Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cherish the Ordinary

Yesterday I was part of a large gathering. I saw more than a hundred people (maybe close to two hundred), many of whom I haven't seen in more than a decade.  It was a rich photo-taking opportunity, but I knew I would not be using a camera. I was at a place I didn't want to be.

For some people, a photograph is a picture of people, places, or things. For me, it brings back a memory. Often when I see a snapshot, I see not only the person or the place, but I recall the circumstances and the mood. I remember the event, and even sometimes those who were there but not in the picture.

I look at a faded picture of my grandmother and remember the clear gallon jar she kept the sugar in to sweeten iced tea, and how she emptied the pot of wet tea leaves around her rose bushes. My dad sits in a chair smiling for the camera, but I remember him playing the steel-guitar, or badminton, or checking my homework, and how he would let my brothers and sisters climb onto his back and take them for a ride.  On a side table rests a photo of my Dear Departed fastening a necklace for me, but I remember it as the year he gave me 3 Christmas cards because he couldn't choose which was the most special.

I look at pictures of my children when they were young and remember not only their antics and the joy of the moment, but if we were living in the rented house with the red carpet, or the one with the fireplace that never kept us warm enough, or the one with the vegetable garden, or the one where we had barbecues for friends most every weekend. I have a few pictures of my brothers and sisters and extended families taken two years ago, and wonder if we will all be able to get together for a happy occasion again. Pictures representing some of the dearest people and times of my life will be the first things I grab if I have to leave home suddenly in the case of fire or flood.

And so often, as I look at these representatives of times past, I realize I would not have anticipated how important the picture would be later. How often someone says I'm so glad you took (or have) that picture. How often our days seem unremarkable, until we look back. I pray that I will cherish the ordinary days and moments I have with my children and grandchildren, and other friends and loved ones. I pray that they will cherish the ordinary days they have with each other, and with me.

So most of the time, I feel free to take candid shots of people and places, realizing that they will mean more later than they do at present.  But not yesterday. We put to rest a truly great man. I don't want to remember yesterday at all.

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