Preserving Picture Memories

Grandma was a gadget gear-head before the term was coined. She had cameras, record players, slide and movie projectors, tape players, sewing machines and could often be found with her hands in the farm machinery (sometimes literally, but that is a story for another day).

When grandma was getting on in years, mom and I would pack my kids in the car and travel to her home for a week of cleaning, nurturing, cooking, fixing and organizing. Grandma had albums full of pictures. As I looked at the black and white photos, I realized I didn’t recognize many of the faces. When I asked mom, she didn’t remember some of the people either. So an idea bloomed. Each day we would sit with grandma and go through the pictures.

We were making great progress. As she reminisced, I would write the names on the back of the photos along with any other details grandma shared. Brilliant plan. About the third day I began to seriously question this plan. It started out when I handed another picture to grandma.

Me: “Grandma, tell me about this picture.”
The picture was small, so she held it close to her face, looking carefully. She began pointing to faces and said, “That is your Uncle Lester and that is Uncle Randolph.”
Then she paused, pushed her glasses on top of her head and viewed the picture at arms length. After a while she put her glasses back into place and once more drew the picture close to her eyes. I had my pencil in hand, ready to write the details she was going to impart when she dropped her arm holding the picture on the table, looked at me and said “I don’t know who that man in the middle is.”
What? I looked incredulously at her and blurted “Grandma, that’s not a man, that’s a dog!”

There was a moment of stunned silence then mom, grandma and I burst into laughter. My young daughter came into the room and asked, “What’s so funny?” Later mom and I looked through the labeled pictures to make sure we had not inadvertently attributed family names to some other farm animals.

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