Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pictures on the Piano

“Look! I’ve turned into my grandmother,” said my friend Glenda, gesturing toward the many framed photos on her walls and bookshelves. “I thought it was so tacky the way Grandma cluttered the top of the family piano with photos. Now I’m doing it.”

I smiled. “Me too.”

At some point in life, almost like a primal urge, we start surrounding ourselves with reminders of family.
Why do photographs matter so much? Why do people whose homes are destroyed by fire or flood weep the most for their lost scraps of Kodak paper?

Because memories fade. Your toddler’s impish grin, caught—just so—on a certain day may not stay in your memory bank. And have you ever blurted when coming across a 20-year-old photo, “Oh, I’d forgotten all about that!”

For many of us, our refrigerators become colorful art galleries. My friend Dots calls it her visual collection of begats. “It’s like the Bible says: “Frank begat John who begat Sarah who begat Kim who begat my adorable grandson Timmy.”

Have you ever walked into a house where family photos are missing? You become aware of a certain emptiness, subtle but real. Where are the framed reminders of the begats: the connections of one generation to another?

A divorced friend said sadly, “My angry ex-wife cut me out of every family photo. I felt as if she’d cut me out of my place as daddy to our children.”

Another couple didn’t take photos in the early years of their marriage. When the husband died unexpectedly, his widow grieved because she had no visual reminders of their happy early years.

Framed photos are never tacky. They’re loving reminders of all that binds us together. When I look at two framed photos of my now deceased parents, hanging next to photos of my grandchildren, I’m reminded of the blessed continuum of life.

Is now a good time to display some of your family photos?

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