Inappropriate Family Photos

Several times a year my grandparents would pack up their RV (including their toy poodle with rust colored fur and chronic bad breath) and travel across the country. We’d learn of their whereabouts from postcards that would arrive periodically in our mailbox. Their destinations were an odd assortment of common tourist attractions and strange places off the beaten path: the Ozarks, Grand Canyon, Virginia Beach (we received a postcard declaring that Virginia is for lovers with my grandmother’s frilly handwriting, “That’s Us!” inside the heart).

Their travels were documented in a photo album that was displayed on the coffee table in their living room. My mother and I would languidly flip through the album when we visited. The photographs were fairly repetitive: my grandmother standing in front of some touristy sign or statute, clutching her purse and smiling as my grandfather snapped her picture. Or the two of them together, their smiles frozen as they waited for a kind stranger to figure out how to work their camera and take the picture.

My mother and I swallowed yawns as we leafed through the pages of this album. My grandparents seemed less interested in taking snapshots of their surroundings and more interested in pictures of themselves.

Especially when they visited the Poconos.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Poconos, it is an area in northeastern Pennsylvania that is known for its mountains and romantic getaways. During the 1970s – 1990s, resorts popped up like gophers catering to couples who were just dying to relax in heart shaped jacuzzis, circular beds and gigantic, seven foot champagne bubble baths. Competition between resorts was fierce. They battled to outdo one another for the most “alluring” room names: Paradise Stream, Cove Haven, Fantasy and Garden of Eden are just a few of the names given to some of these horrendously gaudy rooms.

While we never received a postcard from the Poconos, evidently my grandparents sojourned in one of these atrocious hotels, because they documented it in the photo album they left on the coffee table in their living room.

Nestled between the pictures of my grandmother wearing her floppy sunhat and standing outside of the Alamo, was a photograph of her wearing a blue negligee and kneeling on a white furry rug. Next to this photograph was my grandfather, donned in blue Speedo underwear, sprawled on the same furry rug and smiling mischievously at the camera.

Thankfully, the pictures stopped there. (And thankfully, they didn’t ask some stranger to pop into their hotel room – which was probably named The Love Nest – to take pictures of them together on the furry rug.)

My mother and I saw these Pocono pictures at the same time. My mother recoiled, as though she had seen something strange and hideous.

“Good heavens!” she said.

I let out a whooping holler of laughter as my mother snapped the photo album shut.

“I think we’ve seen everything we need to see.”

But there are certain things you can’t … un-see. My grandparents racy Pocono photographs are forever burned in my brain. Why they would choose to place those salacious photographs in the album is anyone’s guess. Perhaps they viewed them no differently than the other innocuous shots: saying cheese in front of the Liberty Bell, posing next to a palm tree in South Carolina, scantily clad and smiling seductively from a shag rug in a Pocono hotel room.

Or perhaps they snickered conspiratorially as they slipped the risque photographs in the plastic sleeves.

“Just wait until the kids and grandkids see these! And they think we’re just visiting places like Strubridge Village.”