The church I grew up in and attended when my children were young is closing at the end of this month, and today they had a special “heritage” lunch as a final gathering for everyone. It was enjoyable, if somewhat bittersweet, to spend time with so many old friends, and see people I knew as little children all grown up with kids of their own. They had five tables filled with old photographs that people could take if they wanted, and I spent a lot of time sorting through the photos, searching for pictures of my family. I was thrilled to find lots of photos of my kids, but I was shocked by how many people either didn’t look at the photos at all, or picked up a photo of a member of their family, looked at it with mild interest, then put it back down again, knowing that all the unclaimed pictures were going to be thrown away. How could they not want those pictures of their grandparents, their parents, their sons and daughters?
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand people not wanting to bring home more “stuff.” By the time we’ve reached middle age, most of us already have more material possessions than we need or want, and our main problem is how to get rid of it, not how to add to our collections. But in my opinion, there is simply no such thing as too many photos of family and friends, and the older they are, the better. I may fill a donation bag with clothing every time my closet gets full, but if I run out of shelf space for my photo albums, I just know it’s time to add another shelf. Because photographs are a recording of my life up to this point, and that’s not something I’m willing to let go of.
The way I look at it, that’s my history in those photo albums. Those old family photos remind me of where I came from, and just who I came from. The pictures of me growing up remind me of all the different stages of my life. The photos of friends remind me of how many good people I’ve been lucky enough to share my life with, from the time I was a small child right up to today. And the photos of the pets I’ve had, the houses I’ve lived in, and the places I’ve visited are all reminders of my own life’s journey .
I don’t keep the photos because I’m trying to live in the past. I’m perfectly happy living in the present, even with my middle-aged face and body. It’s just that I sometimes enjoy looking at pictures of family members who are gone, or pictures of my children when they were babies. It brings back memories of a different time in my life, and those memories are special to me. And I believe that they’re certainly precious enough to keep.