Saturday, December 19, 2015

What becomes of old family photos? Do we wither away into history?

It was recently that I attended a party when one of my cousins gave her brother what might appear to be an odd gift – a giant frame containing more than a dozen family photographs.
My father (right), uncles and aunt as kids at Riverview

Before one presumes this is a home-made gift with meaning, consider that the people in those photos are someone else’s family.

FOR IT SEEMS this cousin found these framed photos at a second-hand store, and she bought it because my other cousin apparently has an interest in the way people pose for those shots meant to preserve the family for posterity.

Particularly in the older days, but he also enjoys a contemporary shot or two as well.

Now that night, we were going back and forth having fun mocking this off-the-wall holiday gift, for it seems the family in the photographs is Filipino (or maybe Chinese, the captions written on the back of the photos were sort of vague). Such as the idea that when my cousin turns old and begins to suffer from dementia, he’s going to presume THESE people are his family.

Bye Bye to all of us!

BUT IT DOES have me wondering what should we really expect to happen to all of those alleged family mementos – particularly since nothing truly lasts forever. And there’s always the possibility that some knucklehead down the road will decide these “mementos” are little more than trash taking up space.
My maternal grandparents upon birth of twins (my mother's the baby on right)
That seems to be what happened to this particular family’s photographs – which were nicely framed and organized in a way that you literally could follow this woman’s story from being a Filipino immigrant to the graduation of her grandchildren.

Somebody’s life became someone else’s space-taking nuisance. Is that what is destined to happen to all of us?

My paternal grandparents in front of their (then) new home
Perhaps I’m thinking this too deeply because, with the death of my brother not long ago, I wound up becoming the family member in possession of the old family photographs.

WHICH NOT ONLY document my own childhood and that of my brother, but also contain the shots that were taken throughout the lives of my father and mother during their respective childhoods.

In fact, I know one of the things I was able to do to make my father happy in the days following the death of his other son was to give him some five dozen prints of photographs from his own childhood that had somehow passed down to us.

My father and Uncle John (my mother's twin)
I know he’s planning on taking actions meant to preserve those photographs – some of which already have had some significant fading and deterioration (what with being five or six decades old by now).

But what happens after that? What happens if the day comes when this big, clunky photo album that my now-late mother started to put together when I was a baby winds up being stray stuff.

DOES IT WIND up being put up for sale in a second-hand shop as a potential antique? Or worse yet, in one of those landfills near Pontiac where much of Chicago’s trash winds up these days!

It would be all too easy for me to see how such a scenario could happen – even though I’m sure someone is going to retort that by such a time, I would be deceased and it wouldn’t really matter to me any longer.

Me, with my Uncle Art, when I had a whole life ahead of me
So perhaps some of these old photographs ought to be seen now, what with the idea that I could at least try to pass along their significance.

Otherwise, they could all become just dusty images that wind up being someone else’s conversational piece before they move along to more “revelant” topics such as the weather or whether the Chicago Cubs will manage to go two full centuries without winning a World Series title.


No comments: