Photographs and memories

We — the kids — are throwing a 90th birthday party for our Dad.  It is coming up, so SOB (sister of blogger) and I spent a few hours combing through old pictures that would go on a big poster board put up on an easel.

It wasn’t easy choosing among the pictures.  There are some as old as 1926 and as recent as last weekend.  Some are of individuals, and others are group shots.  We have pictures of cousins, friends, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and some long-forgotten friends and family.  I looked at pictures of long dead relatives when they were young and laughing (and smoking and drinking).  Happy moments in sometimes hard lives.

A picture is worth 1,000 words, as an old adage goes.  Except the people who know those 1,000 words — and can tell the story, the back-story and gossip that brings the picture to life — are dead or have forgotten.  And when they were alive or could remember, I was too young to be interested.  And so, we have the pictures and sometimes notes and dates jotted on the backs.  There is a picture of my uncles in uniform with my grandparents.  Were they shipping out?  Were they on leave?  Were they home after the war was over?  The picture is small and the resolution not so great, so it is hard to tell their ages.  And my grandparents always looked ancient, anyway.  So, were my uncles scared about going to war, just on leave, or relieved that it was over and that they survived?

I wish I had 1,000 words for each of these pictures because now I am ready to hear the stories and learn the personal histories.  Now I know that people don’t live forever.  And I was so young and self-involved when people were trying to tell me.  And so I lost the richest part of my inheritance.