The Joy of Our Colored Pictures

One of my favorite images is a photograph taken by my Aunt Wanda sometime in the early spring of 1949. I'm guessing we were on the beach in Newport. In the background, my mother stands with her back arched, coat wind-blown by springtime. Her hair is braided and carefully wrapped around her head. She is serene, smiling at all of us. Inside her beautiful, bulging self is my soon to be born brother.

In the forefront of this black and white photograph is a huge log, left by winter storms. It's a good place to relax for my Grandma Garriott and me. Grandma's head scarf and hair are blown sideways and she has a laughing face, filled with fake horror of what she has just viewed in my rompers. Me? I am happy as a clam. At about 16 months of age I know nothing but the desire to get back to the sand and end this clean diaper stuff.

Like many of you, I was born in the late 1940s. I have always been thankful for this. Why? We were born at a time when all the best movies were made and all the best songs written. Yes, I know I was just a little kid but I'm still proud to be a product of this era. WWII came to an end and electric refrigerators were born. Wood trash burners shared electricity for cooking. Our country was in a state of rebirth and we documented this change with Kodak cameras.

I don't know when my Mom must have gotten her first camera. Trust that it was early in her life. You see, I came from a photo-obsessed family. We have pictures of thousands of moments in the lives of our families and the lives of our ancestors. This obsession dates back to the mid and late 1800s.

Given these circumstances it seems like at least one of our ancestors should be named Kodak. In that case, I could ask for a share in the money we've collectively spent on the company. OK, I'd try to get you to believe Polaroid... but you'd call me on it. Fujitsu? Dang it.

I love the contrast in photos taken early on in our families. Those stark images show our history. It resonates from the folks shown in weddings, family groupings and portraits. These photographs affirm the fact that black and white are colors. Those stern faces of great-great grandparents say it is so. Photos of sullen children posing with stuffed deer in a painted forest background say it, too. Color is only implied.

Black and white photos from my childhood have interesting patterns around their edges. They also have dates on them... which is really helpful. Their papers are thin so you have to be very careful in extracting them from family albums. After all these years, a picture from 60 or more years ago will be stiff and unyielding on that black matte finish.

You'll remember those little corner markers for photographs. We glued them onto that black page and hoped they'd fit. In later years photo albums came with self-stick pages. All you had to do was lift the transparent film, place the photos on the page, and press. What none of us knew then, was that the transparent film would give it up and take an extended vacation with the self-sticking adhesive. Dang.

Following this ugly phase we started putting pictures into boxes. In the beginning I thought this was a dandy idea. Why? I had one empty album which was so old that I knew what would happen if I loaded it with pictures. In short, this means I was lazy and had let too many photos pile up. I was photographically challenged.

Grandchildren. Let's blame it on them. There were three of them. All born in Alaska. Honestly, if your grandchildren are born next door, you will not take as many pictures of them as you will if they are born a few thousand miles away. OK, we could argue that point but I have evidence which proves that my theory is truth. I took pictures of everything. I took pictures of every sound they made. Don't ask... recording was not was available. I just explained the sound of their cuteness later.

What brought on this blast from the past? A box of photos... under a bed and discovered by a carpet cleaner. Most of them are in color so we know they are part of our time together. We have a whole box of memories to look through. In just a few days of pawing through this box we have been reminded of people we miss so much and places we'll never see again. Sad? Nope. They were ours and we were theirs.

Those pictures in boxes and albums around our home are pieces of our life and the lives of our families. They aren't on a phone or a disc. We can pick them up and look at them over and over. That's the best part of all.

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