It’s a balmy Sunday afternoon, and my husband is finishing going through boxes of old pictures we’ve inherited. They’re old family photos, some dating as far back as the early 1800’s. It’s been a nostalgic few weeks, especially for him.
A couple of years ago his father finally passed away, and a couple of months after that, three huge coffin containers showed up on our front stoop. One of them contained knick-knacks from his parent’s old house in Florida. Another housed family stemware, glasses, and antique dishes. The last one though threw us for a loop; it was full of photographs.
We were shocked. There were albums filled with pictures of vacations, weddings, birthday parties, baby showers from the 50’s, and graduations from the 30’s. There were dozens of framed photos of formal family portraits of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and great-grandparents. There were even more loose snapshots of random people in random places.
But not everything was random; there were many of his dad. Several were from his World War II days preserved all of these years. There were also diplomas, awards, and certificates of achievement he had earned throughout college and the Navy. Mainly though there were hundreds of my husband’s mom and dad together with him and his sisters when they were little. Still, even more were just old photographs apparently taken when photography was new, the people long forgotten.
Only after opening that last box were we overwhelmed by the responsibility thrust upon us. We had unwittingly become the custodians over thousands of pictures of long gone friends and relatives of our ancestors, many of whom had no names.
Immediately these boxes went into the basement. Out of sight, out of mind! That is until a year later when a home improvement included a basement renovation. So, up two flights of stairs they came and in our bedroom they remained, until recently.
“I’m not going be the one to throw them out,” I said firmly, “Obviously, they were important enough for your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents to keep.” Laughing, my husband jokes, “Well, they were probably as freaked out as we are and didn’t want to be the ones to throw them out either.”
The reality is setting in; no one wants to be the decision maker and toss out the final earthly proof of folks that did at one point in time live and matter. “Well, I don’t want to be the one to throw them in the trash. Why don’t we just let the kids inherit them from us one day? Then they can throw them out.” He shook his head, “No, I’ll deal with it.”
It’s been a long process that started about a month ago. First, he took all of the pictures that were in albums out. Next, he made stacks by family member explaining these will be sent to the appropriate cousins whose parents are in the pictures. He’s now sorting what’s left into more piles. Some, he says, will be saved in the manila folders that are on the table and others will be digitalized so our kids will have them to pass along to the future generations of Friedman’s.
I look over to the side and see a bag filled with “trash”. He’s made the executive decision that I couldn’t, and I’m in awe. Although we’re partners in most things, he stepped up and took charge of dealing with this and processing again the loss of the father he adored.
It wasn’t easy for him, but he did it. I see a little stack of pictures set off to the side, “What are those?” With a look of concern he says, “Those are the ones I can’t decide what to do with.” I see his dad in some of them. “That’s okay,” I say as I take his hand, “I don’t think you have to deal with it all today.”
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Photo: Flickr/ Alan