Thursday, 07 February 2019 19:20

COLUMN: Perusing pictures of the past

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We all know the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It's been ingrained in our minds as long as we can remember. 

It's mentioned in song lyrics. It's mentioned in poetry and prose. I'm pretty sure if a picture is worth a thousand words, I have said a picture is worth a thousand words thousands of times. That's a whole lot of pictures and a whole lot of words. 

My column is primarily words. Once in a while, a picture accompanies the column, but for the most part, it's just words. In a few columns, these words have described our clumsy attempts at spring cleaning. It's that time of year again. Contrary to the big build up, I don't have actual pictures of our spring cleaning. The spring cleaning this year has to do with the pictures themselves. Lots of them. 

Since our younger daughter has moved away, she has expressed a desire to have in her own home some of our old family pictures. It seems odd that in this digital age that someone actually wants a hard copy of a photograph, but our kid is kinda weird like us, so she wants the snapshots. 

If the old saying is true, and a picture is truly worth a thousand words, there are probably about a trillion words scattered across our coffee table, dining room table, and most of the floor. There are pictures from decades ago. There are pictures of my wife and I from when we were children. There are school pictures, both portraits and class pictures, of both of us. 

There is an age difference between my wife and I and the difference shows mostly in our school pictures, with almost a decade separating them. There are pictures from trips my wife and I took as a young couple. There are pictures of our friends and families and a few of people we don't actually know. We understand that some of the folks in the pictures from my wife's grandmother can't be identified, but we have one picture of us and a bunch of kids who are probably about 30 now. I don't know who the kids are or where they are now, but we have a picture of us all having a grand time at the zoo. 

My wife figured that it was a good time to go through the pictures and send duplicates to the daughters. The problem is, we have duplicates, triplicates, and quadruplicates of some pictures. 

I remember when we bought a nice Minolta camera right before our wedding. I thought I was a great shutterbug and took all kinds of dumb artsy pictures around Baltimore. Looking back on them, there probably is one good picture in the whole bunch. The rest are pretentious and dumb. 

One of them is a picture my wife took (with a cheap camera) of me lying flat on a railroad track taking a dumb picture with our expensive camera. I never saw the picture I took, but the picture of me on the tracks has been held on to for more than 20 years. There are even some Polaroids as well. At one of my old jobs, we kept a Polaroid in the office to record damage to the vehicles. Most of the time, we used it to take candid photos of each other and cool cars we saw at the car wash next door. 

My wife and I have realized that we have taken a lot of pictures in our time. I'm grateful for digital pictures now. There are about a hundred shoebox-sized boxes scattered in our dining room. My wife keeps asking me if I remember things and shows me pictures from long ago. We were both younger and skinnier and somehow lived a very exciting life while being pretty broke. We don't have any embarrassing photos other than ones that show bad hair or clothing choices. There is nothing out there that would come back to haunt us. There are a lot of pictures, but nothing salacious. 

My wife is planning on stuffing one of those “if it fits, it ships” boxes full of pictures and sending it to our daughter in Alabama. I'm okay with this, as it frees up our storage space and I won't have to look through generations of old photos. My wife is working on a genealogy project with her parents and has begun to go through her parents' pictures. There are pictures of aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents and that one cousin whom no one can name. They are color and black-and-white and one or two are sepia tone. I'm hoping this chore will be done soon. 

“We'll be done in a bit,” my wife told me, “and then we can start on the negatives.”

I wonder if a newspaper columnist can fit in one of those priority mail boxes. If I fit, I ship.


Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.