Once a year, my mother would dress up my sister and me in our Sunday clothes and take us to 69th Street’s Frank & Cedar department store to have our portrait taken. The 8×10 photo would be placed in a silver frame sitting on the living room piano, stacked in front of the photos from the previous years. This was what everyone’s mothers did, at least the ones I knew. My mother wrote our exact age, height, and weight on the back of each photo, so the frame became a record of our growth.
That custom, the prideful symbol of upward mobility of middle-class families everywhere, has long faded and can now be declared dead. The photography company that ran the portrait studios in Sears, Wal-Mart, and Babies-R-Us stores has closed. Are any others left? Not that I know of. Frank & Cedar is gone. Gimbels is gone. Wanamaker’s is gone. Want a family photo? Whip out your smartphone and email it to Grandma. She can print it on her inkjet.