Every week, The New Yorker magazine features a Cartoon Caption Contest, inviting readers to submit a caption for consideration. After three finalists are chosen, readers vote for the winning caption. You can view my first attempt at a similiar contest here on this blog with family members on a Sunday outing.
When we sorted through our mother’s things after her passing, I found a large photo likely from the 1970s taken by Ken Smith Photographs from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. The photographer snapped my Grandma Fannie Longenecker with bonnet and neck scarf and my dad, facing her away from the camera. Apparently they are in line at a breakfast buffet likely at a farm equipment convention. Others in the line are unknown. All seem intent on filling their plates, some more than others.
“What was going on here?” I ask. Everyone in the photograph registers a similar band-width on the emotional scale, except for the couple on the left.
This photo begs a caption.
* * *
What’s going on here?
- Invent a caption.
- Guess at the scarario.
- Supply a two-line dialogue between the couple on the left.
- Imagine the photographer’s motive.
- Reminisce about an awkward moment you recall.
O, wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us / To see oursels as others’ see us! “To a Louse”
Robert Burns 1786
(On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church)
Coming next: Moments of Extreme Emotion: Where’s My Spyglass?
Good morning, Marian! You are really doing a two-line story challenge here. I\’m going to have to think about this. 🙂
After all of your poetic calisthenics, I can\’t think that two rhyming lines is too much to ask. 🙂 Or one?
Regardless, you get numero uno as first responder once again.
It seemed like an ordinary morning at the Kumme Ease buffet, and Eva carefully spooned her favorite eggs onto her plate. She didn\’t notice Franny\’s horrified expression, as Carl removed what looked like a finger tip from her plate.
OK. There you go. Continue, if you wish. 🙂
Okay, Carl is justified – caring that his wife will ingest an unappetizing \”sliver of finger.\” Well done, Merril.
\”Auk, du le-ver, Ruthie, you daresn\’t take dat meat ball!\”
Good try, Carol. I have never seen that expression spelled out. You must have heard it though growing up in PA. Ha!
\”Watch out, Mom. Some day my daughter is going to write a memoir!\”
You must be well into your day in Iona, Shirley. Thanks for delivering a prophetic word here.
\”My hands are clean.\”
Ah, some droll humor, typical of winning New Yorker captions. Thanks, Jill!
1, Hey! Keep your sticky fingers off my plate!
2. Share and share alike!
3. What\’s yours is mine!
4. I just wanted to taste it!
My husband is helping me out here! 😉
Well, Anita, you are really getting into the groove here with all these choices. Thanks! I have to think the photographer had a sense of humor (or knew a good shot when he saw one).
\”Hands off my plate!\”
She certainly doesn´t look very happy. We have some pictures similar to this in our collection, especially at family reunions. Your grandmother and dad are being very well behaved. Filling your plate is serious business.
Yes, I think my dad and grandma are oblivious to what\’s going on, concentrating as they are on filling their own plates. Your four words fit the bill, Darlene.
Och an Aye, that\’s the last wee bit yer nippin me lass …
Keep yer hands off my grub young grabber …
O my Marian, tis the best I can do …
\”Tis great! I love the Irish accent overlay on this Pennsylvania Dutch scene. Well done!
I can\’t do any better than what you already have. I love this post and hope you\’ll do more!
Remember months ago being hunched over your manuscript – revising, editing, write new? That\’s where I am now, so I thought a little levity was in order here. Yes, if/when I find others, I will post another caption contest. You probably have already clicked on the link above (para. 1) showing Grandma Fannie in harm\’s way. Thanks for the encouragement, Joan.
This actually makes me think of a story about myself almost reaching on to a colleague\’s plate at a work luncheon–because in that phase of mothering, I was so used to cleaning up after my toddler\’s and preschoolers plates. I used it for the title of one of my chapters in my 4th book, \”You Know You\’re a Mother when ..\” The chapter is titled \”When you eat the parsley off your boss\’s plate at an important business luncheon.\”
Translated to this photo, maybe we could say \”Ok dear, you swipe things off my plate at home, but here? Really?\”
I love your story and associative caption. You hear stories of women mothering their husbands by cutting their steaks in plain view in a restaurant. I love this anecdote and realize I have some catching up to do reading your books.
Re-reading your reply now, I see the word \”almost,\” so apparently you caught yourself in time – ha!
Yes. The true story is in the book, no longer available except used copies. The actual story involves potato chips at a church potluck, off a plate that was near mine–but not one of my kids! Yes, embarrassed, but I don\’t think the church member noticed. 🙂
John talking to the Elder, hat in hands and a big shiner on his left cheek: \”Honestly, I don\’t know what came over Lydia. We were nearing the end of the buffet table, and all of a sudden she looks at me and slugs me. What did I do to deserve that?\”
Flashback to photo
Reading this was a big guffaw moment for me. I can imagine you spinning an entire yarn out of this story as you often do on your own blog. Thanks, Jenn.
To go off on a tangent, I\’ve remembered that there are Longenecker Horticultural Gardens at the university in our capitol city. My oldest girl graduated in agriculture there and it is part of that. Do you think there is a family connection to you??
Do you live in Wisconsin? If so, I think that\’s the location of the Longenecker Horticultural Gardens you are referring to. Until your mention here, I was not aware of these Gardens and can\’t recall any relatives living in Wisconsin. Still, a family connection is possible. I guess I need more information.
