In Our Own Backyard…Memories are made of this
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
For the past two weeks, I’ve been living in the past.
While there are those who would suggest that I do a whole lot of that, this was something a bit out of the ordinary. You see, my son Jason is getting married in April, and I have been entrusted with putting together a slideshow showcasing the life and times of him and his bride-to-be. Being something of a “photo junkie,” I was thrilled at the thought of contributing by doing something I love to do.
A couple of weeks ago, a fat envelope arrived in the mail from the mother of the bride. It was filled with photos of Sondra from the time she was a baby all the way through school and young adulthood. I knew then that it was high time I began my search for old photos of Jason in order to get started on putting the slideshow together.
It’s comparatively simple to go through photos with today’s computer technology. Everything is neatly organized and archived in the form of electronic files on my computer and a couple of remote hard drives. All I have to do is boot them up and search through the photos with the click of a mouse. During most of the years that our kids were growing up, however, most everyone took photos with a 35 mm camera and film – the kind you had to take down to the drug store, wait seven days to be developed and then keep your fingers crossed that it didn’t get lost in transit or that your entire roll didn’t turn out to be blank.
But I digress (living in the past again!)....
All of the photos I have of Jason’s growing-up years are in photo albums or in boxes, and going through all of that takes a good deal of searching. I started with the photo albums, because it was fairly easy to page through them and the photos were pretty much in chronological order. But I found that after several years of religiously mounting photos in albums, I tended to get a bit sloppy and started throwing them in a box, thinking I’d “get to it” at some point – possibly on some cold day in winter. Right.
One day last weekend I lugged out a very large rubber storage container marked “Wendy’s Memories” and began to sift through it. I thought it would take me a half hour or so – maybe an hour at tops – but I lingered over it the entire weekend! Going through old photographs and memorabilia is far more complicated than it seems. Every photograph brought back an old memory of who was in it, where it was taken, or what the occasion was. I stopped to linger over photos of birthday parties as my kids were growing up, Christmas card photos from out of the past, hockey banquets, ballet recitals, family vacations, the pets who have come and gone, school programs and old friends.
I frequently had to stop and chuckle over the photos that dredged up the smallest of memories – a sweater I was wearing 15 years ago that hangs in my closet yet today; my “perm” years – when I didn’t realize how truly bad I looked with curly hair – the blood, sweat and tears that I (a non-seamstress) poured into sewing the shark costume for Jason on Halloween and the unicorn hobby horse for my daughter Allison’s Christmas present.
It was like taking a trip through time – from photos of me, big as a house, just before each of my kids was born to both of them climbing on the bus their first day of school and then them in their caps and gowns as they graduated from high school.
There were photos of Jason in his McDonalds’ T-shirt in his first year of Little League, to photos of him in his college baseball uniform. In others, there was a very small Allison perched atop a very big horse with her doll clutched in her hands, and still others of Allison on her horse beside a huge trophy after winning first place in the Minnesota State 4-H Horse Show.
I came across photos of others, as well. There was former Pine Journal editor Mat Gilderman as a young boy, with a gummy worm hanging out of his mouth at one of Jason’s early birthday parties. In another, there was long-time Community Memorial Hospital volunteer Darlene Carter, who I interviewed for the “Our Neighbors” column a few weeks ago, taken back when the two of us were in the CMH Auxiliary together.
As I worked my way through the box, I came across other old memories as well – a black and white 5x7 of my old high school boyfriend (oops!), one of my high school report cards, and a hand-typed letter from my grandmother.
But one of the things that took me back the furthest was something I didn’t even remember existed. Once again, it was typed on my grandma’s old manual typewriter, but this time it was two simple stanzas of poetry. And in one of the margins, in my grandma’s carefully rounded handwriting, it read, “Written by Wendy Lee Colburn, on her 11th birthday…..”