PICTURE THIS

6/21/2018 by Linda Stober Opp

photo_albumscl.jpgI have so little to do, I've been spending time scanning thirty-five years worth of snapshots onto my hard drive.

No, that's not true. I'm scanning, but the reason is that I want those snapshots, which catalog the history of my marriage and most of our parenting years, safely backed up electronically, where neither moth nor rust nor mold nor fire can corrupt. That's preferable to their current home in shoe boxes under the bed.

This project began four years ago when I pulled all the snapshots out of albums, in an attempt to clear shelf space, and carefully put them in order in all those shoe boxes I'd been saving. The plan was to begin scanning immediately, but life and laziness interrupted, and I'm finally getting around to it.

As my life flies by in photo after photo, I have some observations, moving from the shallow to the meaningful:

1. I wish I weighed now what I weighed twenty years ago when I thought I was fat.

2. I had some weird hairdos. This is particularly true of the 90's, when I had chin-length hair with very short, poufy bangs. The bangs went far back on my head, which made me look like a poodle. There are ten years of poodlehood. I was in good company, however. All the women in the 90's photos are sporting variations of poodle hairdos. What were we thinking?

3. I tend to keep clothing forever, and the photos are proof. A case in point is that the dress I wore to my brother's wedding in 1994 shows up at Easter 1996, and again for Mother's Day in 1998. But you know, it was a great dress, classic and tailored (unlike the horrors being foisted upon us by clothing manufacturers in 2018), and I wish I'd kept it. But see #1 above.

4. There are photos of me with full makeup, and a few with no makeup. If you are going to take a picture of me, and I ask you to wait a minute while I put on some lipstick, please oblige. Trust me, it's for the greater good.

5. In photos of the 80's and 90's, when we were raising kids, my husband and I look entirely too young to be parents. How is it that the adults in charge of the world allowed us to take these innocent babies home from the hospital? Weren't they worried that in all likelihood we had no idea what we were doing?

6. No matter our inexperience and parenting mistakes, we took a lot of trips, did a lot of things, and had a lot of fun. It's good to remember these successful family times, because, let's face it, every family has plenty of memories of things that weren't so great. The camera chronicled our annual pilgrimage to North Dakota to visit grandparents, siblings and cousins. Also camping trips at the Oregon beach, and Yellowstone, a trip to Vegas (after which we all said, “All right, we've seen it. No need to ever return”), a whirlwind tour of Washington, D.C., and a trip to Israel, compliments of my in-laws. Having these photos helps balance out fears, as we look back, that maybe we weren't good enough parents.

7. I love the photos of the everyday stuff, too. We have the usual but precious pictures of birthdays, first bike rides and missing teeth. We recorded home school field trips and projects, including our model of a digestive system, constructed of cardboard, cake pans, tubes and hoses, that covered the entire dining room table. As I recall, our son was disappointed that it didn't actually work. He apparently thought we were building a real one. There's a photo of each and every Christmas tree, every one the same and yet different. Through it all, our succession of three cats are lurking everywhere, literally sticking their noses into everything we did, or else doing goofy things all on their own.

8. Every photo unlocks a flood of unrecorded memories surrounding it. I've relived huge swathes of my life, and as I near the end (of the photos, not my life), I'm thankful for the memories and the people, regretful about a few things, and mostly astounded at what my family has been given to enjoy.

These electronic images will endure forever. Maybe. The photo-filled shoe boxes are insurance, and will remain under the bed. Or maybe on shelves in the catch-all closet. That closet is my next project.


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