The shelves under the stereo in the dining room nearly sagged from the weight of photo albums. I stood examining them. Which one did I want to pull out? Each one was like a black hole that would swallow the rest of my afternoon, so I needed to be careful in my selection. I wanted pictures from the first ten years of my marriage for the family history project I’m working on.
Luck was with me. The one I finally pulled out was labeled, 1968 through 1980. Between the shelf and the dining room table, five photos fell out and scattered on the floor. Sighing impatiently, I glanced at my daughter, who works remotely from my house, and asked, “Would you like to help me this week end? I want to put these pictures into a new album; one with pockets.”
Tammie eagerly offered, “Sure. Looking at the old pictures will be fun. What’s wrong with that album?”
Several more pictures spilled out of the album as I turned pages. Trying to put them back in place, I explained, “This album had sticky pages covered with plastic cover sheets. After 50 years, the pages have stopped being sticky and now the pictures don’t want to stay in place anymore.”
Sunday afternoon turned out to be the perfect day to transfer pictures to a new book. The weather was cold and overcast. Sitting huddled under blankets looking at old photos was enjoyable. Tammie was amazed when she saw several pictures. Looking at one of Arnie in our first mobile home, she exclaimed, “Mom, in this picture, Dad looks like his younger brother!”
Smiling, I shook my head. “You have that all turned around, Tammie. His brother didn’t look like that until several years later. By then, Arnie didn’t look like him anymore.”
Seeing the old pictures surprised me. Through the years Arnie and I had changed. Had we really been that young when we married? We looked like mere babies! I mused to my daughter, “When did we change? There wasn’t one day where we looked like kids and another where we looked like middle-aged people. It crept up on us so slowly, we didn’t know it was happening!”
Pictures of our house and yard in 1979 surprised me, too. Holding a picture of Niki, my older daughter standing in the garden, I asked, “Where are the trees along the property line? I’m positive there were trees there when we moved here!”
Tammie examined the picture of her sister Niki as a toddler. Behind her, there was a clear view of the next-door neighbor’s house. She pointed out the small, scraggly pine trees that dotted the lawn behind her.
Taking the picture back to look closer, I asked, “Were the trees really that small back then? They’re huge now.”
Tall trees now surround my house, but in 1980, there were open fields behind our house and across the road. A picture of Arnie on a tractor cutting hay in the field south of the house shows a nearly bare riverbank behind him. This picture astounded Tammie. In an awed-filled voice, she asked, “Did you plant all the trees that are there now?”
I denied planting the trees. “When we moved here, there was just one huge pine tree on the north bank of the river. Lightning had cracked it in half a few years earlier, but it was still a major presence. I don’t know when the sumac, oak, box elder and poplar trees started to grow. We put in a second driveway and more lawn when you were in grade school.”
The COVID 19 pandemic has turned the world we know upside down. It seems hard to believe that after it is over, we will all slip back into our former lifestyles. There are bound to be changes.
I picture myself as one of the Japanese soldiers that went into hiding on deserted Pacific islands shortly before WWII ended. In 1974 when Hiroo Onoda was found on the island Lubang, he was unaware that Japanese forces had surrendered in 1945. He wept uncontrollably when a comrade persuaded him to lay down his rifle.
For the next 30 to 50 years, some people may be unable to believe it is safe to leave their homes.