Our Son recieved, as a gift from his Aunt, a shoebox full of family photographs. He dug in, grabbed a handful and browsed, one by one, through the photos. He passed them among the assembled group, made and shared comments. We all marvelled at images of the numerous family dogs and cats, the strange clothes and hairstyles worn by various family members, the out-of-focus shots of different homes in which we had lived.
At one picture, he stopped and commented, “Who was this white-footed black cat?” We all debated about whether it was Jimmy, Maude or Baby. Of course, the concensus was that it was Maude – she always sat grooming herself for hours on the living-room windowsill.
Mother and Dad were seen in a series of shots, taken at different times over a span of forty years. In some, Mom was shown as a confident, vital beauty. In later pictures, she looked more care-worn, but hints of the young woman she once was were evident, layered with added complexity. Dad appeared vigorous in the early photos. His change into the dignified man he is today developed gradually. The most recent picture, of him dandling his new grandchild, reveals an elder, secure in his position as the “wise one” to whom we all go to for advice.
Our Son found a picture from his high school graduation. In it he wears his first suit, an elegant three-piece charcoal grey one. This find unleashed the story of shopping for this suit with his Dad, where they argued the necessity of having to buy a three-piece versus a two-piece suit. A long discussion with the assembled company resulted in revisiting the trials of teens shopping for clothes with their parents. Various persons told hilarious anecdotes of how they handled the intrusive and controlling shopping parent, who was merely tolerated by the teen for the necessary wallet but not for weighing in with an opinion on clothing style suitability. The fact that people were still alive to tell the tales is testament to the survival of the various individuals despite such intergenerational skirmishes.
Much laughter ensued over the bee-hive hairdos sported by Aunts, the Brylcreemed architectural wonders Dad created on top of his head during the 50s, and Son’s wonderful, but hideous, fuzzy Mullet adorning him in his High-School graduation photos. As we passed the pictures around we discussed the inexorable force of fashion to cause people to take leave of their better judgement.
We revisited various homesteads, shown at different times of year and weather. We saw the big snow in 82, outside our Northern log home. Three pairs of cross-country skis, photographed stuck in the snow-drift by the front door, caused us to reminisce about the cold clear nights, Northern Lights billowing in the dark sky, when, accompanied by Bear the dog, we would set out to ski for hours with our battery powered headlamps lighting the way.
This was the most valued gift for all of us, this box of old photographs! Shared laughter, questions, comments and reminiscences united us all in a joyful Christmas evening. New photographs were shot to be added to this compendium of memories. These will come out to be viewed and shared at some future family gathering, to delight us all.