LINES AND CREASES – RICH PASCHALL

Faded Photographs –

by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


People still collect them.  Perhaps not as ardently as they once did, but they still get them.  They order them online.  They print them at home. They might even go to the store to order them.  There is something about having it in your hand that beats looking at it on your phone or even your desk top computer.  At one time, taking your film to be developed and having pictures printed was a big thing.  A really big thing.

I guess there are still stores that specialize in printing pictures, but they are all online shops.  I can download pictures to the drug store and go get prints.  I can take a flash drive to Walgreens where a teenager will print my pictures and might even thank me for coming (okay, probably not the latter).

I have used online services to print vacation pictures in the past, but not so much anymore.  I usually keep them all on SD cards, flash drives and folders on my desktop.  This means I am not likely to find them if I need them in a hurry, unless they are still in my camera or phone.

Despite this drifting away from the printed photographs, I still have plenty of pictures.  I don’t mean hundreds, I mean countless thousands of them.  I know I could probably hold them all on a large flash drive or two, but that is now.  Then we had no other way to enjoy our pictures but to take the film to the photo shop (Fotomat?) and have them developed.

faded photograph

After dropping off a roll or two of film, we would anxiously wait up to a week to find out if we actually captured what we saw in the view finder.  If we really wanted a picture of something we might take more than one shot, but since there was no deleting a bad one and taking another, we would just hope for the best.  Film cost money, and prints cost money too.  There was no buying an SD card and using it over and over.  We had no built-in flash on our cheap cameras so we had to buy one use flash bulbs, flash bars, flash cubes or whatever was in fashion for the camera model we had.

My mother had every type of cheap camera there was over the years.  She used every film format that came along for small “pocket” cameras.  There was 110 and 126 film.  There were film discs, a short-lived idea.  There were cameras that had to be wound and others with auto advance.  When the camera broke, we would get another.  For a while there was even a Polaroid camera for the joy of instant prints.  The joy faded quickly, like the prints themselves.

When my mother passed away, we found a camera that had 126 film in it and most of the shots had been taken.  There is no telling how many years the film was in the camera.  It is a good bet she had not used the camera in 15 years, perhaps much longer since she had an odd collection of cheap, working cameras.  I could never find anyone to develop that film, and I do not live in a remote location!  I am sure there is someone who would do it, but I doubt it was worth the money it would probably take to get it done.  Perhaps it is washed out by now anyway.

Still, we have countless pictures from my mother.  The number tailed off at the beginning of the century.  A stroke in 2003 put an end to the picture-taking hobby.  By then, she had boxes and bags full of pictures.  Many were in the photo envelopes you got back from the developer.  Fortunately, most of those were dated.  If the date was summer but they were Christmas pictures, then they were from the previous Christmas.  Mom was not too quick about getting to the Photo shop or Osco Drug to get them developed.  Was the joy in just going around family events with a camera in hand?

Mom in early 1920s

In the year that followed my mother’s death at the age of 88, I spent a lot of time shipping off hundreds of pictures to my brother, sometimes in frames, and organizing the rest into bags.  There are the 1920’s and 1930’s, clearly taken by someone else.  The 1940’s were not a particularly big collection, but the decades that followed contained many pictures.  Despite the ones my brother now has, I am left with more than I could count.  What to do with all these pictures?

Mom (left) and sister, circa 1950

The months organizing them into decades and shipping some off was all the nostalgia I needed from this group.  I doubt seriously I will ever haul them out of the closet to look at them again.  In whatever years I have left on the planet, I can not imagine spending time gazing at these memories, especially since some are best forgotten.  But I could not imagine dumping them either.  What would you do with thousands of prints?

After contemplating the matter for a while I realized that the parents of my living cousins are in many of these pictures.  Many faded photographs may be welcome at the home of these first and second cousins for the memories they contain, even if they are “covered now in lines and creases.”

BLOGGING – IT’S WHAT I DO

MARATHON | THE DAILY POST

SERENDIPITY will be five years old in a few weeks. Ready to start kindergarten. How quickly they grow from infants to sturdy little children with their own lives.

On one level, it feels like I just started doing this. This site is ever-evolving. It wanders in directions I never expected. Since I don’t really plan, most of my best stuff just happened because it happened. I hadn’t given it much thought. Not always true, of course. I do plan some posts, but most — often the best of the bunch — just fall out of my fingers into the keyboard. Voila! A post happened.

computer gargoyle

On the other hand, it also feels like I’ve been doing this forever. SERENDIPITY is the last thing I check at night before I go to sleep and the first thing I do in the morning when I settle down with my coffee.

I sit with my muffin or biscuits and my big cup of coffee … and SERENDIPITY is up. For the next few hours, I will write, read, edit, and ponder. I almost didn’t bother with this prompt because I couldn’t think of anything to say. Until I realized blogging itself has become my version of a marathon. It’s an endless marathon that doesn’t finish after 26 miles. It goes on and on and on as long as I and my co-conspirators have the will and interest to keep plugging away at it.

