For a fair number of years, my mom carried a grudge against a relative whose name escapes me over a couple of missing family photo albums.
My mom wasn’t one to carry a grudge. Oh, what am I saying? I can’t even write that sentence with a straight face. My mom liked many people, loved quite a few of them and took a chosen few as close friends, but she could carry a grudge like a bricklayer’s apprentice if the situation called for it.
And this situation with the photo album apparently called for it. Briefly, some relative or other at some time or other passed on. One of that relative’s children or in-laws or nieces or nephews (you can see this is a vaguely remembered tale) made off (my mom’s description) with a couple of photo albums that at one time nearly every family had stashed somewhere in a bedroom or parlor or back porch.
No problem, younger folks are thinking. Just go to the photo file on your phone and pull up a bunch of pictures. Or check the storage in the Cloud. Yes, that would be dandy, wouldn’t it? If only things had been so easy in the medieval times of which I speak.
But if you’re of a certain age, you’re old enough to remember how treasured family photo albums were. It was a time of black-and-white film only. A roll of film might hold 10 or 12 frames, and a great deal of thought went into what subject was worthy of being pictured on each of those precious frames of film. Some time ago, I wrote about the photographer who was entrusted with the last 12-exposure roll of Kodak color film. He described the thought, the deliberation, almost the agony, that went into selecting the subjects he would capture in each of those 12, last-in-the-whole-world, frames of film. You can understand how important that was, right? Well, that’s just about how important each frame of film was in the days of my youth. A person didn’t just point and shoot.
When the film had been exposed — and sometimes it took weeks or even months to finish off an entire roll of film and send it off to the photo shop — and the finished pictures returned, each photograph was carefully placed in an album. The albums I remember had black pages made of thick paper. Little silver arrow-shaped things were fitted to each of the four corners of a photograph and then the arrow-shaped things were glued in place on a page of the album. Sometimes a few words identifying the place, person and date were scribbled on the back of the photograph. Once in awhile if you were lucky, the person in charge of the album wrote the identifying information in pencil on the page itself under the picture.
We weren’t the only family that handled photographs that way. It was common practice back when I was a kid. Of course, dinosaurs still roamed the land back then.
I include so much detail to try to make it clear why my mom would have wanted to look through those albums. Each picture was a treasure, irreplaceable, under-exposed or out of focus though it may have been. Why didn’t my mom simply contact the person she believed had the albums? I sometimes wondered that as a kid. Although it seems a simple solution, as I grew older, I realized I wouldn’t have done that, either. Like my mom, I guess I prefer to sit and brood over how I’ve been wronged.
It’s funny how things change. Nancy and I have a wedding album with 14 color photos. Just 14 photos and the cake-cutting one has a tray of carrots and celery prominently displayed in the foreground. The albums we have of our kids’ weddings, by contract, have dozens and dozens of photos, every scene and pose you could imagine.
When my mom died 16 years ago, she had stacks of photo albums. The big disagreement was over which of the kids had to sort through them. Nobody is holding a grudge over it, though. If they are, they haven’t mentioned it.