Dust covers the now stagnant and aging photo albums on my coffee table. My youngest daughter still loves searching through those picture books – hoping to find memories of her own childhood. When it became easier to put them on a computer, it seemed a waste of time to save the albums. Still there was the tactile, the tangible, the sensory, the very physical experience of touching, smelling, visualizing, remembering the situation in which those photos were captured. It was like recapturing a memory from the past and bringing it back to life.
As I think how things have changed so much in my lifetime, looking at old photographs is right up there with reading a physical newspaper or hard cover book. There’s something missing when we look at those things through the eyes of a screen which has no emotion, no feelings, no connection.
I have an old wooden cigar box filled with pictures from a bygone era. Most of those pictured are unknown to me, but they represent another time and place. The ladies in their long dresses, sitting on the ground at a picnic – the derby and straw hats worn by a group of young men gathered at a bar and raising beer glasses in a toast – the stoic faces of those pioneers who trudged across an unknown continent in search of a new life. Those faded, black and white, sometimes sepia toned images are a piece of history to be preserved. I hadn’t thought much about those old pictures until our oldest daughter recently asked to look through them. It was then that I realized the importance of hanging on to them.
As time wears on and life changes, we need to cling to the old with a tight grip. Our history is the beginning of our future. We not only learn from our past mistakes, but we can use the experiences to guide us to a better life ahead. When any part of our past is erased, there is a void. It’s almost like taking a portion of your existence away.