05/15/20: From the so-called desk of…

…Helen.

Mama Don’t Take My Kodachrome Away

It all started with a photo from 1995 that inexplicably surfaced on my younger son’s cell phone. Once we finished identifying everyone, commenting on how young we all looked, and joked about the insanely long hair on all the men, we were inspired to start going through our old family photo albums. But it’s been such a long time since we went down that road, we’d quite forgotten that there are enough books to fill an entire shelf of our office bookcase. And not counting my husband’s album of treasured collection of ALF cards, there are 12 books in total.

To begin with, there are three large albums dedicated to my older son Jon, and another three devoted to my younger son Jesse. Jesse would have probably had ten more if digital cameras hadn’t come along. Alas, that’s when my obsessive photo organizing came to an end.

I did a quick inventory, and along with my children’s six albums, there is also one of me that starts with my adorable but grainy black and white baby photos, probably taken with a 1940’s brownie box camera. Then there’s the album devoted to my husband’s childhood, which documents his family’s trek from Toronto, to Florida, to Arizona, to San Jose, and finally to Australia. And to round out the trio, there’s a combination album of me and my husband. Another photo book is devoted specifically to family, friends, and pets, which we decided to name “I see dead people.” There’s also one of our first trip to Australia, one of our road trip to the Grand Canyon, but by far, my all-time favorites are the two wedding albums from my first marriage during which time I made the questionable decision to become a platinum blonde. I like to think of this as my blooper reel. Each and every photo seems to elicit a snarky remark, a laugh, or a bit of commentary, and in the case of my first wedding albums, all three.

Since Jesse is living at home, naturally he really wanted to start with his albums. We began with book number one, which is Jesse from birth through two years old. We are shocked by how big the album is, and briefly debate if it weighs over or under ten pounds. So many oohs, ahhs and awwws, but Jesse was not amused at being reminded that his nose was all the way off to one side when he was a newborn, or that he was quite a well-padded baby who resembled Winston Churchill. You know, the kind of baby that has enormously chubby cheeks that you just want to squeeze. I explained that all that baby fat fed his brain, and that’s why he’s so smart. But he was convinced that I made that up, and assured me he will Google it later.

As we continued to go through his baby photos, the second book was so enormous that it was starting to come apart. All the while Jesse is continually giving me puzzled looks, and intermittently mumbling “Why?” He is mystified as to why there are so many photos that look identical with only slight imperceptible differences – what can I say, it was hard for me not to include every single adorable photo.

There are photos of him laughing, crying, yawning, pouting, surrounded by teddy bears, wearing sunglasses, wearing sunglasses with his teddy bears, dressed as a ninja propped up with a group of jack-o’-lanterns, and in honor of Thanksgiving, in a roasting pan with a bunch of potatoes. But I think the group of scowling photos of Jesse with his arms folded giving me the stink eye in protest of being photographed are my favorites. They are actually pretty cute, but no doubt I didn’t think so at the time.

But once he saw the lock of hair from his first haircut, his “Why?” turned into “What!?” at which point he began to question my judgement. And seeing the torn piece of a pinata, the party invitations, and the guest lists, he is positive I’m out of my mind. He jokingly asked if his umbilical cord is in there somewhere, but I decided it was not a good time to mention that it might be in his baby book, which is under my bed.

Not wanting to be considered as part of “team crazy,” my husband kept shrugging and saying, “Don’t look at me!” It took all of my self-restraint not to mention that the Thanksgiving photo of Jesse in the roasting pan was totally his idea. At some point my husband finally gave in and walked off to take an allergy pill, the dust mites were both plentiful and having their way with him.

So far we have only gone through Jesse’s albums, but putting aside the unfortunate reason that we have the time to do this, it really was lovely spending this time together reminiscing. I’m looking forward to the time when we are no longer on “house arrest” and can do it all over again with my son Jonathan and his family.

Ponderings

  • I’m wondering what other treasures I might find in Jesse’s baby book. I’ll have to search under my bed.
  • I’m wondering what my grandchildren will think when they see all the photos of their father with hair down to his shoulders.
  • I’m wondering if there is something I can do with all the embarrassing baby photos. Hmmmm…