I must confess that I have OCD tendencies when it comes to photographs. (And did you hear this week that, yes indeed, Kodak took our Kodacrome away? With apologies to Paul Simon, they will no longer manufacture that vivid film since the digital age is upon us.) I am that friend who always has the camera along, snapping shots and sharing copies. I don't think most of my friends even carry their digitals with them on girlfriend outings anymore, because they know my shots will arrive in the mail in the next few days. None of them have ever questioned my obsession with visual memories printed on paper, but I have. I know exactly where this less-than-an-addiction-more-than-a-casual-interest came from.
I grew up in a home where my mother hid family photographs in The Box. We were never allowed to look at them because she felt like that would be "dragging up the past". Disturbing, I know. The only photographic evidence that I existed (before I could snap my own pictures) are from shots that were retrieved from my grandmother's house. I would see The Box from time to time over the years, but I've never had the opportunity to really look carefully at its contents. My loyal sister has on occasion offered to put on camouflage, and under cover of night launch a reconnaissance mission for The Box. And The Memories.
This would explain why I have at least 20 albums of pictures of my children. The oldest child is 24. Doing the math? Almost one complete album a year. It's excessive, I admit that. But, oh!, the memories I've been enjoying during our in-home vacation this summer. Things I had forgotten are brought to light while flipping through the pages and years of memories.
My favorite pictures right now (besides the ones leaning above) are of the on-going remodeling of our house. We bought it in 1999 from the original owners of 20 years. And they had not changed a thing from the perfection (in their minds) that was the 1979 color scheme. Gold linoleum, orange countertops and plaid wall paper greeted me with the morning coffee when we first moved in. Back then, my husband said he'd stand in the kitchen and try to imagine someone 20 years ago saying, "WOW! Is this gorgeous or what?"
Over the years, my husband and I (and truth be told: mostly my husband) have remodeled, repainted, retiled and retooled every square inch of the inside. He is an amazing craftsman when it comes to woodworking and building.
I was thinking yesterday, as I enjoyed those before-and-after home shots again, that the phrase "amazing craftsman" also applied to his work on our family over the years. Blending a family of four children is hard work requiring constant maintenance. (And have I mentioned a time or twenty that all four were teenagers at once?) And the work continued during the past seven years as he has battled a serious illness. Yet, there is photographic evidence of continuing birthday parties, holidays, four high school graduations, college graduations and even one daughter's wedding during that time.
Because of his perseverance, the family has continued to thrive through out some pretty challenging health situations. I absolutely believe because of the determination to keep pressing through, we have not missed one blessing that was meant for us during this time.
I have decided that the real prize is The Box that each one of us carries in our hearts and minds. Those precious mental pictures and memories of a life well lived and well spent. The Box is the legacy we lovingly build and pass down to our families.
And I close with words to a song by Nicole Nordeman that may or may not be familiar to you. But the words? They are our heart.