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Blogging isn’t a hobby. Writing for me isn’t a hobby. More like something I’m compelled to do.  Writing is who I am as well as what I do, whether it’s a few lines of text surrounding a photograph, or a long, researched piece about something I feel is important. i can’t just “toss something off” without at least believing it’s well-written, has a beginning, middle, and end which tie together. The typos are in there just to keep you on your toes — well, not really, but I’m a terrible proofreader.

There are days when I don’t want to do it. Then, I think, about it. I realize … this is what I do. If I don’t do this thing, with what will I occupy myself? Shall I take pictures no one will ever see? Write long emails to friends too busy to read them? Write another book (Ganeesh spare me that agony … once was enough).

So everyday except when I am traveling en route to somewhere else or too sick to do anything, I write. A little bit, or a little more, and rarely, a lot. This is who I am, and this is what I do.

I will keep doing it until I hear the cows mooing at the barn under the glow of a blue moon. Probably because … it’s just me.

GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL!

Uxbridge’s jail is part of the old city hall and in this century, it’s a storage area. At home, we have our own prisoners. Four furry internees.

dog prisoners in garden

I would let them run free if it weren’t for nasty old Rt. 98 at the top of the driveway. There isn’t a  LOT of traffic, but cars come around our blind (and reverse-banked) curve too fast. We have more fatal accident on our little stretch of road than anywhere else in the area … known as “death alley” to the cops. Motorcycles, cars, and once Garry nearly bought the farm when he and a telephone pole got too intimate. What chance does a dog stand?

I don’t know why they never run the OTHER way, into the woods where there are 75+ acres of trees and meadow — and no motor vehicles. But they always head for the road.

The “Beware of Dog” sign isn’t because they are dangerous, but because the world is dangerous to them. It’s to prevent delivery people from opening the gate thus letting free the incarcerated doggies.

They are getting older and aren’t as frisky or fast as they were. But even old Nan can hit the driveway running in a mad sprint of death. It’s not good for my heart. If I chase them (which in any case, I can’t do), they run away because “chase me” is a classic doggy game and they love it! I have to stay calm, call them back with biscuits — before they become road kill.

My heart is in my mouth the entire time they are loose, so they will remain prisoners of love. Not so terrible. Not such a cruel life, with their 24/7 doggy door and sofas for beds … and far too many biscuits.

CHRISTMAS FROM THE OUTSIDE

Being a non-observant Jew is effectively no religion. It isn’t like being an atheist because it doesn’t imply a belief in no god. My mother was an atheist. I understand what it means. To me, atheism requires as much certainty as any other faith. You have to know something you can’t really know. It’s faith, even if it’s faith in nothingness.

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Given my upbringing and personal preferences, I’m mildly uncomfortable celebrating all religious holidays, including Jewish ones. I feel as if I’m wearing someone else’s clothing. Even when they fit well and look good, I know they aren’t mine. Every year when Christmas rolls through town flattening everything and everyone in its path, I bow to its power and supremacy. I enjoy the lights, music,  gifts and season while remaining aware it isn’t my holiday. When everyone is sharing their warm fuzzy memories of Christmas as a child, I have no equivalent memories to share. Not of Christmas or any holiday because my mother, atheist that she was, celebrated nothing. As a kid, I yearned to be part of Christmas. All my friends had trees and got a zillion presents. I would wander around to my various friends’ houses, stay a little while, aware I wasn’t really welcome. Then I would go home. I felt so left out.

When I married my first husband, his family was almost as religious as mine. They were pretty sure they had been — at some point in the past — something, but they weren’t sure what. They celebrated Christmas with enormous energy and enthusiasm, without any bothersome religious overtones. It was an alcoholic’s dream holiday featuring eggnog that might actually kill you. And very tree-ish. My father-in-law hauled in the biggest trees I’ve ever seen in a private home. Paul Bunyan would have been impressed.

That first Christmas (1965), they pulled out all the stops. They had a Jew to entertain. How exciting. A new audience. Jeff passed away twenty years ago, but his mother — she will be 104 in February — still sends a Christmas present. I have one in the living room right now waiting to be unwrapped.

The nine years I lived in Israel gave me perspective. There was no evidence of Christmas. Chanukah was a holiday, but not like Christmas. Passover and Sukkot were big festivals. It was comfortable to be a Jew in Israel. That sounds redundant, but the freedom to live by a Jewish calendar was no small thing. Even if you were entirely non-religious, you didn’t feel the pressure to be involved in what is — theoretically — a Christian holiday, but is — as practiced — Pagan. I like the Pagan part.

Basically, I have no religious affiliation. Jewish by ethnicity and history. And I know a lot about Judaism, admire it, but I don’t practice it and never have. I thought seriously about practicing it but it didn’t fit better than anything else. I’m skeptical of everything, certain of nothing. I have no answers.

So to all of you, Merry Christmas. Have a cool Yule and a grand Solstice. Whatever you celebrate, please — enjoy it! I’ll sing along because I know all the words.