I love a good album, pictures of lives lived. Happy faces. Temper tantrums. Thanksgiving turkeys. I'm afraid these are disappearing in our digital age. Somehow, sitting in front of a computer to look at pictures just isn't the same thing. Not at all.
My son already does so much on the computer. He plays games. Talks to his friends. Watches TV... It is the way of the future, it seems. Once my parents are gone; once my husband and I are gone, I wonder what is to become of the photographs?
Today I realized that I carry snapshots in my head. Pictures of people I have known from all the times in my life. They are some of the perfect moments I somehow freeze and put away in my head. Sometimes I don't know I have done this until it pops up at some unexpected time.
One such time was today. The mind-photo is of a man with reddish-blonde hair. He's fair-skinned with a smattering of freckles, wearing blue shorts, a white t-shirt and white sneakers. He's standing on a shiny wooden floor. His posture looks a little odd until you realize what he's doing. He's clapping his hands, bent over a little at the waist and smiling big. I can still hear him saying, "that's okay - you'll get it next time!" I'm not sure who he's talking to but it doesn't matter because at one time or another, he said that to everyone. The kids he coached, the teams he played on, the son or daughter who messed something up.
The picture popped into my head today as I sat in the back pew of my church listening to his children talking about what a wonderful person he was. His picture stood on an easel up front with that big smile from my mental snapshot. I hadn't seen him in probably 30 years, since we all attended the same church, since I babysat his kids, since we played together on our church league volleyball team. And though we've not seen each other in all that time, his wife recognized me as soon as she laid eyes on me. I hugged her and told her how sorry I was. She asked after my parents and thanked me for coming. That it meant a lot to see so many faces from their past.
What I did not get a chance to tell her was that I had, in fact, seen them much more recently than 30 years ago. I saw them on New Year's Eve. It wasn't a big fancy party with so many people that you don't know who's there. It was a quiet restaurant, tucked into the corner of a shopping center. We rarely go out, but this past New Year's Eve, we decided to go out to the Far East Cuisine restaurant as my husband was craving pho. As we were seated, I saw a long table of people laughing and talking and children going around the table talking to anyone who'd listen as they waited for their food.
My eyes were drawn over there time and time again - and I realized that I knew these people. It was the whole family. Mom and Dad, lots of kids and grandchildren. It had been years since I'd seen them and I didn't recognize the boys but the girls I knew immediately. Mom looked just like she had all those years ago - but Dad seemed a bit faded. Tired and worn despite the big smile and the happy throng. I did not know at the time that he was ill - I only found that out later.
I debated going over there but they all looked so happy to be together, laughing and talking - something told me to stay where I was and let them have their family holiday together uninterrupted. Little did I know it would be their last.
I don't have any pictures of these people. But there are snapshots of each of them in my mind. T clapping and encouraging at the volleyball game. M standing with hands on hips as she looks down at two dirty-faced boys (you can tell she's trying not to laugh). K and B sitting together on a bench in their Sunday dresses. And G and T on the floor playing a game, trying to keep Baby B from eating the pieces. They are old pictures. Happy pictures. I have new ones to add to that file today but I hope to keep them in the back, behind the ones with all the smiles.