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Monday, June 21, 2010

Of Photographs and Memories

A picture is worth a thousand words. The old adage rings true even more today in our high tech world of ingenious devices that snap photos and whip them around the world in seconds. A single image such as in a photograph freezes the essence of the moment. Faces and places are forever held still in time. A simple, crinkled old snapshot taken many years ago captures a time or a place or people that may have vanished from our lives and nothing can ever bring them back again. A photograph reminds us of what we forget. It's a touchstone to our past that enriches our lives.

For the past week, I have been reminded of the priceless value of old family photographs. Last winter our home suffered a devastating flood as a result of a broken pipe. The walls and ceiling literally fell down because of the force of the water. We were out of town. But our neighbor who lives in the attached condo next to us...told us when we returned home that he heard the pipe break and that he heard the water rushing through the pipes nonstop. And yet he never notified anyone in the management company or any of our many neighbors. If he had told somebody right away, the water could have at least been turned off and our home would not have been so severely flooded. As it was, this man sat by and heard the water run for over five days...without doing a single thing about it. It was only when we returned home that we discovered the damage...and found the water was still running.

But this story is not about the apathetic old coot who lives next door. This is about the importance of treasured family photographs. After the flood, we eventually had the house repaired and restored good as new. All the wet, soggy stuff was thrown out. And the water was sucked out with special hoses. Later, water damage restoration specialists came with nifty little meters and checked and rechecked for the slightest evidence of mold or mildew or even a spec of dampness. They found nothing. We felt a great sense of relief. Not a trace of mold or mildew was apparent anywhere. Or so we thought....

Last week, I just happened to be searching through several large plastic bins where I stored all my old photo albums that date back 50 years and more. As I delved deeper into the containers, I saw it. I smelled it. The dreaded MOLD. Dank, ugly fungus spores encased all my photo albums. It looked like somebody had thrown a shovel full of slimey black dirt into the bins. All the albums were sopping wet.

It was as if an arrow had pierced my heart. I instinctively knew that most, if not all of my precious photographs were ruined. The visual memories of our entire past life no longer existed. We could replace the carpet, replace the walls, replace the ceiling. We could buy new furniture and other tangible items. But old family photographs are simply irreplaceable. 

After a great deal of sobbing and wringing of hands, I lugged all the bins out into our garage. For the past week I have been meticulously going through every single determine if any of the photos are worth saving. I've been snapping pictures since I was ten years old. And I saved every one of them. No jumbled shoe boxes for me. I stored all my photos very neat and tidy, labeled and organized in ancient, bulky, over-sized, old-fashioned leather albums. In recent years, I've been uploading photos to my computer. But I had saved thousands of hard copy Kodak moments from over the past 50 years.

Miraculously I was able to salvage some of the pictures. But most of them were lost to water and mold damage. It turns out that when water splashes on a photo, it literally washes the color away leaving nothing but empty white paper. And so it is that all of my college yearbooks had to be trashed. Tons of photos of family gatherings, first communions, Christmases, our kid's first days of school, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, sailboat trips, vacations, beloved pets, various houses we've lived in over the years, weddings...all destroyed. 

Photographs are more than preservations of the past. They are our link to people and places and times that we hold dear. We immediately recall how we felt when we look at old pictures. Just for an instant, we are able to touch people from our past lives...loved ones no longer with us. Friends we haven't seen in decades. We can see ourselves as we once were. We can watch our children growing up. We can see our elders, grand parents and great greats. The funny clothes they wore. What their houses looked like. Their furniture. Their old jalopy cars. Photographs have the uncanny ability to restore our youth, if only for a moment. Photographs rescue time. They represent a fleeting history of our lives. 

I feel like a part of my life has been stolen. I feel like my past has been plundered. My memories ransacked. These old family photos showed people I loved with goofy looks on their faces or serious scowls or happy-go-lucky grins embracing life at the instant the photo was snapped. The people, their poses, their expressions, the surroundings, the stories behind the me they are paper treasures that are now lost forever. 

In the hit 70's song Kodachrome, Paul Simon wrote:
They give us those nice, bright colors
They give us the greens of summer
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, Oh yeah
Mama don't take my Kodachrome away
Mama don't take my Kodachrome away.

