Posted by: chlost | October 18, 2010

The past, present

This past summer, my sister brought a CD on which she had scanned most of our old family slides and some of the old photos. I have had these sitting on my desk for a few months now. I only recently decided to go through them, and have downloaded them onto my computer.

One of the best photos among these is of a friend’s parents. It is not clear on what occasion the photo was taken, but they are dressed up and eating at a fancy restaurant. Her mother died when she was about 14, and she has missed her every day since.  I cropped the picture and had it enlarged, and am sending it to her for her birthday. She has no idea that I have it, let alone that I am mailing her a copy. I’d sort of like to be there when she opens it.

There are also several photos of my aunts’ and uncles’ wedding. One of my  aunts looks totally shell-shocked, standing in her wedding dress, looking out at the camera as the minister is talking with her and my uncle. They are in their 70’s now, and still married.

There were several photos of my dad, but he is the one who was usually the photographer. Both my mom and my dad look painfully young in the photos. As a kid, of course, I didn’t see that. My dad was always big and grown up-here is a picture of us:

It is hard and wonderful to see the pictures of all of the family members who have died in the intervening years. I wish I had had a chance to talk to all of them more. Did my friend’s mom know that she had cancer in that picture? Did my uncle have any early symptoms of the MS that killed him at 37? 

Of course, no one knows what the future holds. But looking at the photos from the past, it is hard not to wonder. What will my children wonder about me as they look at old photos of me? What will my grandchildren think?  Who will outlive me to do the wondering?

There has only been about 2 generations who have been left with visual copies of their loved ones through photographs.

We now have the first generation who will be left with both visual and oral copies of loved ones. It is disconcerting for me to see a deceased loved one, or even a deceased movie star, laughing, walking, talking or crying on film. It seems as though they are still here in this world. In a way, they are, just by their presence on film, tape or digital media.  Future generations can hear the voices and see their ancestors as they were in real life. If I could have seen and heard my great great grandmother, would I have had more interest in her as a person when I was young?  My ancestors were just imaginary to me as I was growing up. Now as I am getting old, my curiosity about them has increased. I wish I could have known them. Will my great great grandchildren understand more about me with the advantage of seeing my life-like image?

I should have known better than to have started looking at all of the old photos. I always get  sentimental.



  1. Old photos are great. It’s easier to connect with people and their life stories when there’s a face to go with it.

    My favorite old picture is of my grandpa in his navy uniform and my grandma with her shoulder-length hair (they were 18 and 16 years old, respectively.) Then there are so many picture of relatives I supposedly met as a young child but have no recollection of such meetings.

  2. Thanks for sharing! Great picture of you and your dad.

  3. Like the photo of you as a little girl with your father. I always have that bittersweet response to old family photos.

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