The Memory Keepers

My mom's photo albums are so ugly. I mean, they’re basically a bunch of photos clinging on to black construction paper with those jenky - now yellowish - photo corners. You know the ones. And since they were assembled decades ago, everything is just barely hanging on. One aggressive page turn and we might lose great grandma Mildred bringing her first born home from the hospital. Despite all this, I've always been fascinated by these dusty, old memories.

My dad, 1969.

My dad, 1969.

I love seeing my parents as children  - because apparently I look exactly like both of them depending on who you ask. The smorgasbord of ridiculous hairstyles my mom endured in the 70s. My dad, shirtless, ironing his mom's clothes for $2 a week. 

I've always been sort of obsessed with photos. Growing up, my bedroom door was plastered full of them. I didn't realize how much I'd appreciate my over abundance of photos until I got to the age I am now, when I can't remember half the things that happened.

Mom and me 1988. Lake Michigan.

Mom and me 1988. Lake Michigan.

Like when I dressed up like a teacher and forced my dad to complete worksheets on everything I had been taught at school that day. Or how my mom and I used to build sand castles on the coast of Lake Michigan. Or when my best friend and I wanted privacy, so we set up camp on her parent's roof with an inflatable palm tree and everything. It was the most obvious super private spot anyone could have ever come up with.  Photos are memories, you know. Sometimes, the only memory we have.

my parents, 1988.

my parents, 1988.

The other night, when I was looking through a pile of old, somewhat mildewy smelling photos, I couldn't help but wonder - where will all my memories end up? It's something that I never thought of until just now. And I'm sure these thoughts are probably exclusive to people who can't (or don't) have children, a demographic to which I belong. There’s no little Susie to inherit the dusty box of albums and to tell my stories to.

And what about all the memories that have been passed down to me? What about grandma's postcards from grandpa during the war? Where will they go? Will they end up getting published in some book of anonymous old love letters?

grandma and grandpa, honeymoon 1945.

grandma and grandpa, honeymoon 1945.

Who's going to pass down the tale of my hippie dad hitchhiking to San Fran with $60 bucks in his pocket and staying at places like The Cadillac Motel— which was actually just a Cadillac, with a bed inside? Or when grandpa drank one too many highballs at Christmas and told me that my mom had smashed our cat in the garage door, when in fact, I was told for 15 years that he ran away?

Grandpa Bud and his 700th highball.

Grandpa Bud and his 700th highball.

What about how my grandma Kay? Her parents came over on a boat from Milan. She became a surgical nurse and helped perform the very first open heart surgery in our city. She was beautiful. A fighter, a single mom, a cancer survivor, a butter pecan lover. 

Grandma Kay, 1967.

Grandma Kay, 1967.

And my other grandpa. What about him? He quit school in 7th grade, to go work for the family, yet was the smartest man I ever knew? 

When draft time came, he volunteered to be a medic on the front lines because he didn't ever want to take a life. He was the kindest soul I've ever known. Will his memory just be forgotten forever?

My grandpa Ralph, World War II. He's the cool one standing in the doorway.

My grandpa Ralph, World War II. He's the cool one standing in the doorway.

So I wonder... what will happen to it all? Will my photos end up in a giant cardboard box, stuffed in a corner somewhere at Goodwill? Will people sift through them at an estate sale and make up stories about what kind of person I was? I'm sure whatever they come up with will be cooler than reality. 

Mom, circa 1970.

Mom, circa 1970.

Will they get tossed away by some teenager who cleans out the houses of people who die when there's no next of kin? I suppose it's like when I worked at the nursing home and I'd see those people who never had anyone visit them - I imagine my stuff will probably go wherever they're stuff went?

I don't know. But I know it makes me sad. 

Maybe some memories are just meant to be ours. They live with us, and they'll die with us. They’re just ours to keep.

Wondering who's the blunt + wordy genius behind these posts? Follow this little rabbit trail to read more About Me! The use of the term genius is open to interpretation.