Saturday, December 31, 2011

Memories in a Box

Devil Dog - 1977

When my granddaughter was born in 2004 I joined the baby paparazzi.  I captured every imaginable expression Skylar made and once she started to smile, my camera seemed to deliriously snap away on it’s own.
Back then, the latest batch in my memory card would send me flying upstairs to crank out the photos on the brand new grandparent edition of the Canon printer.  Then, after an impatient drying time I would practically leap downstairs to show Jimmy.  He was thrilled and confused – I was never a ‘baby person.’  I guess, I hadn’t fallen in love with one yet.  Often he would look at my face flushed with affection for Sky and he’d say, “What have you done with my wife?”
Fast forward to now and I still take photos practically every time Sky and I are together – but this website is not The Grandma Show.  Shortly after it was live I intended to fill in the ‘photos’ section to highlight myself as an author and speaker and also show bits of my life.  Because POOR WIDOW ME is so personal, I assumed that that a reader would want to see a glimpse of the ‘players’ I write about.  I know I would.  I hope you do.
This forced me to go through my life in pictures.  I put it off until today.  It’s easier for me to go forward than backwards.  Just ask my shrink.  Plus, most of the pictures from the early 70′s and decades following are in the basement haphazardly thrown into big cardboard boxes.  On a full moon or some weird star alignment, I had put together an album or two, but mostly I’d be diving.
Many photos in frames are strewed throughout the house and because they have sat in their place for so long, they don’t jump out at me anymore.  They’re like a coffee pot always there on the kitchen counter.  Needing contenders for this web site, I methodically viewed each one, choice photos to begin with, took some out of their frame and lined them up as if they were competing in a beauty pageant.
And, then there were the photos from Jimmy’s wake.  Boy was I lucky that my kids had selected so many pictures of their Dad at various times of his life and had taped them on oak tag under plastic for the funeral parlor to frame for viewing.  Those were still in tact and I went through them…with a magnifying glass and a glass of Cabernet.
We were so ridiculously young; in many, we were even younger than our kids are today.  I saw the parade of my hairstyles that my son Doug says he is going to dig out and display at my wake.  I guess, it’s good to have a project and something to look forward to when your mother dies.
The clothing styles were silly, like costumes from an 80′s movie and some were costumes from Halloween parties – some at our house – In the background was the wall we painted neon yellow thinking it was cool and there was the organ that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry – the one that just couldn’t play ‘Old Lang Syne.’
One year I dressed up as a dog and Jimmy went as a Devil.  We sent our ‘Devil Dog’ picture (in the costume pictured above…but a different photo) to Drakes Cakes hoping they would use us in a commercial or at least send us some Devil Dogs. We never heard from them.
There were hundreds of photos of the kids at various ages, that recorded the normal Kodak milestone moments.  When parents say “it goes so fast” it’s because it goes so fast.
In many shots I was still wearing shorts.  I don’t remember my legs looking that good. Those days are over, but as I sat on the floor telling myself I really have to stop this reunion, I noted that I still look pretty good, not old yet…until I struggled to get up.
I stared at pictures of my friend’s son Joey, some as a little boy and in others he was teenager.  Just two days ago, he became a father.  When I congratulated him yesterday, I still called him Joe-Joe.
I braced myself each time I came across a little booklet of black and white photos knowing they were from the 1950’s, my childhood.  I threw them back in the box and out of my head.  We all heal and deal differently, right?
Many pictures were of old friends, some had died and others I had lost touch with.  We seemed to be laughing hysterically about something in every one.  And, practically everyone had a cigarette in his or her hand.
In some photos, I am the only one alive.  I sat and pointed, dead, dead, dead, dead, me. Family members – out-laws -who I no longer speak to looked happy, having fun with us at a barbecue or celebrating a holiday.  There it was – proof that we used to like each other and in some cases love each other.  Where did that go?  Where did theygo?
There was Fanny, my mother-in-law, now almost 94, young, animated and clear eyed and strong.  With each picture of Jimmy I checked the date and calculated how much longer he was going to live.  I’m not sure why I did that.
Couples who later divorced gave nothing away in these old photos.  They seemed devoted and loving.
Sometimes Jimmy and I smiled for the camera, a knee jerk reaction to a “Say Cheese” even though we were in the middle of a fight.  Of course, usually when we didn’t want to talk or touch or we were trying to find a creative way to say “I’m sorry” – there were no photos.   People don’t take a pictures during the miserable times unless it’s these days and you’re on a reality show.
The camera isn’t rolling when you’re fighting or crying as you put your dog to sleep or just eating a normal dinner and telling a wacky story about your day.  No one takes a picture of you making love – unless you’re Kim Kardashian.
So, I’m discovering that photos don’t really tell our story at all.  They jar our memory, but still it’s incomplete.  Even so, I’ll be filling up the ‘photo’ section on this web site soon.
I guess these snapshots to viewers will be similar to the ones that most of us post on Facebook hoping someone will care enough to notice that we still exist, that we’re not only a memory in a box.