Monday, February 5, 2007


My father sat at the breakfast room table eating his warm blueberry pancakes as the sun streamed in on a cold Sunday in February. His face is worth a thousand words, he is a complicated man and he finds it funny to feign disinterest and ignorance about topics he really knows and cares about. He wants us to agree with what he says, because he doesn’t believe it. Then he will know that our disagreement with him is pure and not obfuscated by just wanting to disagree with him. I cant imagine getting pleasure from this type of gentle manipulation, but I know he does. Above all he is a sensitive and sentimental man who loves nostalgia, but he tries to hide it. Probably because it hurts too much.

He talked about how old photographs are not worth keeping if you don’t know who the people are in them anymore. I couldn’t disagree more, which probably means I really agree with him. At the time, I didnt come up with a cogent response as to why it is important to keep old photographs of almost strangers, so I will attempt to now:

I particularly love how ordinary days that are photographed ripen over time. Sometimes you can remember having the picture taken and thinking, why did you do that? there was no occasion to capture, its just a day. Then you realize your life is a string of just days. Think of how you will feel about that photo when the other people in it are gone and then think about yourself being gone and that very photo making its way into a pile that is thrown away some day. Think of your mother and how she tried so hard to raise you and how then you tried hard because of that. And think of how someday someone, who still has her genes and maybe her eyes, will think of her as a stranger. Its just the saddest thing I can think of really, that we will all be forgotten some day. Photographs were a tremendous innovation in history and in how we remember the past. We arent just snapping away for nothing. They tell us things that nothing else can. They are often sentimental and sad or funny or mysterious, but they are never ever worthless.

But, with his drawers and drawers full of softly fading albumless photos and endless rolls of silent and quick old movies, I am sure my Dad already knows that.

1 comment:

  1. Its funny, because last nite I spent 2 hours scanning in old photos for a suprise 40th anniversary party for my in-laws.

    My sister in-law gathered the pictures in the attic while they werent home one day. The attic was a complete disaster and the albums and photos were scattered everywhere, not in any particular place. But she told me the most amazing part was that the photos were ALL marked on the back with the month, date and who was in the picture. Each and every one.

    perhaps she has had the same thought as you and refuses to be forgotten.