The Three Silhouettes

One day, in perhaps April 1968, when Richard was 10 years old and in the fourth grade his teacher, Mrs Lauder, decided a perfect Mother’s day gift from her to each mother would be a silhouette of her child. When Allene and I received Mrs Lauder’s present, we were so delighted and impressed, we requested that she do silhouettes of the other two children. She readily agreed to our request and accordingly both Thomas and Geneva went in for their silhouette sitting. The silhouettes were framed and proudly hung on the wall.

Richard 10, Thomas 13, Geneva 9 Circa: 1968.

Mrs Lauder used the traditional method of sitting the person down in front of a lamp that projected the model’s shadow on the wall. On the wall she had taped a piece of black paper, the historic silhouette medium. Using a soft pencil she then traced a pencil line around Richards’s shadow. Using some small scissors she then cut traced image out. After that the image was attached to some white paper and sent home with the student.

At that time, Tommy was 13, Geneva was 9 and we were living in the Lauderhill, Fla house on 12th St just down from the mall. When we moved to Orlando, the silhouettes went along with us. The Silhouette portraits hung on the wall of the Oriole Avenue house and were taken down and put in storage when the house flooded in in 2021. After Allene’s death, I requested they be loaned to me. Geneva rummaged through the storage, found where they had been buried and delivered them to brother Thomas for packing and shipment using his very protective foam shipping method. My estate will send them back to the owners when that eventuality arises. I’ve carefully saved the shipment cartons.

The silhouette is named for Etienne de Silhouette, a French official of the 1700s. As the minister of finance, “his name was synonymous with doing things cheaply.” He also enjoyed crafting silhouettes.

Now it’s 2023 some fifty years later. I’m now 89 years old, and living in Needham, Ma. My children’s memory of this has been merged with mine and now the story is mostly correct.

Thomas Birchmire II