While going through some old boxes, I came across a stack of photos. Most were black and white, a few were in sepia. All of them featured people from another time and place. Fascinated I lost track of time as I tried to sort out who these people were.
There was my maternal grandmother, looking self-confident and beautiful while she clung to the hand of an older man, tall and thin. The woman I knew as my grandmother was nothing like this spitfire of a girl in the picture. She had a look to her that said she knew what she wanted and she was going after it. That tall, thin man she held hands with? Her father, my great-grandfather. He looked very serious and stiff in the picture.
Here is my maternal grandmother with her parents, both serious and dressed in dark clothing. My grand mother is sitting on her father’s lap while her mother is flanked on either side by two older girls, and an infant rests in her arms. Those older girls? My grandmother’s sisters and the infant, her only brother.
There are photos of old houses, bikes, and smiling faces. This, then, is the box of photos my mother hauled from place to place and hardly ever looked at. She just needed to know they were there, as if by being able to touch the, she was able to connect again with her past.
The only photos that exist of my maternal grandfather are from his wedding day forward. His family didn’t have time or money for photos. It was only at the insistence of my grandmother that he ever had his picture taken.
In these wedding photos he looks impossibly young and full of hope, humor and mischief. I have memories of him being a soft-spoken, quiet man. When he was up for it, he’d have a wicked sense of humor, but he’d seen too much and been through too much by the time I was around. Most he sat and kept to himself, smiling at some silliness I was caught up in.
My father never felt the need to have photos or sentimental items to keep in contact with his history. He had exactly one picture of his mother, my paternal grandmother, when she was in her mid-teenage years. And he had a copy of his parents’ wedding photo and was it. His father was orphaned at an early age, living a had scrabble life in many ways. My paternal grandfather had no time for frivolous items when he was young. He was focused on becoming someone and not being dependent upon anyone for anything.
I have kept these photos and other’s because they are a link to so much that otherwise I wouldn’t know. I dont see them as tying me to a place or people so much as creating a link that helps show where some of my habits and characteristics stem from. And I keep them because. Am curious about the people and places, the lives lived and ended.
Truthfully most old pictures do that for me. They ask me to consider the people and wonder what their lives were like. Puzzle over the reason for some of these pictures and learn a bit about them. I guess in a way it keeps them alive or in this world.