Preserving the Past in a Futuristic World

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Uncle Jim (left) and my dad.

As long as I can remember, I have held a strong affection for old photographs. Finding boxes upon boxes filled with old pictures in my Nanny’s home and, after her death, in my father’s garage, is the one silver lining I can find in her proclivity for hoarding. When my father died nine years ago at 61, I was grateful to my Nanny for having kept his baby book, complete with photos, milestones, and a lock of his hair—so that in the midst of our sadness, my sisters and I could marvel at our dad’s cheeky grin and the twist of curls that once topped his head. So much life had passed between the moment captured in the photograph and the moment that I held it in my hands. It helped us in those days after his death to think of the beginning of our dad’s life as we braced ourselves against the grief of its end.

On New Year’s Day, before we had kids, my husband and I would organize all of the photographs we had taken during the previous year and put them into a photo album. While the process was long and tedious, it was also incredibly rewarding. The finished albums served as a memento of all of the adventures we had had throughout the year. We still bring them out from time to time to show our kids pictures of us when we were young and worldly globetrotters.

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