I am a curator of these scattered photos, of this epoch
You won’t believe the old photos I find while preparing to paint the living area and den, the ones tucked inside drawers of old desks and cabinets.
They make me wistful, these photos, and I am not a wistful man. Sad at times, especially that the Cubs didn’t perform better in the playoffs, or to learn a little every day how awful total strangers can be on social media.
Strangers are always better when you can look them squarely in the eye, give them a little nod, a dip of the shoulder, a half wave of the hand.
I was telling Dogpark Gary the other day how, at an intersection near the park, 75% of the drivers are patient and gracious as I step across the intersection with White Fang on murky mornings. The other 25% would just as soon run us down, back up, and run us down all over again.
Those are the people who spend all day on Twitter.
I find it fascinating, the rancor, the rush to judgment, the character assassination, the angst. To read these snippets – Twitter is nothing but incomplete thoughts – might be to assume that we are a deeply unhappy congregation right now.
But where would we put these emotions, if not on Twitter? We might lash out at those who actually matter to us, rather than total strangers.
In that sense, I like to think Twitter is a very good thing.
The way the French drank sugary Absinthe – to wallow for a moment in the madness, not the light — that’s the way we consume Twitter.
Of the 6,000 or so souls who follow me on Twitter, I like maybe one or two. There’s Gigi, the completely funny redhead, and Flanagan, the wise guy writer for the Atlantic, who is twice as funny and four times as smart as I’ll ever be. She’s like the sharp-tongued girl you fell for in the fifth grade, afraid of nuthin’.
I’ve proposed several times to Ms. Flanagan, on Twitter, which is the way to propose these days, and she has managed to shun my advances each time. Must be so difficult for her.
But she’s married, after all, as am I — to this house, to this wolf-dog, to my son Smartacus, who since getting his driver’s license a month ago, has turned into one of the great young errand runners.
He gladly runs to the market for apple juice, or to the post office for stamps. There is not an errand Smartacus will not do, though we’ve had mixed results at the wine store.
He’s 17, looks 14, and if he has any form of false ID, I am unaware of it. I’d give him my license, but my photo looks like Nick Nolte’s booking shot, the one where he appears to have been beaten with a chain in a bar fight. No way would the clerk think it’s Smartacus.
But back to the old family photos I’m finding. As I prep to paint the inside of the house, I am ridding the place of clutter and the sort of riprap you cram into the backs of cabinets, hoping it will go away on its own.
For instance, I came across all the old checks Posh had kept, going back to 1912, just before the First World War.
Posh was a bit of a hoarder, to be honest. She kept past tax records for 30 years. She kept every bit of artwork the kids made in the second grade, which was considerable, because that’s pretty much all second-graders do: glue together turkeys, Easter bunnies, puffy little winter scenes with plops of cotton.
Now it is up to me to edit it.
Were my late wife still around, this would be a humongous negotiation, comparable to the Treaty of Paris. It would take years. And there would be compromise and frustration, and items tucked back into drawers, where in a decade, I’d need to go through them again: old keys, remote controls from 1979, lots of tarnished serving spoons that belonged to someone’s grandma.
I put the treasures aside, then slam dunk almost all of it, happy to create a tidy home again.
But the photos…damn these photos.
The photos date to the time when you shot on film and processed everything you shot, and Posh was a sucker for the two-fer sales Fotomat used to have, where you got doubles of everything – the bad ones, the great ones, and everything in between.
So now, there are thousands of photos. We’d been through them before my son’s service, then through them again when Posh died, looking for defining smiles to post on cardboard displays in the church.
When the flurry (and fury) of that settled down, we never got back to sorting the photos into a manageable collection.
So that’s what I’m doing now, on these autumn afternoons, when I should be painting. The new flooring arrives in a week, so there’s little time to waste.
Yet, here I’ve become the family portraitist, and if I’m ruthless in tossing out old place mats and ornaments I find tucked away, I am a curator of these many photos, of this epoch. I mean, the copies of the old Christmas cards alone….
Because, lord, we had some gorgeous kids. Posh and I had a somewhat brittle relationship, but the litter we produced? And the smiles? And the freckles?
Jeez, just look at that pumpkin patch. Like moonbeams shining up through the Earth.
Fortunately, I am not a wistful man.
Good thing, huh?
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