I don\’t mind tangents, Athanasia. Our Longenecker forebears in Europe were agriculturally inclined, so your reference does make sense considering our genes and genealogy. Thank you!
Yes, they are in Wisconsin.
Working backwards, I try to forget awkward moments. The photographers motivation and the scenario? Just a random shot for the church newsletter, but you know how people look funny when caught in a non posed shot…eyes half closed, mouth open. I think that\’s all that
is the cause of the looks on the couples faces.
Ach, Herman, get this off my plate! This isn\’t Swiss cheese, it\’s that hot pepper cheese!!
Oh, ja, sure Clara, here it goes!
Caption…Hurry, hurry…they just let the teens get in line!
Oh, and Herman and Clara were a great-aunt and great-uncle of mine on my mother\’s side.
I was just going to say I like your choice of names in the \”pretend\” scenarios, but then you identified them as real people. I too had relatives named Herman and Clara on my mother\’s (Metzler) side of the family. Both your captions are spot on. Thanks, Athanasia!
Yes, I know you like it, but NO I do NOT want to try it…
I hear the voice inflection loud and clear in that caption. Thanks for offering a new slant on the scene. I appreciate your stopping by, Elaine. 🙂
\”Here, honey, I think you got the wrong plate. I just take some of your extra chicken…\”
(Would a Mennonite woman dump a plateful on his head after such a comment?)
I love the picture, Marian, though my favorite photo is on the hillside with the woman slipping. Another fun post. 🙂
Clever, Marylin. A Mennonite woman would probably restrain herself and not dump the plate on his head, but he would hear about it at home or in the car afterwards.
The woman on the hillside ready to slip was my Grandma Longenecker. Looking at the photo again, I realize she was wearing a black dress, so unlike her colorful, adventurous spirit. I\’m glad you enjoyed it – again!
\’THAT \’ young lady just happens to be \’MINE\’
\’QUITE FRANKLY\’ dear sir , I don\’t give a dam \’
Talk about a sour face , dear me . Didn\’t we all look terrible in the 70s . Actually I take the most terrible photo now but they do say a photo never lies😏😏😏 . You always look lovely in your photos what\’s your secret ?
Great captions, Cherry.
And thank you for sending a photo of you and your friend via email. Your photo is lovely. Here\’s what I think about seeing ourselves in pictures: When we look at others we see them through friendly filters. When we look at ourselves, we are far more critical. Thank you for commenting here and sending you a special photo.
\”Get your darned fingers off my plate!\”
\”But sweetness, I only wished for you to try a bite of this tasty morsel.\”
Someone is rather cranky. Might even be menopause? LOL. Hubby trying to cheer her up. I\’m thinking my first sentence as caption.
This was fun Marian. I remember you asked for a caption before with another family photo. 🙂
I didn\’t think of menopause but that would completely justify her reaction – right?
You\’re certainly the expert on that event!
Yes, I did ask for a caption back in November, Grandma about to slide off a hill: https://plainandfancygirl.com/2015/11/14/help-caption-needed-on-vintage-photo/
Thanks for your contribution and for boosting the post on Twitter too!
Yes, I remember your grandma on the hill photo. What a fun exercise this was. And always happy to share. 🙂
I\’m commenting here because I don\’t see another way to contact you through this site. I found your blog while I was searching for articles on Noah M. Klauss, and Oh, what memories the photo with your post brings back! I studied privately with Mr. Klauss at his home in Harrisburg and played for six years under his direction in the Harrisburg Youth Symphony. I recall playing in Elizabethtown High School on two occasions ~ for District Orchestra in 1960 and for a joint concert of Eastern European music that our St. Nicholas Serbian Kolo Club presented with your high school orchestra. That must have been in 1962, I believe. I am curious to know if our years overlapped. Thank you for evoking memories of my beloved teacher.
You are welcome here. Yes, I have fond memories of Noah Klauss and his devotion to music. You may have found this site by googling his name or finding this site through a key word. I also paid homage to him in a blog post featuring a spring recital which you can read about here: https://plainandfancygirl.com/2014/05/07/plain-girl-finds-fancy-dress/
I graduated from EAHS in 1959, so I don\’t think our times overlapped. I will respond also via email in a separate message.
Later: My email message to you did not go through. You can contact here if you wish: firstname.lastname@example.org
\”Here\’s a sugar cube for your coffee darling.\” (a bit of sweet to add to the sour!)
Well done, Elfrieda! Your caption works in 2 ways: It puts a sweet overlay on top of what may have been an unwelcome gesture and takes into account the virtues of sweet and sour in the PA Dutch diet.
All I know is I want to slap the hand of that man on the left. He looks like he thinks he might get smacked. She looks surprised and irritated. I can\’t come up with anything clever, but I\’ve enjoyed reading everyone\’s good ideas. And the winner is…???
She might kiss him when she realizes that he is removing the cook\’s fingertip from her plate, as Merril has suggested. Absurd, I know . . .
The winner? Like New Yorker editors, I\’ll let the audience pick!
The woman on the left looks as if she wants the man to keep his hands out of her food.
Exactly – her face a mix of emotions. By the way, my Facebook readers absolutely loved your post with Japanese cherry blossoms, lots of likes.