For the past four autumns, I included “Organize old photos” on my Winter To-Do List. Well, I will be writing the same thing on this fall’s hopeful list. When we moved from Connecticut in the fall of 2017, closing a long chapter operating a large country inn, we stashed hundreds (thousands?) of photos into one of those made-for-a-seven-day vacation size suitcases. During our innkeeping years – while I also juggled a full-time traveling job – getting to a task as daunting as this one was out of the question. But even now, as life has taken on an easier stride, those photos remain as stashed away as they did back in 2017.
For better and for worse, I am not a procrastinator, I despise disorder, and, as a Capricorn, I lean heavily on the “conscientiousness” trait. But seeing that suitcase every time I drive in and out of the garage has not been enough to move me to action. I was uncharacteristically stuck.
So, this winter, I decided to take a different tack. There was a small plastic container, as big as a standard issue shoebox that also contained photos. These I knew were mostly snapshots of my life, which my siblings had gathered in honor of one of my milestone birthdays. Great! I’ll start there. Nice and manageable, it will be a small win that will me catapult me into tackling The Suitcase.
And there I began. Sitting on the large rug in my office, I opened the box. Its contents, alas, were in no particular order as I glimpsed a Polaroid of myself receiving my college degree, another of me on my Christening Day, and others that stopped me in my tracks and filled me with both memory and emotion. I grabbed my phone. Steve and Mar (my two siblings) have to see this one. OMG! Miss Thing (my BFF since the fifth grade) will pee her pants when she sees this. And on and on it went: me snapping shots and texting them hither and yon as fast as I could. Whatever my peeps were doing, each paused to respond, share a memory, ask a question, send an LOL. I felt the love…
Of course, what I found in that shoebox wasn’t all LOL-worthy. Far from it. Each caused my heart to pause and my mind to amble down the corridors of time past. But I couldn’t sit there forever. There was work email to get to, dinner to get started, and a medical appointment to book. And so I organized the photos into categories that made sense to me. From there, I devoted a large, medium, or small size “baggie” to each category. I grabbed a sharpie and made a note on the outside of each bag. Then I stored these images from my life in a tangible place, instead of in the “Cloud,” a place others can feel and touch when they sort through my things on some unknowable future date.
I pulled myself back from the past to the numerous daily concerns and tasks that fill our time, but not so much our hearts or our memories.
I don’t know when I will get to that suitcase, but I do know this: Show me a photograph and I’ll tell you about a life. I am grateful for the visual prompts, even the painful ones, the ones I’d rather forget. They tell me that I have been alive in this world, truly alive. And loved….