I recently spent time looking through a family photo album created for me by my daughter Jenn.

It prompted a nostalgic journey down memory lane.

For some reason, my attention was drawn to a particular photo taken, I believe, in July of 1954. It's a picture of my family — my grandmother, mother, father, brother, sister and me — in our Costa Mesa backyard on a glorious summer day.

I'm staring at that photo as I organize these sentences.

It's the summer of '54, and my father, brother, sister and I were baptized that morning at Newport Harbor Lutheran Church on Cliff Drive in Newport Beach. In proper Lutheran fashion, we were sprinkled, not immersed. Thirty-five years later, I'd enthusiastically submit to a dunking in Israel's Jordan River.

Permit me to explicate this photo.

My grandmother (back row, left), Effie Fay Thomlinson, is an attractive 50-year-old widow, dressed in a smart business outfit. Her tastefully tinted hair is neatly coiffed, and she exhibits a guarded half-smile on her lips. The Balboa Island resident wears modest earrings and a corsage on her lapel.

In my entire life, she's only attended church with us maybe one other time — she's not the archetypal church lady — so this is a rare treat. We kids were ecstatic earlier in the day as she entered the sanctuary. Perhaps her unfamiliarity with the inside of a house of worship explains her lingering look of bemusement.

My mother (back row, center), Betty Jean Carnett, turned 30 four months earlier. She looks considerably younger, however. She's trim and athletic for a mother of three, and cute as a bug — if I do say so myself.

My dad (back row, right), William Allen Carnett Jr., is smartly dressed in slacks and a double-breasted jacket. Tall, handsome and bronzed, he possesses an impressive crop of naturally wavy hair. It's held in place by a thick lanolin substance he purchased at the drugstore, his only extravagance.

Dad's at the top of his game at 32. He wears a rose in his lapel and appears proud that he and his children have been baptized into the faith.

Jimmy, otherwise known as James Allen Carnett (front row, left), got a buzz haircut (we called it a butch at the time) a week or two before this photo. He's not particularly handsome in a buzz — probably because of his oddly shaped head.

Jimmy (me) is the only one in the picture not looking at the camera. He's 9 and distracted: perhaps a foretaste of things to come.

Even at this early stage of life he realizes that, while important, baptism provides no automatic admittance into the eternal realm. Yet, he also suspects it's better to be baptized than not.

Wearing a frown, Jimmy looks at something to the photographer's left. He wears slacks and a sports jacket. His tie, a Windsor knot, was obviously executed by his father. A Sunday school attendance pin is on his left lapel over his heart, and another church pin is on the right.

Jimmy will wear that jacket to church every Sunday until his shoulders burst out the back and the sleeves stop at his elbows.

My brother (front row, center), Billy (William Richard Carnett), appears cocky, annoyed and itching for a rumble. That's brother Bill, all the way. He's 7 going on 17. Billy's tie is slightly askew, and his buzz cut looks better than mine. His message to the world: "Don't mess wid da kid!"

He'll outgrow me in the years ahead, and I'll prudently stop picking on him when he's 13.

Our sister (front row, right), Judi (Judith Lynn Carnett), is the family's princess. Everyone dotes on her, even my brother and I. We tease her, but that's because we love her.

Judi has a ribbon in her hair, an innocent pout on her lips, and she subtly extends her left arm toward the camera person. That gesture perhaps presages her eventual marriage to a professional photographer.

Where, alas, has this dear family gone? Were they ever really here?

JIM CARNETT, who lives in Costa Mesa, worked for Orange Coast College for 37 years.