Two years ago I wrote a Gazette column about the boxes in my basement — or to be more precise (and pathetic), the boxes in our basements. Those rarely opened containers of our pasts that we schlep through the living arrangements of our lives, the ones we leave for postmortem cleanup crews. I mean most of us share this affliction, don’t we?

In that column I made a reference to finding photos of people no longer known to my immediate circle. There was one in particular that really addled me. I had found it among my late mother’s albums and kept it for the slimmest of reasons. It was an 11 x 12-inch posed bridal party all decked out in wedding finery that was au courant immediately after World War II. All gone sepia were a bride, 10 bridesmaids and a little boy ring bearer in some sort of sailor suit. About five years old, he was the only one recognizable to me. He was me.

Since I had spent the first 10 years of my life in Chicago, I could at least presume that the photo had been taken there. Back in 2001 I showed it to the remaining family members of my mother’s generation but no one could identify any of the women in the photo. Given the onset of memory loss and early dementia, some couldn’t even recall the name of the little ring bearer. There was nothing else for me to do but write a poem about this. The poem is called Keepsake and it appears along with a reprint of the photo in my book of poetry, Clara Bow Died For Our Sins.

After the book came out, my wife suggested I post the old photo on Facebook to see if anyone recognized anyone in it. Then she had a better idea. Since all the women seem to be of the same ethnic background (mine), why not find a Chicago publication aimed at the Jewish community and see if they will run the photo as a query for their readers. Guess what? This wasn’t as difficult as it sounds.

As luck — or the gods of high tech — would have it, one day I’m on Facebook and get friended by someone I have not seen in more than 40 years. Back in my days on the arts & entertainment desk of the Quincy (MA) Patriot Ledger, my editorial assistant was Pauline Dubkin. Now as Pauline Yearwood, we reconnect and I discover her job is managing editor of the Chicago Jewish News. I tell her my story. She writes it up and runs it along with the photo under a headline: “Do You Know This Bride?”

And presto! Stop the presses! We have a winner! One week after the weekly paper comes out, Pauline gets an email from Merle Klein, a stunned reader who responds to the query: “Well I can tell you that it is my mother, Beverlee Sussman Chafetz. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the picture. My aunts are in there and a few other friends of my mom that I recognize.” So then Pauline connects Merle and me and we’re off to the races down old Memory Lane.

Thanks to this liaison, many layers of this onion of obscurity have been peeled away. Turns out I was only three years old in that photo. The groom had been Ben Chafetz, my mother’s brother’s best friend. Norman Chafetz (Merle’s brother) then sends me a few minutes of his parents’ wedding footage in which my small self can be seen drinking a goblet of what I can only assume is grape juice. At this writing, we’re swapping more photos.

In the small world department, if Facebook didn’t connect me to Pauline, I might have found her another way. She’s a college classmate of Brooks Robards, my Vineyard friend and my book publisher.

Even though this one has been saved from oblivion, old family photos that cross generational and geographical lines are reflections of sadness for the most part. The people are gone and so are the memories. As I wrote in my poem:

An old photograph
Is as confining as a grave
A keepsake in the earth
Borders, limits, walls all around
Life kept out

Photo albums become cemeteries
Little plots holding little secrets
Secrets made more unfathomable
By worn away headstones
Defining lettering eaten by time
Rubbed into anonymity
Fading, fading

The mystery is solved, but still there’s one frustration. There’s no family member left with whom to share this revelation. Then again, now there’s one fewer item in the basement boxes. The photo now sits on my office shelf, as a reminder that mysteries can be solved. I wonder what else is downstairs in need of a search party.

Arnie Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You! He also writes for the Huffington Post.