My Shoebox Family


It was an old box with a flattened lid, held together by a rubber band stretched beyond its time…a shoebox, a ‘treasure chest’ of family photos, my family.

In the ‘predigital era’, a box was a common place to save pictures. If you were organized, you put them in an album, then a box. Today, they’re on smart phones, or in the ‘cloud’.

Modern technology makes accessing photos simple and quick; a couple of clicks and, instantly, you can be looking at multiple images. But the romance is gone, the romance of holding a paper image by its curled-up corner and intimately studying the people who are forever locked in that time and place.

As the youngest of seven children, I never knew my older siblings as kids, only as adults. If not for a treasure trove of family photos kept in a shoebox and stored in a cluttered closet, that wouldn’t have changed. With those priceless pictures, I saw them differently, in a life and time that I never knew.

In hindsight, we were two families, the first five followed later by my sister and me. Theirs was a family living on a ‘blue-collar’ street where renters far outnumbered owners, a city neighborhood. Wearing ‘hand-me-down’ clothes, my siblings looked like Dickens characters, slightly worn but always smiling, four boys and a girl.

I missed the opportunity of their companionship which I would have enjoyed at that age. Later and older, not so much. Families move on and grow apart, ours did.

The black and whites revealed a stern looking father but a content mother for whom marriage at a young age must have been arduous and challenging, managing a household of five children born within the first seven years.

Later, there are pictures of my closest sibling and me. She and I came along when life was becoming more stable, a ‘new’ family was starting. Photos show a relaxed, smiling father and his enduring love affair with my mother.

Life was better and my sister and I were the beneficiaries. It would be a different family experience for us than for those first five siblings, whose young lives I only knew from the pictures.

My digital library is versatile and accessible, but, occasionally, I still enjoy visiting that ‘treasure chest’ shoebox for some old-fashioned ‘family’ time.

I wonder, do you have a ‘shoebox’ family?

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Retired in 2013 after 5 years as an elementary school teacher and 40 years as a sales representative to begin anew as a school crossing guard. SMy essays/stories are a way to communicate through the telling of personal experiences. One reader said about my blog stories, "...these are like a cold sip during a marathon run, simple, real life events". Another offered about my blog, “it brings some sense of normalcy not easily found in the modern world.”

10 thoughts on “My Shoebox Family”

  1. PERFECT.  Love it.  This is a beautiful remembrance of our lives with mother and dad.

    Sent via the Samsung GALAXY S®4, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There is a difference between modern digital photos and the old paper ones. The old photos tell as much about the people as about the ‘things’ in the background – a bicycle lying on the ground or a dog chewing on old shoe —-! Digital photos are sanitized by trimming, deleting ‘stuff in the background. As a result you see only the object and not much about life itself.

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  3. Actualy you are part or my shoebox located in my brain.
    The good thing about it.I remember every day something positiv I do not see people growing older.
    Or course I forgot about the less positiv things.
    A very nice story Steve.
    Thank you sharing it with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Steve, you really do have a flair for writing. This post is lovely. I don’t have a shoebox family as my family all grew up together. There is a 9 year age gap between me, the eldest, and my youngest sister, with two other sisters in between. We have pictures that my mother painstakingly made into photo albums for each of us. I have a suitcase full of treasured memories of my boys. It holds handmade cards and other artworks as well as school reports and that sort of thing. I have a lot of photograph albums and also lots of digital pictures. I only got a digital camera which Michael was born.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Robbie, thank you for the compliment. I don’t know where the words come from because I never enjoyed writing while a student. Maybe years of living helped😂. Wow, all girls. That gave you instant friends. As for my fam, it really was two families. My wife is sending our two children all their album stuff now and they enjoy revisiting their youth. Have a great day, Robbie.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think we all have a shoebox (or two) of these wonderful pictures to remind us of the past. None of us has known our parents as children, so seeing pictures of them in their youth is extra special. A lovely post. Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

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