The Photo Album

In the early and mid 1960s, before the interstate highway system was really complete, we would travel from Pennsylvania to my father’s old stomping grounds in Massachusetts by way of some interstate and some smaller roads.  In Connecticut we could easily make our way through the many coastal towns on the old roads.  I remember one year we were passing by a city park and on a bench sat a man in a bright yellow windowpane patterned suit.  Considering the era, I’m sure he was outrageously dressed in the latest style.

He is of importance for who knows what reason.  In my world, it was because my father saw him and said that he was a CIA spy.  I was young so that sounded reasonable to me, but I’m sure my father was making a pointed social comment.  How would he know the man was a spy?  Or maybe he just made that up out of the blue.

I’ve often thought it would be fun to sit in a park, or at a sidewalk café, and watch people go by, making up some interesting “facts” about them to put into a story.  This summer when we travelled to London my youngest daughter and I did a little of that, identifying some unique looking characters to be included in a story we will one day write.  This memory comes to me today because of something I saw yesterday.

A family, a father and son pair more specifically, was having a yard/garage/basement sale at their home.  They had recently acquired all of the possessions of the father’s own recently deceased parents.  The man and his son were in the process of moving out of state and were liquidating these assets.  More stuff they would have to pack up.  And they didn’t need it anyway.  No big deal.  This happens all the time. 

Unusual was the fact that they didn’t even really know what they had.  Nor what it might be worth.  There were boxes still packed the way they had come out of the parent’s estate.  I felt kind of like an American Picker, digging through boxes and drawers that hadn’t seen daylight in quite some time.  Then it hit me.

Here was a box filled with pictures.  Small frames with photos of family members.  At first I wasn’t very interested in them.  I was looking for something else.  But then I got to the bottom of the box and there it was.  A giant brown leather bound book.  Clearly marked “Photographs.”  It was the family photo album, chronicling the history of that family.

It fascinated and scared me at the same time.  Here was this book, full of memories carefully documented and collected, buried and forgotten.  No longer wanted.  Just some junk to be rid of.  Maybe they didn’t know it was there.  Maybe they didn’t care.  Or perhaps they really did want to be rid of it and its inhabitant memories.

I left it alone.  Almost like a tomb.  I didn’t want it.  Didn’t even want to look.  It just didn’t feel right.  Very strange considering I’m in the personal history business.  This was a goldmine!  The history wasn’t old, but all history is interesting.  All photos provide some tidbit of human existence.  Looking back on it, I should have bought it.  And made up my own stories about all of the people whose photos resided there.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?   www.personalhistorywriter.com

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