I remember going through my parents’ stuff and taking home the photos they had saved from my childhood, their childhood and the few very old more formal pictures of their parents as children. But, it seemed ridiculous to save photos of people I do not know. Some boxes were of an aunt and uncle whose circle of friends was totally unknown to me and others were of people I have only known when I flipped through the boxes after someone died and the life libraries had to be moved. So in the dumpster many went as I reduced the load to two small plastic bins. One bin is half full with current pics of my daughters as kids and one is packed with my childhood and the faces of people I can actually recall.
It’s okay for my kids to pitch the old ones when I die.
If they were to glance at the grainy black and white picture of a backyard filled with people, a badminton net and tables filled with food, it will mean nothing to them. But today the picture spoke to me, grabbed ahold of my mind and gently yanked me back over sixty years to the day the family gathered in our back yard, as storms approached. Some made it to the house before it began to thunder and pour, but many of us young ones dove under the tables for shelter. My kids will never know how we huddled under the tables while it stormed, laughing and reaching up and out and over the edge, to save the food and eat while we sat in the mud beneath the oilcloth covered tables. That picture I saved for two reasons: it helped me remember an absolutely wonderful fun day, and as long as I know the picture is somewhere in my house, the memory is alive and so am I.
The other pictures I tossed are at rest now, their conversations and explanations silent because no one is alive to remember them. As I looked at the pictures of unfamiliar faces, the images said nothing, I let them go so my children will not have to.
But, how mindful it was for someone to click a shutter and freeze in time an essay about a moment in someone’s life even if there is no one left to read it.
Our lives are digitally cataloged to the extreme now. No bins filling a corner of an attic, no shoe boxes on a closet shelf filled with birthday snapshots. Thousands of images are perfectly saved in a cloud somewhere.
My granddaughters will most likely view their childhoods on a screen rather than a piece of paper with edges curled from age and attic heat. And I hope that when they are my age and take the time to look back, they will remember the words I speak to them through my smile on the screen while holding or playing with them. And yet I know, someday, someone will be swiping a science fiction type device, my image will appear and I will be deleted because no one is left alive who remembers me. And that’s okay because right now, I remember me, my cousins, and sitting in the mud under a picnic table while the sky roared.