Monday, November 23, 2009

photographs and memories

Years ago my grandmother and I went through some boxes stored at Melrose where family pictures, albums, and letters had accumulated. We made attempts to identify everything and everyone in the pictures, and if she couldn't remember who they were, she was of a mind to toss them. I understood her thinking--I toss pictures, too, when the event or person in a picture can no longer be recalled or ceases to be meaningful. But I live in an era when photographs are abundant. The pictures in her collection, well, not so much.

Among the photographs was this one. Meet Miss Sue. My grandmother didn't know when the picture was taken, or where, but she remembered Miss Sue, a friend of the family. And that is all I know. But I adore this picture. Miss Sue is standing so gracefully and regally, even if posed, that I feel a desire to honor her memory if only to admire her in this moment. And that is, in fact, all I can do, since I know nothing about any other moments of her life. I don't know how she knew my grandmother's family. Neighbor? Church? Distant kin (my grandmother would have known that, so probably not)? Whatever her connection, having a photograph of her among the family's other prizes was warranted, so she must have been important to someone at some time.

I am awash in photographs. Since going digital most of them haven't been printed, and as I get older I wonder which of the segments of my life I want to spend the time organizing, printing, journaling and presenting in some form that looking at them one day will matter to someone else. Without children of my own there are few people that I can imagine will be interested in my life and times. I don't take pictures, or scrap them, for posterity, but this whole aging business does make me mindful of how I spend the time I have.

One thing I do know. I need to record what matters to me in more than pictures. Because the day WILL come when I won't remember, or can't place the who, what, or where of some of the pictures I've taken. If I want my life to matter, then something tangible will need to reflect that, at least as I see it now, today. Lovely as she is, I don't really want to end up like Miss Sue.


Jules said...

Love the picture. I can right click on it and hope I do Miss Sue justice!

Jayne said...

I often wonder about that too. We have thousands of images, all neatly stored on a hard drive. Who will ever see them? Food for thought...


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