Monday, August 3, 2009

DCMM: Memory Lane

I've been going through my old photo albums lately and marveling over the power that still images on paper can have. A moment caught in time is a powerful thing, whether it be a freeze frame of a now seven-year-old child captured in his charming toddlerhood, or a lost relative, giving clues to an unknown existence.

I have to say that my kids are cute now, but as two-year-olds? Oh dear lord, they were delicious! I'll freely admit it, I make adorable toddlers. I gazed at my children from pictures that were years old and was amazed by how different they were then. Yet each of them still possessed that soul, that spirit, that them, that makes each of them unique.

I look at photos I took of my young family and they tell me so much. They tell me the stories of my kids' personalities and of what we did. But they also tell me that my husband is really great father. I can see the way he looks with our kids in those photos and I see the incredible love for them that he has. And eventually, when my photos get passed to my children, they will see it too.

And it's a little bit weird to say it, but in photos taken of my mother back when she was my age, she was hot. Like, HOT hot. Damn. I mean, she's still beautiful and gives me all kinds of hope for the way I'll age, but, she was a really attractive young woman.

It's fun to imagine the woman she was then—what she thought, how she felt, the men's heads she made turn. In my mind she is so entangled in her identity as "my mother" that it is difficult to see her as anything else. I love looking at those photos and seeing her as a young person, with life, marriages, and children still to come.

I can't vouch for whether or not the blonde hair she sported at the time was genuine, however.

I am similarly amazed by photos of my father as a young man. Unfortunately, he will always stay that way. He was killed in a car accident when I was young. His photos take me down an entirely different road, one of what ifs and I wishes and what could have beens.

I look at his photos and wonder about the man he was that I never really knew and I wonder what that man would think of my life now. I look at those photos and hunt for clues to my history and my own past.

And not to jump from that emotionally loaded subject to that of pets, but it makes me like my obnoxious mutt more when I look at her little puppy visage, all full of puppy fuzz and eyeliner-like lined eyes. Then I look at the rottweiler we used to have. I don't know if there is anything cuter than an eight-week-old rottweiler, unless it is that same rottweiler at six months of age with a big gold bow tied around her neck.

I am a compulsive photo taker. So much so that it is almost ridiculous. I cart a camera around with me everywhere and take photos of pretty much everything. Sometimes I wonder why I do so. But then I look in my photo albums and I remember.

Photographs capture the past in a way that memory can't. And when I'm no longer around to share those memories, the photos will tell their own stories. And that is worth more than a thousand words. It is worth a lifetime and a heart and a family history.

And that is a lot.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

Jean blogs and posts photos at Stimeyland, a space that also holds her family's history.

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