09 July, 2008

Memories of a photograph

A few Tuesdays ago, after cooking and eating a great summer-y meal, my mom and I sat down with a bottle of wine and set about doing something that desperately needed to be done--sort through 3 decades worth of memories captured in photographic form. Amid much laughter and "aw, do you remember....", we roughly categorized the pictures of our lives into "kids", "mom & dad", pictures I wanted and "other people". Stories flowed and tears ebbed--never tears of sorrow of course, but instead joy...the joy of life, of times shared, of hours passed in good humors surrounded by friends and loved ones, lifetimes of celebrations.

Many of my favorite pictures were those from childhood, of my brother and I happy and secure in ourselves and our lives, loved by caring parents. From the earliest years of long-forgotten infancy to the troubled but still good times of juvenile angst and rainbow-dyed hair, it was a pleasure certainly to watch, so to speak, as he and I grew up. How funny to think that we were once that small, helpless. How funny to remember the fuzziness of childhood, a kaleidoscope of impressions, sounds, colors. We even found the pictures they took when my brother was born, upstairs in the house we grew up in and which is, sadly, currently being sold. I love this house. I love it even more when I look at pictures of ourselves in and around our house...like the ones of me when we first moved in...on the porch with the sun shining brightly. Our house has, as we all have, undergone amazing transformations. I look at some photos and see this white trash lawn with a Ford on cement blocks and a happy little four-year old boy swinging on a rope from a tree. I look at others still and see the fruits of my parent's hard labor, a backyard turned into an urban oasis exploding in flowers and trees.

It was also quite thought-provoking and intriguing to gaze at photos of my parents in their own youth. I pored over every wedding photo, laughing at the little details such as my dad wearing sun-glasses as they cut the cake, or the old 80s hairstyles sported by my uncles and aunts. And you realize that gosh, you're parents who you've always viewed as the ancient, un-hip set were once young and carefree like you. That your mom at 25 is remarkably like yourself at 25--which is the current age space I occupy now. As we searched through the box we came across many photos of a trip to Mexico my parents took before they married, and I threw a bunch of those into my pile of photos I wanted to keep. For memory's sake, even though its not my own.
Even better--photos of my grandparents when they were younger as well. As children our grandparents come to us already wrinkled and aged, and its difficult for a child to imagine that these people were once children too--young adults with desires and dreams, parents raising the people who would grow up to create yourself in turn. The first photo that went into my pile was the one of my dad's parents on their wedding day. And its funny to think of how these human beings, their faces lined by time and wisdom, have shaped your life as well. My passion for archaeology, while I am sure would have probably been there anyway, still would not have been the same without my grandpa, and his own driving interest in the field.

And so on and so on...the faces of people that have impacted your life...made you laugh and brought forth tears. Those that remain and those that slipped away, captured briefly in a photo taken one summer/winter day.

And the people who love/d you most. Sons and mothers, fathers and daughters. Friends, lovers, cousins...anger and strife, joy and heartbreak, and above all laughter...much laughter shared in love.

Looking at 3 decades of memories captured in photographic form, I realized how good life was, and how good it has been. I have laughed more than I cried, I have loved hard and been loved well in return...I have known more joy and light than darkness, and I have the pictures to prove it.

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