Human Condition: The Best Christmas Gift | Entertainment/Life

The Christmas present I remember best is not the one I received, but the one I was able to give to my parents. This gift remains the most special.

My parents were married on Mardi Gras in 1946. Their wedding invitations were handwritten so that when my father called with leave from the Navy, the date could be filled in and the invitations mailed out. I think the wedding was over before many invitations arrived.

I remember seeing a photo here and there of my beaming parents, my father in his military uniform with my mother and their wedding party in my grandparents’ living room, but there weren’t many photos that I remember seeing the wedding itself. The reason for the missing photos? Our house in Plaquemine burned down in 1958.

The fire broke out upstairs and the contents of the attic, including all old photos, were destroyed. Our house was rebuilt, this time with matching fire escapes to keep us safe, since most of the eight of us slept upstairs. Things that could be replaced have been replaced over time. Unfortunately, many images were just memories in the mind.

Fast forward to many years later when I was at the local baseball park with my three children. I was approached by Orney Hebert, from Plaquemine, and he asked, “Aren’t you one of the Ohlmeyer girls?”

“Yes, I’m Heddie.”

“Well, Doc Cameron used to take all the photos at Plaquemine and his wife gave me the negatives when he died. I just found an envelope that said ‘Give to Mercedes Postell Ohlmeyer’. I was wondering if you would like them.

Imagine my excitement at opening the envelope to find all the negatives of my parents’ wedding long ago!

My mother and father had raised all eight of us, holding our weddings at home and providing each of us with a wedding album. So, as baseball season faded and Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons approached, plans quickly formed to surprise my parents. I let my siblings know that I covered for this Christmas present. I found a photography studio in Baton Rouge that printed old negatives and picked out a wedding album for the cherished collection.

Finally, Christmas Eve has arrived. The gatherings in our family home can only be described as organized chaos. The eight siblings had given birth to 22 children, who excitedly tore up packages.

Finally, after all this madness, it was time to offer their gift to our parents. Crickets could be heard as they opened the album of photos they hadn’t seen in years; photos they thought were destroyed when our house burned down.

Needless to say, my parents were thrilled with the album. It was the first time in a very long time that they had seen many of the photos they viewed, and we were thrilled to look back on such a beautiful time in their lives.

With all the excitement and squeals of delight from the grandchildren hanging in the air, I keep claiming that my parents’ present was the best present of the night.

— Carville lives in Plaquemine.

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