A picture that is... My entire life I have always loved pictures and, until last week, I suppose they were something I never really gave a lot of thought to. I just snapped and flashed away. My grandmother's recently diagnosis of terminal cancer has brought many things in my life into perspective but, still at that point, the role photographs play in our lives wasn't one.
After finally getting grandma out of the hospital and home to live with my mother, we were forced to gather every belonging she has saved, bought and treasured over her nearly 90 year life and make some quick decisions on keep or yard sale. Because her room is not very large, she opted to get rid of most things that the grandchildren did not want. My mom, husband, son and I took on the dreaded emotional task last week.
Although it was very sad and grandmother could not be there, we all knew which things she wanted in her room and gathered those carefully. I was amazed at her belongings. I laughed calling her a hoarder when coming across everything from every bread tie she ever had, straws from every fast food restaurant around, right down to numerous towels and jars of peanut butter. We felt almost as if we were being nosey with her personal belongings but, in the process, I decided grandma wasn't really a hoarder. After seeing some of the things she saved, my heart felt glad for her long and happy years. I am certain the woman has every greeting card she has ever received, stored in such an organized fashion, marked with the year they were received. From the massive large card my grandfather, who died last year, gave her, to cards we mailed her as children when they lived in Arizona. Each it's own piece of time and a special memory that simply opening it would allow you to be transported back to.
We packed so many pictures, of people known and unknown, who sat still in time. After mother left, my husband, son and I emptied her shed and headed home with the things that would be offered for sale. Feeling very emotional, I reminisced about so many things, especially how much my grandparents both loved me. But nothing prepared me for the treasures we would find in the old projector box and a large square box of pictures my mom had found at her house.
When we arrived home, very exhausted, my son insisted on setting up the slide projector to take a look at some of the old slides housed within the dusty box. We weren't even certain the antique looking object would work, but he was determined and it fired off immediately. Before the night was over, we took trips through the colorful cactus of Arizona, witnessed my grandfather and his brothers in their mid-50s country band, decked out in full western regalia, saw many family meals and lots of hair and fashion statements that have come and gone. My son was most amazed by the solid and more ornate vehicles of the era. Although the images were nearly 60 years old, the bright vivid color on the slides had been preserved perfectly. We felt as though the projector had taken us on a time machine trip, to an era where none of us were even a thought.
It made me happy that every member of my family knows I am the one who takes pictures, and lots of them. I don't think you can ever have enough. The following day, we went to visit my grandma and mother brought out her find and for over an hour we all shared the pictures, many were of me as an infant, with both my grandparents and mom and dad holding me. There were also numerous shots of various phases in my grandmother's life, and she smiled so big when looking at photos of her late husband, saying, "I had a very handsome husband didn't I?" She smiled, laughed and could recall so many special times. There were also images of my parents when they first moved to Arkansas 41 years ago. Mother still lives within an eighth of a mile from where they settled in 1970. Although grandmother is ill, her attitude, pride and enthusiasm for life is like she is a teenager. At one of her weakest points, she said, "I look all wrinkly, but inside I am young at heart." We know we have some great times yet to spend with her and I plan to utilize every second and yes, those photos that live on will be a large part of the journey in which our family is about to embark. I always wondered where my mother got her strength and optimism, and now I have no question.
Years from now, I pray my grandchildren get as much enjoyment at my decision to take lots of pictures, as I have at my grandparents and parents photography. The funny thing about pictures is, they don't lie. Time marches on and we age and forget but, through the lens of a camera, you have the power to freeze time for eternity.
I suggest everyone take advantage of that while they can.