As a child, one of my favorite ways to pass the time on cold winter afternoons was to drag out albums and boxes of old family photos that had been taken through the years.
I would often begin with the ones that were taken when my mother was a child. The feel of the paper between my fingers, with the edges often bent and frayed, would make me wonder how many people before me had lovingly held that same picture in their hands.
I would turn the yellowed pages of the albums, slowly looking over the faces in each black and white image. Many were of family members who had passed before I was old enough to get to know them while others I could easily identify as aunts, uncles and cousins.
Of those old photos, my favorite has always been a simple portrait of my mom sitting on her father’s lap on the old wooden front porch of the house where she grew up. I have often stared at that old photo, wondering about the color of Momma’s dress or Grandpa’s shirt.
When I recently found that old photo in an album while visiting Momma’s house, I finally decided it was simply too special to have hidden away in a book. I took the picture and had it framed, tears filling my eyes as I watched her cry when I gave it back to her. The framed photo of my grandpa and his baby girl now hangs proudly in her house for all to see.
After I would make my way through the old black and white photos from way before my time, I would move along to the ones of more recent years. There were so many of those that I loved, it was impossible for me to choose a favorite.
My two older brothers and I are three completely different people, and it showed from the beginning in our family’s photo albums. While my oldest brother was always ready with a bright smile, he often hid just as the flash of the camera was going off. A few of his best photos, however, brought out his true side.
My other brother, the middle child, has forever been the serious one. I recall very few pictures where his smile actually showed through, but they, too, seemed to bring out what made him tick.
And then there was me, the bratty baby sister, who was always ready to ham it up for the camera. I was — and most would agree that I still am — the goofy one of the family, making faces and doing silly things to be captured on film forever. Though I’ve changed my love for being in front of the camera, I will be known until the end of time as the jokester of the family.
Flipping through photos of special occasions and every day life, memories of my childhood would come flooding back into my mind. I could almost smell the dust kicking up behind the tractor when I would look at the photo of my grandpa and me on an old International. I could nearly feel the cool water of the swimming pool or envision the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree as I sifted through the other photos that followed.
One of the most special gifts I have ever received — and one I will always cherish — was given to me by my momma on my last Christmas at home before I took on the responsibilities of moving out on my own. The shape and weight of the package on my lap as I removed the shiny paper almost gave away what was inside, but I could never have imagined in a million years just how special it would be.
Momma had taken hours upon hours of her time to put together the largest photo album I had ever seen, filled with page after page of my youth. School photos were lined up from kindergarten to my senior year. Each Easter, birthday and Christmas was there as well, along with the first day of school. Prom pictures, photos of my first “real” date with my first “real” boyfriend, school trips and simple “just because” shots were packed between the front and back covers.
I sat in the middle of the floor for hours looking through the pages — laughing, crying and, sometimes, both at the same time — as I reminisced about the many special times in my life with friends and loved ones. And though some of them are no longer with me for various reasons, a small peek at one of those photos still seems to bring all of those special moments flooding back.
I never realized when I looked through those stacks of albums as a child that the photos inside would one day help to take me on journeys back through time to memories that would’ve otherwise been forgotten.
— Rhonda Griffin is the editor of the Bladen Journal. She may be reached by phone at 862-4163 or by e-mail at email@example.com.