A family friend sent me a photo taken in 1983 of myself, my dad, and my mom at her mother’s 70th birthday party. I spent quite a long time looking at it. So many details to ponder. Why did I look so grumpy? Perhaps because I was 14 and most likely would rather have been anywhere else but a 70th birthday party with my parents!! I chuckled at my mom wearing a long skirt, and at the fact that my dad had hair! It made me smile. A lot. I have always had a curiosity about old photographs. When I was a child I would look though my parents’ old photos of their life in England before they emigrated to Canada in 1960. The photos contained glimpses of a world that I was not a part of. I loved looking at the faces, the landscape, the clothing, and especially the furniture and old wallpaper on the walls in the background. I would make up stories of the people in the pictures. What where they doing in the moments before and after that photo was taken? What where they thinking? Who took the picture? So many unanswered questions.
But that is the joy of photographs. The mystery of the moment the photo was taken. A captured moment in time. Somebody thought that exact moment was worthwhile documenting. Good, funny, sad, beautiful…whatever the reason, it was worth the trouble of taking a photo, and in the past, sending in your film to be developed and waiting days or even weeks to see the results. And the results weren’t always perfect. Many, many imperfect photos that these days we would just delete on our phones. But maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to delete. When you look back at old photos, it is the candid pictures that make you smile. The ones where maybe someone is grumpy in the background, or everyone is just being silly, or the one with the really special wallpaper in the kitchen from 1975! Those are the ones that you laugh over with family, the ones that you remember the most. You can recapture that moment if you were part of the photo. It was worth remembering. Not the perfectly posed family portraits. Don’t get me wrong, those have a place in photo history for sure, but sometimes they are unremarkable. For lots of Threads of Life families, those silly photos are all they have to help remember a loved one or their own life before injury or illness. We see those grainy shots in the newsletter or in the slide show at the Family Forum Reflections ceremony – thank goodness someone kept them!
I wonder what process my family will go through when they look at family photos in the future? I feel like they will think we live perfect lives. We are all so quick to delete that “imperfect” photo from our phones, or crop the background out of the picture. The ones where maybe our hair isn’t the best, or our smiles aren’t perfect. But that is who we are, and those pictures capture those moments in our lives. We don’t spend our days being perfect, so why do our photo memories need only to capture the perfect moments? Bring on the silly, bad hair days, the less than clean house, or the funny faces because that is what I want future generations of my family to remember. I don’t mean I will plaster these pictures all over social media, but maybe I should be less quick to click delete.
Perhaps I will stop deleting and cropping, and just start appreciating each photo for what it represents in that moment of time. The good, the sad, the beautiful, and the silly. Because that is my life, and I want my photos to represent that. Not the perfect me that doesn’t exist. I want my family to chuckle and smile when they look back at old photos of us. Because someone thought that moment in time was worth capturing and remembering.