows and levers. I had no idea what it was so I showed it to mother. She held it for what seemed a long time and then smiled. Her father Fernando had used it back in Nicaragua to record the family’s events. It was an innovative addition to his penchant for anything flashy and modern. The Brownie had been one of Kodak’s most successful products and having one was a sign of progress. Trouble was, He wasn’t terribly good at handling it and the results often showed it.

Next to the camera, was a neatly kept, almost new curious hand-held gizmo that looked like a watch. It seemed to work still but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Mother started laughing. Turns out to be a Japanese Exposure Meter, when pointed in the direction of the subject to be photographed it would measure the amount of exposure and tell you what ASA (a measurement of light and film speed) you could set in your camera for an optimal take.

He had found this thing during a trip He made to Panama City and would bring it out ceremoniously and do all sorts of measures before taking the picture. The kids all chuckled when He did because they knew the ritual already and the final product was never really any better, but He never changed his routine nor did he suspected why there was so much commotion when He did, it wasn’t proper to laugh at your elders in those days.

When they made their way to Canada and arrived in Toronto the camera and the exposure meter, amongst other cherished possessions, were carefully packed and often used. Then Grampa passed away and we followed our oldest brother’s dream of petroleum prosperity to Alberta.

Mother gave me the two objects and we spent hours together while she recounted stories almost forgotten of her childhood days in Granada and Managua, of family members I didn’t know I had and of a way of life very different to ours now.

The one thing I regret is that I never took any interest and asked Gramma to relive those stories for me and show me some of the objects she had kept so faithfully for years. We lost a chance to recover those family memories.


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