Friday, July 12, 2013

Making the past live

I'm working steadily on one of my bucket list projects. Won't finish this until I'm 80, perhaps, but it's too much fun to stop.

Like everyone I know, I have albums of photos. I also have a lockbox filled with manila envelopes containing oodles of photos. Not in any particular order, just bunches of pictures.

Do they mean anything to anyone but me? I'd like to think they matter to my kids, who probably didn't know or can't remember many of the people in them, but from whom they came... their ancestors.

I don't remember, nor did I ever know, many of the people in the sepia-toned photos of my grandparents and their friends and families. Thanks to my cousin Felicia, I can identify most of those people, but I didn't know many of them.

Still, they matter to me and I'm hoping someday one of my grandchildren or one of their children will look at the pictures and understand why I took on this project.

I am scanning and storing those pictures. It's a painful project because I do them one at a time, cleaning up the fuzziness, brightening the color, adding names and dates.

But it's also an enjoyable project. By the time I reached the late 1940s and early 1950s, I not only knew the subjects in each photo, I remembered when it was taken. I can remember the color of a dress, even if the photo is in black and white. I can look inside the house in which I spent my teenage years. I can hear the accented English being spoken by my maternal grandmother as she welcomed us to her house for Sunday dinner. I can recall bits and pieces of my valedictory speech as I see the photo of myself in front of the microphone on graduation day. I hear my mother laugh, although it's been nearly 41 years since she left us. I enjoy the smiles on the faces of my mother and stepfather, my grandmother and grandfather, as they shared a joke, enjoyed a holiday or just hammed it up for the camera.

I'm glad the project still has multiple albums and envelopes-full to go before I am finished. I'm not really in any hurry. I'd rather take my time and remember each photo I slip into the scanner. In a way, it brings back my past and helps me relive those days.

So I hope my kids and grandchildren will look at them one day and be glad I did this. It sure beats inheriting a box filled with photos of nameless, meaningless people that they will, without compunction, destroy as irrelevant.

They won't have to feel disconnected from the strange people they see. I hope my project makes those people live for them, even decades after they walked the earth.

This project is for you, guys.

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