Before the software existed that allow us to import photos and add written descriptions, cataloguing vacation photos was often inconsistently done. Sometimes pictures would be sealed under a thin clear film with no words to show where there were taken or even who was in them.
After too many page turnings, the adhesive would fail and the photos would slip out.
The glue would yellow, leaching into the pictures, fading out faces and places alike.
Even so, I’d hang on to the albums, for they were what connected me to that past.
After a while, however, I’d quit looking at the albums. Work and parenting demands took center court, chewing up time that I used to spend reminiscing.
When our kids grew up, we handed over their albums, a passing of memories, so to speak. None of them seemed overjoyed at the prospect of storing those aged tomes. I have a feeling that they all ended up in the garbage. But that’s okay.
These days I import photos into online albums, clustering them by place and theme. I research descriptions of where I’d been, so as to ensure that my information is accurate.
When finished, all I have to do is click a button, pay over money, and then within a few weeks a glossy keepsake arrives in the mail.
We do pull out the first albums as they remind us of the trips we’ve been on, the places we’ve visited and the things we saw.
Initially I only took photos of “things,” never us. But then I read somewhere that our kids and grandkids need to see us as we were then, not necessarily as we are now.
This is especially true as my husband and I quickly approach eighty.
The first commercially prepared album was done in our sixties. We looked very different then. Both of us carried quite a bit more weight. Our hair still had some original color to it and my husband’s covered a tad more of his scalp.
Our clothes were looser, to cover our bellies, sort of.
We had to ask someone to take our picture if we wanted one with the two of us. Otherwise, my husband would be in two or three, me in one. I liked taking his pictures and hated the way I looked in mine.
As time passed, we show up together in more and more albums. We got brave enough to ask for help and got less embarrassed about how we looked.
The photos were seldom good. They might be off-kilter or out-of-focus. They might have been in shadow or in light so bright that the sun glinted in my glasses. There might be deep shadows obliterating half our faces. The background that we’d chosen might not be visible.
So many things can go wrong!
But, now when I create albums, we’re there, standing next to penguins in the Falkland Islands, pretending to ride a camel in Morocco, leaning against the railing of the ship at a particularly lovely port.
I am glad that we decided to take more pictures of us. I want our family to see us, at this age, going places and doing things. Enjoying life, to the best of our ability. Eating fine meals, getting dressed for dinner, wearing sun hats to protect our faces.
These are the important memories, not just the ones of ancient Mesa cliff dwellings or unusual rock formations or penguins dashing into the water.
Perhaps no one in our family will want the albums, but for now, they are a living legend of who we are, where we’ve been and what we looked like at the time of that voyage. They’ll look at those pictures and remember that we walked among penguins, saw a snake charmer in Fez, and watched glaciers cave in Alaska.