Something happened to my family after my mother passed away.
My parents were from a generation of savers – and my mother far outdid my dad with the saving-thing. They lived in the same home for more than 70 years, so they had many reasons and opportunities to stash a lot of stuff away.
Dad was fairly organized with his tools and things he needed to keep. Mom not so much. She had boxes of saved newspaper clippings, memorial cards, greeting cards, grade cards and just about anything you can save, and she was a mother of eleven children. So saving stuff – she did.
But those film negatives – good job Mom on that. And a pat on the back to myself for not tossing the envelopes of negatives. As my collection of saved negatives grew, I needed to transfer them to a bigger box for safe-keeping, and in doing so held a few of them up to the light. I could see a Christmas tree with children sitting on the floor and wooden toys in front of the children. The images did not look familiar to me, so I decided I needed to see what might come to life from those little brown film negatives.
Off I traveled to leave the negatives with my photographer friend who told me he would see what he could make develop.
And oh my, that is when something happened to my family.
New photos from your childhood. Black and white photos from a by-gone era. Imagine in front of you – a picture of yourself as a baby in your dad’s arms. And photos of your older siblings doing the things children do. Funny things. Kids. Everywhere.
And those wooden toys my dad made – there they were in never-been-played-with condition.
As I scrolled through the collection of photos, I felt a bit of emotion stirring within me. One new picture after another – overwhelming me with each click on the screen.
Where were these photos for the last 40 or 50 years? Why am I looking at them now?
I remember the slow travel of tears down the sides of my face as I clicked from one picture frame to the next.
If the photos could speak – they would have said, “Well if you think this one is good – wait until you see the next one.”
I wanted to go ahead with a great big cry. A super-good cry. Maybe even plop my head onto the desk and sob. But I couldn’t. I had Friday night dinner plans – so a two-tissue kind of cry had to suffice; no time for crying before heading out the door.
I returned home that evening to finish perusing through the photos and found a picture of my grandpa Imm holding a bullfrog in his hand. Just what I needed to finish a blog story I planned on posting the next morning.
In the days that followed, the sharing of the photos began, and it made me realize every family is simply a group of people who speak the same language. Who are interested in the same old photos of aunts and uncles. And old cars and back porches and barns and places where we played.
Cousins know what it feels like to be a cousin. To have another home where they feel fairly comfortable hanging out. To have an uncle who looks a lot like their own dad. The feeling doesn’t leave when you get older – the cousin feeling is still there.
My dad took pictures of his family just being a family. He even captured a photo of his children’s dirty feet.
The pictures of the back yard were proof Dad knew what he was doing when it came to gardening, and the overabundance of tomatoes and green beans were gifted to others – just like it is supposed to be.
The snapshots of Mom – what was she doing looking like that?
Mom’s many boxes of saved stuff turned out to be little time capsules, just waiting to be found.
Sometimes things are meant to happen – and all it will take is maybe a hundred hours or more of sorting through boxes. And a few trips to see your photographer friend.
Mom and Dad did not know decades ago when Dad pushed the button on his Duraflex camera that something would happen to their family years after they were gone.
They didn’t know there would be no way their children would escape the emotion – a cry or two – and a laugh or two when a new collection of black and white photos would retell the story of their growing up years – together as a family.
Sometimes things just happen.