August 10 – All Those Old Photos

by Fran Simone

My husband, Terry, an only child, died eighteen years ago. His mother, Zona, died last year. Her nephew settled her estate. She didn’t have much except for a truckload of old photos taken from the time of Terry’s birth until our last visit to her home in Dallas few months before he died. At Zona’s graveside service,  Bobby asked, “Do you want anything from her apartment?” I asked for some photos.

Many months later four huge boxes arrived. Three contained hundreds of black and white photos. Terry in his Daniel Boone outfit, his Boy Scout uniform, his high chair, his swim shorts. Opening presents on Christmas morning and wearing a tux at his high school prom. You get the picture. Hundreds of pictures. .

After culling through three boxes I sent photos to Terry’s cousins and stuffed the remainder in a cabinet that already houses hundreds, or maybe thousands, of family photos taken over a period of forty years (most jammed into shoe boxes).
I wish I could emulate my friend, Bonnie, who has made it her mission to cull through and organize old photos and give them to family members and friends. While visiting her a few weeks ago she “returned” several taken during our annual vacation at Holden Beach in North Carolina. Lovely memories.

The fourth box contained a large oil which I suspect was painted when my husband was in high school. He appears neat and conservative, with a soft smile and no glasses (he always wore glasses). Definitely painted before his hippie phase. It had been prominently displayed in the living room of Zona’s tiny bungalow and later moved to her assisted living apartment in Texarkana, Texas, home of Ross Perot and perhaps the ugliest city in the United State. But I digress.

Although many pictures of my husband are displayed throughout my home, I did not hang Terry’s portrait. In fact, it sits in its original packing box in the garage along with tools, flower pots, old paint cans and other paraphernalia. It feels irreverent to part with it, yet I know that I will never hang it in my home. Therein lies my dilemma. What the hell do I do with it, or for that matter, the thousands of old photos sitting in shoe boxes? Do I bite the bullet and sort through them like my friend Bonnie? Or do I bequeath that task to my kids after I’m gone? I know one thing. If I decide to downsize to smaller digs, I’m in trouble.

Fran Simone’s memoir, Dark Wine Waters: A Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows was published in 2014. She blogs on family and addiction for Psychology Today. This essay on old photos developed from a writing prompt from ecircle 9.

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4 responses to “August 10 – All Those Old Photos

  1. Fran, I know the dilemma……most of my photos are also in shoeboxes since my downsizing in 2010. However, I do use some of these photos, along with a written poem to family members that reminds them of times we spent together in the past. Just an idea.

  2. Jinni Turkelson

    It’s a daunting task to find the time to go through photos, let alone take the time to download them or organize them. When I got divorced after 37 years of marriage I didn’t know what to do with the wedding photos and memorabilia because I doubted my sons would want them. I discarded the memorabilia but saved a few photos. In Looking at old pictures if I know my sons would not know who these people are or if I couldn’t remember them, I threw them away. Ditto with photos I got in Christmas cards, etc. I only saved things relavent to my sons lives that they may (or may not) want to keep someday.

    • I promised myself that I would clean out the clutter in my home and like your suggestion re: pixs that my son and daughter of folks that wouldn’t know. I am still holding on to the wedding album from my first marriage (divorced after 10 years). Probably time to let that go. Best, Fran

  3. Fran, Thank you for your piece about saving old photos, and then not being able to deal with the many stacks! My sister and I tried scanning our family’s many photos, but stopped out of stupefied boredom after doing 400! One photo through the scanner on the printer takes forever. We finally ended up boxing them up and sending them to a photo archival service in Utah who sent us back CDs with all the photos on them. Now they are on the computer, but I still haven’t made them into photo albums yet.

    My experience aside, I enjoyed reading your piece!

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