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?