Thursday, November 22, 2012

Road Maps to the Past

Every now and then, while digging through the attic for my long lost pet rock collection, I come across an old Thanksgiving photo from the 60’s.

It’s often a group shot of my extended family sitting around a festive holiday table filled with food or, more likely, the remnants of food.

All familiar faces, minus the shadows of time; many now gone, but all still remembered.

These black and white road maps to my past are now the treasures of my present; opening doors to earlier days of innocence, wrapped in joy, sprinkled with pain…now embossed with smiles, knowing resolution always lingered just around the corner.

Little did we know, back then, when whoever grabbed that old Brownie Instamatic or Polaroid Swinger that we were actually staring into the future?  That we were destined to be a moment frozen for all time; a moment left for future generations to ponder…or toss in the trash while cleaning out our attics.

That’s the funny thing about old photos.

Prize to me…clutter to someone else.

The thing is, unless you were there, that captured moment is lacking something critical; something which can only be restored through our imaginations.


What’s lacking is the noise…the hub bub, the din…even the sound of my grandfather snoring, just off the right of picture frame.

Especially the sound of my grandfather snoring, just off the right of picture frame.

And with the clatter from the past restored in our minds, soon follows the colors, the smells, the textures and all the rest.

The laughter from the kitchen over who spilled the gravy. The arguments from the living room over what actually constitutes a fumble, both on TV and the front lawn...especially the front lawn.

The sight of your uncle—or somebody’s uncle, of whom you were never quite sure—enlisting the drumsticks as ear decorations, which he did…every year…something he thought we wanted to see…every year.

The smell of meatball soup filling the room; too hot for some…too cold for others...still, always anticipated and always delicious.

Cranberry, in the shape of a can, wiggling on a small plate in the shape of a turkey, beckoning to all of us, shape notwithstanding, to be the first to deface its jellied perfection.

Fascination, as Grandma scoops out stuffing from a turkey’s unmentionable nether region—are we really gonna eat that stuff—Gramps sharpening the BIG knife, all the while hatching a plan to keep the drumsticks away from the previously mentioned big eared mysterious uncle.

The pumpkin pie dropped, then zipped away and haphazardly reconfigured into semi-perfect slices, enlisting the five second rule as to why it was still mostly okay to eat…especially with cool whip…especially on Thanksgiving.

More laughter….more arguments…more of everything, packaged in black and white and sent off to the future.

Today, the memories come wrapped in digits of zeros and ones, very often already filled with sound and even music embedded. Everything future generations will ever need to peer back into an electronically flawless past….except imagination

But, even so, as you sit at the table in this season of runaway holiday trains, pose by the turkey or sit by the tree, staring into your own future unknown, imagine that moment frozen in black and white, curled at the edges, preserving a lifetime of memories for you and everyone yet to come.

Just another thing to be thankful for.

Road Maps to the past
Treasures of the present.

Even the guy with the drumsticks for ears….

Happy Thanksgiving!
Also...speaking of treasures of the present...
Happy Birthday Z!

(What? I'm still hoping to get my house keys back)

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  1. i LOVE LOVE LOVE old photos....especially the really old ones. we can all sit for hours and look. you brought back a lot of memories..thanks brian. happy giving thanks!

    1. Same to you, Nichole!
      Glad you liked the story and delved back into your own B & W memories….


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