I spent Sunday looking through a box. It belonged to my mother, and was clearly full of important memorabilia, the things she wanted to keep for memory’s sake alone. Mom passed away in 1999, after losing a long fight with herself; no other way to put it without crossing the too much information line. I’ve been carrying this box around, along with some albums she assembled. She made each of us, her children, a special album of our own during one of the years she was sure would be her last.
For some reason, the albums were no problem. I had no trouble opening them up and looking. Albums are, in a sense, public. People who place pictures in albums are preparing them to be viewed, and flipping through the album doesn’t represent any sort of trespass, but this box; that was different. It was just a random collection of meaningful stuff, unfiltered except for the simple fact that they had personal meaning. The box itself had personal meaning; it was filled and sorted in a way that told its own story, right down to the label on the box, but that’s not what’s important.
The important bit, to me, is that I discovered another definition for getting old. There were some surprise pictures in the box, and of course some that brought back entire episodes and stories of my youth, but for the most part, I had seen the pictures before. The difference, and the definition, was in the fact that I can now look at pictures of myself from the most awkward stages of my life without embarrassment. If that ain’t old creeping up, I don’t know what is.
I imagine that for many people, any photos older than a couple of years would trigger that “I just heard my voice on a tape recorder” sensation. “That can’t be me.” I survived the Leif Garret hair phase, chubby kid phase, young man trying to look tough years, and the first marriage stress eating phase. I even found a few from college when I was growing the most pathetic mustache this side of an eighth grader, all totally without embarrassment.
I’d like to think it represents some kind of maturity, now that I can enjoy those old pictures without cringing, but it’s more likely that I am just old enough to look back on all of that as three former lives into the past. Or maybe, I’m just that much better looking now. Nah, that can’t be it.
*** By the way, I’m accepting bribes to post old pictures of my brother. Those of you who know me know how valuable those are. ; )