I will dearly miss those cozy, old Kodachromes...those sunny, bright colors and the faded black and white snapshots of years past. But when all is said and done, I still have those memories pressed between the pages of my mind and sweetened with the passage of time. Still and all, my old family albums were like a sumptuous feast of priceless memories that I could see and touch and recollect and laugh over and reminisce about with family members. Now I start with a clean slate. I have a new camera and a passionate create and preserve brand new memories for our children and grandchildren. I will store them all online...with plenty of backup. OK now...everybody smile and say: Kodachroooomme.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Reunion

I'm generally not one who dwells on the past all that much. But last week...there it past life... staring me right smack in the face. I had summoned up my courage and with great intrepidation ventured off to a mini reunion of former high school and grade school girl friends. Sixteen of us gathered together at a grand and gracious historic hotel in a picturesque, countryside village for several days of reminiscing, laughing, dining, wining and sharing personal stories.

I will be the first to admit that I was a bit nervous about retreating back to high school years. Sure, I had my fair share of goofy fun way back then but it's never been all that important to me to relive those days. Yet the minute I laid eyes on my old silly fears and insecurities disappeared.

We hugged. We embraced. We looked into each other's eyes and saw the soul of our youth. In their now grown-up faces, seasoned with wisdom and character lines and grannie glasses, I still recognized the happy-go-lucky, plucky, fresh, fearless, teen-aged, beautiful young ladies I had formed friendships with so many, many years ago.

Back in the day, we listened to music by Trini Lopez, Jan and Dean, Dion, the Beach Boys, Nat King Cole, Bobby Darin, Bobby Vinton and an emerging new group called The Beatles. Jackie Kennedy took us on a TV tour of the White House. Andy Warhol painted a soup can and made us all think we could become famous artists just like him. Gas was 28 cents a gallon...if we were ever lucky enough to get the keys to the family station wagon. A brand new car cost about $3300. Leslie Gore cried that It's My Party. But for many of us it was the Days of Wine and Roses when we were brazen enough to swig our first beers down at the beach and received pink rose corsages on Prom night. Silicone breast implants had just been invented. Who knows if any of the women in our little reunion group might now be sporting them.

Reconnecting with these wonderful women was a sheer delight. Among the group was my very, very best friend from 6th grade onward, whom I had not seen since college days. We're all a lot more mellow now. No drama. No bitchiness. No histrionics. Hell...most of us can't tolerate more than two glasses of wine without nodding off. We've all enjoyed glorious highs and suffered saddening lows, bore lots of children, worked hard, traveled widely and experienced life and love in a multitude of different ways.  Although we're not as wacky as we once were...we still share a kindred spirit and a rollicking enthusiasm for life that bubbles with energy and vitality. We have all become kind and loving human beings. We are still vibrant women. I salute each and every one of the girls. Reuniting with them again has revitalized my soul.

Which one is Boomer Pie?  Back row, 4th from left (white jacket, black blouse)

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Friday, June 4, 2010

The Girls

In a few days, I will be going back in time...literally. I will be attending a gathering of wise, witty and wonderful women...all of whom I have not seen in 100 years. Well, it seems that long anyway. They are my former grade school and high school classmates. Talk about old school...we're the freakin' BC era...before computers.

About 20 of the "girls" have reconnected over the last couple years. They found me via Facebook just this past year. We will join up outside Chicago for a three day, girlfriends reunion and non-stop gabfest. I'm looking forward to it. Yet, I'm a bit apprehensive at the same time because I have not weathered all that well over the years. I have character lines and saggy parts and I'm all stressed out about it. Truth is that inside me lives a skinny woman crying to get out. But I can usually shut her up with cookies. So I'm wondering how the others have fared physically. Are they all as trim and fit as they used to be years ago?  How many have let their hair go gray? Have any of them had "work" done? Face lifts, nip and tucks? Have their personalities changed much? After all these decades, will I recognize any of them? Will I like any of them?  Will they like me?

Most of the gals who will be at the reunion were good friends of mine back in the day. We had slumber parties together, shared secrets, attended basketball games and movies and hung out at the A&W drive in Root Beer stand. In the summer, we basked in the sun at the neighborhood swim club and debated the merits of shaving your legs...above the knee or not? We laughed till we spit up food and squealed with delight over Elvis or Pat Boone. Yes, we are that old. We yakked on the phone for hours (decades before cell phones...can you say "princess phone?") and wallowed in one girlhood drama after another...most having to do with boys.

Post high school, I graduated from college, moved away and never had an opportunity to see any of these people again. So it's like I will be meeting up with perfect strangers. Yet, overall, I have very fond recollections of these now seasoned women whom I am about to encounter again after many decades. We all shared childhood and young adulthood together. We formed friendships and forged common bonds and I truly hope all of them are well and happy. I look forward to hearing about their lives, their loves and their latest dreams. I think it will be great fun........if only I could send in a Meryl Streep look-alike to represent me. Sphere: Related Content
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