Yesterday I brought home some of my mom’s stuff, including 15 photo albums and two boxes, one rather large, of loose photos. And that wasn’t even all of them. Mom loved her photos. Someone suggested to my brother that we “just throw away” most of the old pictures. Mom would have been horrified to hear that.
There’s something almost sacred about photographs, especially snapshots of people. We’ve all heard that some primitive tribal people did not like to be photographed because they believed the camera would steal their soul and imprison it in the picture. I wonder if maybe we have a little bit of that superstition ourselves. Not that souls are imprisoned in the photos but that maybe there’s a tiny piece of a soul in the photo and therefore it must be cared for and treated with respect. No, I don’t really believe that but maybe I feel something like that because I do feel that photos should be treated with a certain respect and care.
From the time I was little we would frequently sit and look at old photo albums, many with pictures dating from my mother’s childhood, and she would talk about the people in them and the places they were taken. I never did that much with my kids, mostly because my mom had all the old photos. I find myself wondering what will happen to all of them when I’m gone. Will they be thrown away? All those little “pieces of souls,” unloved and just thrown out with the trash? I find that extremely troubling.
The photos and other items that belonged to my mother – I do not feel that they are mine. I’m just taking care of them for her. I felt the same way about my grandmother’s sewing machine. It wasn’t mine; I was just taking care of it for my grandmother. Over the years I’ve gradually come to feel more of a sense of ownership of it but I’m still as much a caretaker as an owner.
The title of this post is, as you may know, the title of a song by Jim Croce but there is a different song that perfectly evokes the charm of old photo albums:
Perhaps later I will show you some of my mother’s old photos.