My mother sent me a picnic basket full of old slides. A leak at our house had damaged a storage box, but she said she had dried them out and they looked fine. “Just send them to me,” I urged, “I’ll store them in the garage.” I’ve recently become worried that my mother’s desire to downsize is going to result in a full-scale liquidation of every object in our childhood home. Consequently, I’m trying to repatriate as much a possible. So when I opened the promised picnic basket, I was surprised to find not a hundred or so slides, but literally thousands. Slides from the 60s and 70s, slides of my mother windswept in Caribbean, picturesque shots of palm trees and, heartbreakingly, slide after slide of my mother and father looking very happy together.
It is hard for me, as a child of divorce (to use the dramatic 80s turn of phrase), to understand what to do with these images of happiness. I tried to explain to my husband the sadness and strange nostalgia these images evoke for me, like the promise of a lovely future that never quite materialized. Or did and slipped away. Until I talked about it with him, I don’t think I understood emotionally and intellectually that not everyone is moved to tears by early parent pictures in quite this way.
It made me even more committed to start photo albums for us after I finish our wedding album. Even, or especially knowing how these things can end, I feel very strongly that happy years are worth preserving.
I am also thinking about how to archive all the slides: for me and my brother, for my nephews, and hopefully for my future children. I know that they will not feel the same emotions I do as they look at them. That’s a good thing.